Hymn to the Holy Spirit

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Oh fiery Spirit, praise to you
who stirs us with cymbals,
soothes us with the lute!

From you the minds of men catch fire; you know
how to set up the body’s
tent, to house the soul.

From both, the Will ascends: lends the Soul
sapience, to taste the world;
desires, to light it.

Our understandings make
music with you, set up the Spirit’s workshop
distilling golden deeds.

The secateurs are in your hand to cut
that apple - full of the black Parasite
who clouds our wills, and poisons

our longings; sets our souls in a flap
wheeling and screaming round, nowhere to settle -
till the mind, restored, restrains those wills and those desires.

If our spirit is tempted to look
through that evil eye - or talk
with that ‘wicked’ tongue - you throw it back on the fire;

If our reason is down on the boards, knocked cold
by our own bad deeds, you pound it up even smaller
and brew it up afresh - like a new Creation.

If evil draws a knife
or gun on you, you’re faster: down he goes again
who made Heaven itself a penthouse for his pride.

You’ve made another tower to stand in Heaven
from publicans and sinners - those who daren’t
look up, who beat their breasts.

So every creature that takes life from you
praises you - precious ointment
who turns stinking wounds to precious jewels.

Descend to us;
gather us to yourself;
Show us the paths of life. Amen.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Paraphrased from an English translation by Sabina Flanagan

See the article on Hildegard by Robert Cockcroft.

St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 27th September 1998