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The Gifts of Greenness

Rain has been drizzling and dousing and pouring in fits and starts these last several days here in Seattle. As winter draws nearer I witness the subtle slow waves of velvety moss that spread up tree trunks and across sidewalks. I heard a saying on NPR, that in the Northwest if moss isn’t growing on your North side, you are moving too fast. I shared this once with the driver of an airport shuttle as we made our way through blankets of thick rain. “You can tell an outsider made that up,” he responded, “because around here moss grows on all sides.”

While I was in graduate school I became enamored with Hildegard of Bingen, the 12th century Benedictine abbess who was artist, visionary, musician, theologian, preacher, spiritual director, and healer. She coined the term viriditas which refers to the “greening power” of God at work in every moment and place, including our souls. Here in the Northwest, I know many struggle with the short, dark, and wet days, but I have grown to love them because of the presence of viriditas in her most pronounced form. Moss wraps itself around anything that stands still and for me becomes a sign of hope made green.

With the gifts of rest and play yesterday for Sabbath, I am feeling my own soul growing greener again.  Where do you want to invite the power of viriditas into your own life?  Where are the signs of greenness already flourishing?

-Christine Valters Paintner

(photo above taken at Saltspring Island in British Columbia last January on retreat where I will be returning next month)

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9 Responses

  1. Hildegard – she is one of my very favorite Saints. I have several CDs of her music – some “authentic” (as we truly do not know how it was sung back then) and some “nuked”.

    Our group has performed a piece called Viriditas – by Joan Szymko – I love the phrase in the piece “I am the breeze that nurtures all things green”.
    Here is the piece

  2. Thank you Abi, that is so very sweet of you and means a lot to me.

    I love the moss that hangs from trees and creates furry beards around the trunks and branches. I have a book now on all the variations of moss.

  3. I just cannot get enough of your writings and blog.
    I just don’t always know what to say in the comment section.

    I got to say this though I grew up with the moss that hangs from trees, and always thought that was moss, until I started learning the different kinds of mosses.

  4. Hi Bette, Songbird, and Wendy!

    I will post some more on viriditas in the future, I led a retreat once on it and will have to pull out my notes. While I am starting to feel restored, I know I need to invite in an even deeper sense of God’s greenness within me. I adore the rain as well, especially when I can curl up at home by a fire, that is heaven for me too.

    Blessings to you wonderful holy green women, Christine

  5. I love this “greening” too (and Hildegarde of Bingen, I want to find her recipes, I have only a couple). And really its not only the greening but the rain itself i love. For days now down in Oregon its been just POURING and I’ve been in heaven. For some reason rain makes me feel safe and held.

  6. Moss is totally amazing to me. It is so deep, mysterious, refreshing, desireable, and as you once said, inviting. Thanks for getting me to google-search ‘viriditas’. That Hildegard of Bingen seems to have been a remarkable woman. I shall enjoy getting to know her and enjoying her gifts of writing and art she left for us.

    May you continue to be blessed with God’s greenness!

    Peace and hugs,