The Gradual Greening
Today’s post is by Savannah Kate Coffee
Each year I look forward to nature’s transformation in March. I imagine the earth as a reluctant lover, having been cold and withdrawn in the winter months. Now slowly, ever so slowly, she warms again to the sun’s touch, showing her pleasure in the tender shoots of daffodils and crocus, budding dogwoods, and the slightest hint of a southerly breeze.
I wonder if earth’s gradual greening might have inspired St. Hildegard, the 12th century German abbess, mystic, and healer. Hildegard was a keen observer of natural processes and she took a gardener’s approach to healing and to the body. She was primarily concerned with something she called viriditas. Viriditas literally means “greenness,” but for Hildegard it was the broader ability of plants to put forth leaves, flowers, and fruits; and by analogy, for human beings to grow, give birth, and to heal. Hildegard noticed that plants and trees grow into the fullness of their nature according to the capacity they were given. A seed grows into the only plant it can. She believed that healing is really the power of your own nature to be itself—the freedom of the true self to live in unity with the life force that has been given to it.
We might think of viriditas as the unity between the self and God, the soul’s response to the warm touch of the Beloved. Healing rises from our identity rooted in the wholeness of God and the essential oneness at the heart of reality. Shalem’s founder, Tilden Edwards, writes in Living in the Presence that we are often captive to the symptoms of our brokenness and that healing may not be what our ego self-image imagines. There is much we cannot control and sometimes our desire for a certain outcome runs amok. There are moments when I feel bound in the dark clay of my being, longing to bloom again, to know the sun’s light in my deepest parts, and yet I am unable to enact my own resurrection. This too is part of the journey: Holy Saturday’s waiting, Jonah in the great fish, Joseph in prison, Dorothy asleep among the poppies, even Robin Hood in the dungeon. The greening itself, the resurrection, the healing is God’s work, it seems. And yet I can long for it. I can anticipate the reunion with my truest nature and the bright star burning within, knowing that whatever form my healing takes will be as it should be, beautiful according to its own nature.
As we watch the slow greening of nature around us, may we allow ourselves to be touched anew and to feel the deep veriditas rising within. Our watching is not passive. No. For as we wait, we long, we anticipate, and we ask for the reconciling, greening, aliveness of God at every level of our being and in our world. May the greening of our lives be made fruitful for the peace and wholeness of all people and all creation.
“Would any seed take root if it had not believed
the promise, when God said:
‘Dears, I will rain. I will help you. I will turn into
warmth and effulgence,
I will be the Mother that I am
and let you draw from
and rise, and
Savannah Kate Coffey is a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary and Shalem’s Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program for which she now serves as adjunct staff. She lives and writes in South Carolina.