Refresh my heart: Regreening creation and the human spirit

Thanks for your patience with my interrupted series of reflections. I was distracted by this new adventure:
Hildegard Belcher

There’s nothing like a new infant to make you appreciate (also: sweat through) the Easter Vigil mass. My new daughter’s patroness and namesake, Hildegard of Bingen, draws a parallel between baptism and the “re-greening” of creation that occurs annually in spring (we’re still waiting on this in Minnesota). But “greenness,” Hildegard reminds us, is not seen only in spring plants; it also marks any living thing’s growth and development. The Paschal Mystery that characterizes Christ’s dying and rising, as well as our more broken attempts to live for God, has its distant echo and its homage in the humble grass that will (I hope, one day) turn from brown to green once more. Here is Hildegard’s homily on Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. (The quote, like many other patristic and medieval homilies, distinguishes Hildegard’s quotations from the scriptures with italics. Her own words are in plain font.)

Jesus answered … ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless someone is reborn from water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’ By true revelation every creature has a circle in water, such that without water it neither comes into being nor lives, because when the Spirit of the Lord was borne over the waters it became evident that the Spirit of the Lord breathed on the water and brought it to life. Thence also the spirit of a human being is revived to life by baptism with water, since the human being alone is in aridity from the first origin because of Adam’s disobedience. ‘What is born from flesh is flesh,’ because flesh produces flesh, and is human. ‘What is born from the Spirit is spirit,’ when it will breathe in water and will see another life. ‘Do not marvel because I told you to be born anew,’ that is, do not marvel in disbelief that you may have life, because as disease is brought [upon] the blood, so also the human being will be brought back to the Holy Spirit by water.” (Hildegard of Bingen, “The Finding of the Holy Cross, 1,” from Homilies on the Gospels, translated by Beverly Mayne Kienzle [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2011], p 141.)

With a newborn, especially, the daily Paschal discipline of letting go of the passing time to welcome God’s future is evident. We are confident to lose control, because we know God’s spring is better than our interior winter. Let go, let go, and let the Holy Spirit renew the creation – and your heart – in this baptismal season.

Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!


  1. Kimberly, congratulations on the birth of your beautiful daughter. And thank you for this profound reflection.

  2. Kimberly, what a beautiful child! Blessings to her, to you and your entire family. And what a gift it is to find this reflection here today! Please know that I have been keeping you in prayer. Easter joy to you.

  3. Thanks, Kim, for sharing your picture of Hildegard with us!

    The book is published in the Cistercian Studies series under the Cistercian Publications imprint. It is no. 241.

  4. Thanks for the reminder, Hans – no wonder I couldn’t find it on the Liturgical Press page. I added a link.

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