No, I’m not talking eco-theology here. This is a shout out to a medieval mystic by the name of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). People sometimes make a lot of her writings – she was a feisty woman with a visionary bent – but at the heart of her spirituality was a recognition that God gives us life. He ‘greens’ us through the working of the Holy Spirit – not unlike what we confess in the third article of the Nicene Creed – I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life…
Even as we tread our way through the events of Holy Week, we cannot forget that Jesus’ death was a gift to give us Life. And just in the same way that our Lenten season lasts for 40 days – as a time of repentance and faith – so too, fourty plus 10 days after Easter, we look forward to celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit as part-and-parcel of that gift in which our Triune God breathes a new and eternal Life – His Life-Giving Spirit – into us through the same Word and the same gift of Baptism.
This is different from life on this side of eternity – it is the very Life of our God given doubly in both Christ and in the Holy Spirit – so that everything that the Christian message is about revolves around this invitation extended by our Lord Himself which makes us (as Peter says) ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Luther, commenting on this verse, lets it stand in all of its raw wonder. Rather than trying to explain it into mental categories that fit more neatly into our comfort zones, he relishes the depth of blessing that is communicated to us there. It’s a dimension of our baptism and the sacramental life of the Church that we too easily overlook. And yet, God our God – the Holy and Majestic Trinity – has given us no less than His very own Self – His Life – His Son (in our flesh) – His Holy Spirit – and His Life to bind us to Himself both here in time and into all eternity. Or, as Hildegard put it, He works His greening power within us – as Jesus the Vine gives His Life to (us) the branches.
This will be an odd year in our celebration of Holy Week in that we will not be able to partake of the Lord’s Supper as we normally would do. This, after all, is the place where the life-blood of the Vine comes to us to sustain us in that Greening power of His Life. And yet, the time will come when we will be able to gather again. It’s good to hunger for this Gift – and when the time is right, we will drink deeply from that cup of salvation (Psalm 116:13) together with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.