O ignis Spiritus Paracliti / Sequence for the Holy Spirit

by Hildegard von Bingen

English version by Barbara Newman
Original Language Latin

Fiery Spirit,
fount of courage,
life within life
of all that has being!

Holy are you, transmuting the perfect
     into the real.
Holy are you, healing
     the mortally stricken.
Holy are you, cleansing
     the stench of wounds.

O sacred breath O blazing
love O savor in the breast and balm
flooding the heart with
the fragrance of good,

O limpid mirror of God
who leads wanderers
home and hunts out the lost,

Armor of the heart and hope
of the integral body,
sword-belt of honor:
save those who know bliss!

Guard those the fiend holds
imprisoned,
free those in fetters
whom divine force wishes to save.

O current of power permeating all
in the heights upon the earth and
in all deeps:
you bind and gather
all people together.

Out of you clouds
come streaming, winds
take wing from you, dashing
rain against stone;
and ever-fresh springs
well from you, washing
the evergreen globe.

O teacher of those who know,
a joy to the wise
is the breath of Sophia.

Praise then be yours!
you are the song of praise,
the delight of life,
a hope and a potent honor
granting garlands of light.

-- from Symphonia: A Critical Edition of the Symphonia armonie celstium revelationum, by Hildegard of Bingen / Translated by Barbara Newman

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/ Photo by Jimmy Benson /


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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

The spring equinox has just passed (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). In the Persian calendar, Nowruz was just celebrated. Palm Sunday leading into Easter in the Christian world and Passover in Judaism... This is a time of renewal, a time to shake off the death and darkness of winter and embrace the new light and life offered to us by the world.

So I thought a meditation on the universal flow of life by the great Medieval mystic, Hildegard von Bingen would set the right tone for us today.

This song of praise is more than just a beautiful catalog of how God, in the motherly aspect of the Holy Spirit, is so important to creation. Read it deeply and you will see that a powerful and very specific vision is being communicated.

God, through the Holy Spirit, is "life within life / of all that has being." This is an image of the formless, vivifying force of the divine, the Holy Breath that permeates all of manifest existence, everything in nature, every form, giving it life, making it holy, making it divine.

Through this divine animating spirit shared by all, all separate things are actually one: "you bind and gather / all people together."

Especially notice the lines:

Out of you clouds
come streaming, winds
take wing from you, dashing
rain against stone;
and ever-fresh springs
well from you, washing
the evergreen globe.


Another translation renders these lines as:

From you clouds flow, air flies,
rocks have their humours,
rivers spring forth from the waters
and earth sweats her green vigour.


All of physical reality, even in its most solid forms of earth and rock, all of 'solid' reality... flows. Nothing is as tangible or stationary as it may superficially appear. All forms possess a sort of divine inner 'sap' -- the fluid Holy Spirit -- that is its true being or essence which shows itself as life: "and earth sweats her green vigour."

This is not a dusty theological statement, but a vision of life, how the Divine flows unhindered through all of creation, and it is that flowing that is life. And all things, all people, you and I, we are not solid, separate physical bodies; we, too, are nothing less than that eternal flow.

O teacher of those who know,
a joy to the wise
is the breath of Sophia.



Recommended Books: Hildegard von Bingen

Symphonia: A Critical Edition of the Symphonia armonie celstium revelationum German Mystical Writings: Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, and others Hildegard of Bingen's Book of Divine Works with Letters and Songs Women of Wisdom: A Journey of Enlightenment by Women of Vision Through the Ages The Book of the Rewards of Life: Liber Vitae Meritorum
More Books >>





O ignis Spiritus