The circle is archetypically feminine, anchored in a cyclical understanding of the cosmos and time, and metaphorically related to inclusion and embeddedness, rather than a more linear cosmology that stresses distinction, division, judgment, and opposition. In short, a circular Trinity—still featuring the male Christ, only immersed in the spherical energies of fire and light—is a gender-balanced Trinity, an idea that is only now gaining even partial acceptance within the Christian community.

Finally, the circles of fire and light, when viewed as a whole, a unity, appear very much like an eye, evoking the idea of contemplation as beholding, of God as the Divine Onlooker, that is at the heart of contemplative spirituality. The Father and the Spirit, through Jesus, gaze upon us. In one of her hymns, Hildegard suggests that God gazed upon Mary with the same kind of contemplative attention that we are called to offer to God—and out of that Divine Gaze, Christ was conceived.

Am I projecting 21st-century liberal ideas back onto the medieval imagery of this ancient seer? Undoubtedly I am. Efforts to make Hildegard into some sort of proto-feminist or even a medieval Protestant (or Pagan) reveal more about the person making the assertions than they do about Hildegard. Still, ever since the early Christian fathers set about finding Jesus in every chapter of the Old Testament, it has been part of our tradition to re-read and reinterpret the writings of the past.

Somehow, in our time, Hildegard has been "reinterpreted" by the Vatican to be deemed worthy of the title Doctor of the Church. But I think Hildegard's true worth remains not in her theology but in her visions, her music, her art. It is as a contemplative that Hildegard's most singular, creative, and innovative gifts can be found. The sapphire Christ, surrounded by luminous circles of fire and light, will show us the way.