Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century Benedictine abbess—as well as an important philosopher, scientist, composer, and mystic—offered of vision of God as Sophia. The icon is a beautiful image of a figure with wings and a skirt that my students often describe as covered in fish scales. The figure is usually described as feminine as is fitting for Sophia, wisdom, and her arms are held in the manner of someone holding a large bowl. In this case, her arms encircle people. Hildegard offered God as Mother and, with only a bit of effort, we can imagine ourselves encircled by Sophia’s loving arms.
Looking again at the icon with the psalm for today echoing, one can imagine those fish scales as layers of rock forming a solid foundation. “Rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety, for you are my rock and my fortress.” The icon pushes us further. Instead of hiding behind the rock or hiding for our refuge—surely a desire many of us have shared—the people Sophia holds face outward. They are going forth, to speak their faith.
I’m certain there are scholars who could tell us more about this icon capturing one of the many visions of Hildegard and whether it is connected to a particular passage in the bible. For today, though, it offers an image, a vision, of refuge in God:
An embrace—“On you I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength.”
And a sending forth—“You have taught me from my youth, and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.”
Advent comes from the Latin word, adventus – an arrival or a coming. In the context of the season, Advent means that the Lord is coming. Read more of the Advent introduction...
First Week of Advent
Second Week of Advent
Third Week of Advent
Fourth Week of Advent