SAINT HILDEGARD VON BINGEN, NEW DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH:
A DEEP, HOLY, AND UNCOMFORTABLE CHARISM BY KARL CARDINAL LEHMANN
FOR ALMOST 2000 YEARS THE DOCTORS OF THE CHURCH WERE INVARIABLY MEN. THE PERIOD FOLLOWING THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL MARKED A SIGNIFICANT TURNING POINT, FOR AFTER 1970, THREE WOMEN WERE ELEVATED TO THIS RANK: ST. TERESA OF AVILA, ST. CATHERINE OF SIENA, AND ST. THĂ‰RĂˆSE OF LISIEUX. ON OCTOBER 7, ST. HILDEGARD OF BINGEN (1098-1179) WAS ADDED TO THEIR RANKS.
* Address given by Cardinal Karl Lehmann, Bishop of Mainz at the residence of the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Holy See on the day Saint Hildegard of Bingen was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on October 6, 2012
1 Cf. K. Lehmann, Heiligkeit des Lebens und Tiefe der Lehre, in: W. Wilhelmy (Editor), Heilige Hildegard von Bingen, exhibition catalogue, Magonza 2012, 8-15, 104 s.; cf. contributions by H. Hinkel on the saintâ€™s â€œafterlife,â€? and by A. Lempges / Cl. Sticher on the understanding of her visions, ibid., 40-54; 16-39.
A Doctor of the Church Today For almost 2000 years the doctors of the Church were invariably men. Until 1970, the title was conferred on only thirty theologians, and it was not until the twentieth century that seven new doctors were named.1 However, the period following the Second Vatican &RXQFLOPDUNHGDVLJQLĂ€FDQWWXUQLQJSRLQWIRUEHWZHHQDQG 1997, three women were elevated to the rank of doctor of the Church: St. Teresa of Avila (on September 27, 1970) and St. Catherine of Siena (on October 4, 1970) were both named by Paul VI, and St. ThĂŠrĂ¨se of Lisieux was proclaimed a doctor ecclesiae on October 19, 1997 by John Paul II. We ought, then, to consider the rank and importance of these holy women. Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena are numbered DPRQJ WKH JUHDW OLWHUDU\ Ă€JXUHV RI 6SDLQ DQG ,WDO\ ,QGHHG &DWKerine of Sienaâ€™s role may be likened to that of Dante and Petrarch. &DWKHULQHLVWKHSULQFLSDOSDWURQHVVRI,WDO\7HUHVDWKHĂ€UVWSDWURQess of Spain. By contrast, the â€œlittleâ€? ThĂŠrĂ¨se, who journeyed along a way of faith strewn with the most arduous trials became, in the great darkness of pure faith in Godâ€™s love, the model of an authentic â€œlittle wayâ€? of perfection. She is co-patroness of France and the Churchâ€™s principal patroness of Missions. In a particular way, the â€œgreatâ€? Teresa [of Avila] and Catherine of Siena, through their extensive efforts to bring about a profound renewal in the Church, showed themselves to be what we might call â€œstrong women.â€? They demonstrated great courage in their relations with the secular and ecclesiastical rulers of their day. By their letters and personal visits, they persuaded princes and clerics to change their minds, and they never hesitated to speak out boldly. On October 7, St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was added to their ranks. She too maintained an extensive correspondence with popes, kings, princes, bishops, religious, and laity. She too undertook various missionary journeys, especially along the banks of
HUMANITAS NÂş 4 pp. 348 - 363
Year of Faith 2012 - 2013 «“Life does not come from mortality, for life consists only in living. No tree blossoms without the verdant force, no stone lacks green moisture, no creature is deprived of this special force; indeed, living eternity itself LVSHUPHDWHGE\WKLVYHUGDQWSRZHUµ0DQPXVWEHUHDG\DWDQ\PRPHQWWROHDYHWKHQDUURZFRQÀQHVRIKLV self-enclosed “I” in order to be led off into the distance; that is, from drought to the verdant life-giving power of God’s Spirit.» “The Wheel of Life Ilumination”, by Saint Hildegard.
HILDEGARD IS REGARDED AS A UNIQUE PHENOMENON IN EUROPEAN INTELLECTUAL HISTORY. SHE HAS BEEN CALLED THE WISEST WOMAN OF THE MIDDLE AGES. AND OF NO OTHER WOMAN OF MEDIEVAL TIMES HAVE SO MANY LITERARY TESTIMONIES BEEN HANDED DOWN.
2 Benedict XVI, Heilige und Selige. GroĂ&#x;e Frauengestalten des Mittelalters, Vatican / Illertissen 2011, 19, cf. also 24ff. 3 It is important to keep in mind that the ruins of the monastery of Rupertsberg blew up in 1857 during construction of the railway at Bingen.
the Rhine and into southern Germany, where she preached conversion to the faithful and the clergy alike. And she too was endowed with extraordinary poetic gifts. While the other three saints hail from Italy, Spain, and France, St. Hildegard of %LQJHQLVWKHĂ€UVWIHPDOHVDLQWIURPFHQWUDO(XURSHDQGWKH Ă€UVWRI*HUPDQWRQJXHWREHVRKRQRUHG ,EHOLHYHWKHVLJQLĂ€FDQFHRIWKHVHIRXUZRPHQVDLQWVEHLQJ proclaimed doctors of the Church, by three Popes and within WKHVSDQRIRQO\\HDUVKDVQRW\HWEHHQVXIĂ€FLHQWO\UHFRJnized, despite the numerous requests put forward by feminist circles for a more thorough evaluation of the role and place of women in the Church. For although what is most striking about these female saints is the depth and greatness of their spirituality, we must not forget that they were also very cultured women, endowed with a great talent for organization. Their characteristically feminine sensibilities should also cause us to revisit and more broadly conceive (in the light of their spiritual witness) the meaning of the term â€œtheology,â€? which, from the High Middle Ages until now, has been restricted in a one-sidedly rational way. Our task is to highlight how these IRXUZRPHQFRQWULEXWHGLQWKHLURZQVSHFLĂ€FZD\WRWKHRORgy, and how â€œby their intelligence and sensibilitiesâ€? they were â€œable to speak about God and about the mysteries of the faith.â€?2
Life and Works , ZRXOG OLNH WR RXWOLQH EULHĂ \ WKH PRVW LPSRUWDQW VWDJHV LQ the life of St. Hildegard. She was born in 1098 at Bermersheim near Alzey in Rhine-Hesse, to a large family of noble lineage. From birth, she was dedicated by her parents to the service of God. She grew up in a hermitage, and eventually (probably from the year 1106) lived in a small cloistered monastery on the Disibodenberg near Bingen. At age sixteen, Hildegard professed perpetual vows, thus choosing the monastic life (ca. 1115). After the death of her teacher, Jutta of Sponheim, in 1136, she was chosen to succeed her as magistra. For more than thirty years Hildegard lived and worked in the seclusion of that VPDOO PRQDVWHU\ )URP WKHUH GHVSLWH PDQ\ GLIĂ€FXOWLHV DQG much opposition, she succeeded in founding two other monasteries: one on the hill of Rupertsberg (1150), which was later completely destroyed by the Swedes during the Thirty Years War (1632),3 and the other at Eibingen (ca. 1165), which today is still considered to represent the greatest continuity with St. Hildegard, even if indirectly. Despite the pain and suffering
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that marked the latter part of her life, St. Hildegard undertook four major journeys (1158-1170) to numerous cities on the Rhine and in southwest Germany. There she preached against decadence (particularly among the clergy) in convents and monasteries and even in the great city squares. Harsh too was her criticism of the era in which she lived, which she called an â€œeffeminate ageâ€? (â€œtempus muliebreâ€?). Further on we shall discuss her struggle against the Cathars. While she was yet a child, Hildegard displayed the gift of a highly original vision. â€œI do not hear these things â€“ she wrote â€“ with my outward ears, nor do I perceive them in the thoughts of my own heart â€Ś but in the intimacy of my soul alone, with my outward eyes open. So I have never fallen prey to ecstasy in visions, but I see them wide awake, day and night.â€?4 Much of what she says here reminds us of the prophets of the Old Testament. â€œThe light that I see thus is not spatial, but it is far, far brighter than a cloud that carries the sun. I can measure neither height, nor length, nor breadth in it; and I call LWÂśWKHUHĂ HFWLRQRIWKHOLYLQJ/LJKWÂˇ6RPHWLPHVÂ˛EXWQRWRIWHQÂ˛, see within this light another light, which I call â€˜living Light.â€™ And I cannot describe when and how I see it, but while I see it all sorrow and anguish leave me, so that then I feel like a simple girl instead of an old woman.â€?5 Just after the age of 40 (1141), she experienced a particularly striking vision. Henceforth the silent visionary was transformed into a religious prophetess. With ever-growing clarity she heard within herself something like a command: â€œSay and write what you see and hear.â€?6 St. Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the most authoritative men of the Church at the time, its â€œuncrowned Ruler,â€? FRQĂ€UPHGKHUSURSKHWLFJLIW7KHUHDIWHUDWWKH6\QRGRI7ULHU 48), Pope Eugene III read a selection of passages from Hildegardâ€™s writings. He had a commission examine them and later asked Hildegard to share her visions with the world. This was the origin of her great work â€œKnow the Ways [of the Lord]â€? (Scivias, 1141-1151). Hildegardâ€™s wisdom and expressive abilities make her an enigma. Little is known about her academic formation. Early on she FDPHWRNQRZWKH5XOHRI6W%HQHGLFW7KURXJKWKHGLYLQHRIĂ€FHVKH learned the Psalms and Sacred Scriptures, and she clearly had great familiarity with the Fathers of the Church. Her 390 letters also reveal a rich correspondence with the great scholars of her time. And yet she always considered herself to be an indocta, a â€œsimple and unlearned woman.â€? And she never considered herself a scholar. The research carried out in recent decades has clearly shown that women in monasteries, and particularly women of noble birth such as those who belonged to the community of St. Hildegard, had more access to instruction in classical and contemporary culture than was previously thought.7 Still, in light of St. Hildegardâ€™s wisdom, her
THE EXTRAORDINARY SPREAD OF ST. HILDEGARDâ€™S POPULARITY IN RECENT DECADES SHOULD CAUTION US, HOWEVER, NOT TO MAKE THE MISTAKE OF ADAPTING HER TO THE SHORTSIGHTED NEEDS OF THE PRESENT DAY. WHEN IT COMES TO ST. HILDEGARD, IT IS PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT TO ISOLATE INDIVIDUAL DETAILS FROM THE WHOLE, NO MATTER HOW INSIGHTFUL THEY MIGHT BE.
4 Hildegard von Bingen, Briefwechsel, edited by A. FĂźhrkĂśtter, second edition, Salzburg 1990, 227. 5 Ibid. 6 Scivias (new translation edited by M. Heieck), second edition, Beuron 2012, 17.
«While she was yet a child, Hildegard displayed the gift of a highly original vision. “I do not hear these things –she wrote– with my outward ears, nor do I perceive them in the thoughts of my own heart … but in the intimacy of my soul alone, with my outward eyes open. So I have never fallen prey to ecstasy in visions, but I see them wide awake, day and night.”» “Man as Microcosm”, from Liber Divinorum Operum by Saint Hildegard.
7 Cf. J. Fried, Das Mittelalter, second edition, Monaco 2009, 352ff. 8 Cf. the noteworthy contribution made by M. Böckeler, Der einfältige Mensch. – Hildegard von Bermersheim, in: Hildegard von Bingen, Wisse die Wege. Scivias. German translation of the original text and revisions, edited by M. Böckeler, Salzburg 1954, 361-387.
self-characterization as an indocta cannot but cause us to smile.8 Hildegard, in fact, not only knew the theology and philosophy of her day; she was also an expert in the Old Testament, the natural sciences, and medicine. She spoke eloquently of the beauty of precious gems. She was a doctor and an abbess. She composed hymns and created other musical compositions. She authored a foundational study on ethics and a great work on the world, a spiritually oriented cosmology containing rich doctrine on man and his salvation. This does not mean that the prophetissa teutonica – as she was already know during her own lifetime – was not savvy to the happenings of the world and the Church, or that she accepted them without raising an eye-brow. She wrote not only to Popes Eugene III,
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Anastasius IV, Hadrian IV, and Alexander III, but also to the Archbishops of Mainz, Trier, Cologne, and Salzburg. In a letter to the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, Hildegard rebuked the emperorâ€™s policy regarding the papacy. Emperors and kings, bishops and abbots, priests and laity all numbered among her correspondents.9 She was the â€œtrumpet of Godâ€?, the â€œblazing light in the house RI*RGÂľDQGÂ´*RGÂˇVFRQĂ€GDQWÂľÂ´1RYRLFHZDVUDLVHGDJDLQVWVXFK daring boldness. All were moved, thrilled, or struck at the root of their sinfulness, and awakened to a new and holy energy; sinners repented, unbelievers became believers, and those once divided were reunited.â€?10 She gained such great esteem that after reading her writings, abbot Rupert of KĂśnigstal concluded: â€œThe most learned professors in the Frankish Empire will never follow suit. They lose themselves, with arid heart and swollen cheeks, in senseless dialectical diatribes and rhetorical sophistication, while this devout woman merely points to the only thing that matters, to the one thing necessary. She draws upon her inner wealth, and pours it out upon the world.â€?11 In sum, as Maura BĂśckeler writes: â€œThus was +LOGHJDUGÂˇVPLVVLRQFDUULHGRXWLQWKH&KXUFKRIKHUGD\,QWKHĂ€QDO analysis, she is nothing other than the living echo of the reforms of Gregory VII, the former monk of Cluny. And this echo breaks forth from an ardent heart and from a soul touched by the Spirit. In times when love is cool, the Spirit of God awakens men and women, who OLNHWKHZLQGRI3HQWHFRVWEUHDWKHIRUWKXSRQWKHZRUOGWKHĂ€UHWKDW has fallen on them from heaven.â€?12 So many aspects of Hildegardâ€™s wisdom and spirituality are GLIĂ€FXOWWRH[SODLQ$OWKRXJKWKHOLWXUJ\RIWKHKRXUVHQDEOHGKHU to come to know the fundamental terms and the key words of the Latin language, her Latin still remained quite rudimentary. In her â€œfavorite nunâ€? and secretary Richardis of Stade, as well as in her secretaries Volmar, then Gottfried and Guibert of Gembloux, Hildegard found able collaborators who distinguished themselves above all for having given shape to her visions. For several decades, particularly in the last century, renewed interest in Hildegard focused heavily on the more marginal aspects of her life and work: St. Hildegardâ€™s theories on medicine and her heaOLQJUHPHGLHVKHUHVRWHULFLVPKHUDIĂ€QLW\ZLWKPRGHUQIHPLQLVP and even, in some quarters, with magic. Though all of these are undoubtedly extensions of the core ideas and fundamental experiences of the Sybil of the Rhine, yet without any critical reference to historical evidence and to her foundational writings, they are nothing more than digressions that ultimately hinder an authentic access to Hildegard. To understand the core of her teaching, we must return to Hildegardâ€™s three major visionary works: the aforementioned Sci-
WE ARE ACCUSTOMED TODAY IN THEOLOGY TO THINKING AND SPEAKING IN RELATIVELY ABSTRACT AND RATIONAL CATEGORIES. NATURALLY, THIS RATIONALITY IS ALSO FOUND IN HILDEGARD, BUT IT IS IMBUED WITH A CLOSE INNER RELATION OF ALL THINGS TO THEIR CAUSE (CONNATURALITAS). (...)
9 Cf. The complete edition: Im Feuer der Taube, edited by W. Storch, Augusta 1997. 10 M. BĂśckeler, Wisse die Wege, 387. 11 Cf. Hildegard von Bingen, Symphonia. Gedichte und GesĂ¤nge. Latin and German text edited by W. Berschin e H. Schipperges, Heidelberg 1995, Darmstadt 2004 (Lambert Schneider Editions), 222; H. Schipperges, Hildegard von Bingen, third edition, Monaco 1997, 33. 12 Wisse die Wege, 387.
(...) HERE THE PLATONICAUGUSTINIAN UNDERSTANDING OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE COMES INTO PLAY: IN PERSONAL ENCOUNTERS AND IN RELATIONSHIPS OF FAITH, IT IS PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT TO NOURISH A CERTAIN AFFECTION, A CERTAIN SYMPATHY FOR A PARTICULAR THING â€“ AND EVEN MORE SO FOR A PARTICULAR PERSONâ€“ IF ONE TRULY DESIRES TO UNDERSTAND THEM. TODAY WE CALL IT EMPATHY. HILDEGARD CALLED IT LOVE.
13 For a complete biography: Hildegard von Bingen. Internationale wissenschaftliche Bibliografie, edited by M.-A. Aris e.a., Magonza 1998. 14 A. Borst, Das Buch der Naturgeschichte, Heidelberg 1994, 2. 15 Stoccarda 1986. 16 Stoccarda 2000, 277-281. 17 Cf. e.g. ibid., 278. 18 Cf. W. Schmidt-Biggemann, Philosophia perennis, Frankfurt 1998, 241ss.; L. Sturlese, Die deutsche Philosophie im Mittelalter, Monaco 1993, 204ff.; Th. Kobusch, Die Philosophie des Hoch- und SpĂ¤tmittelalters, Monaco 2011, 359ff. 19 Cf. G. Wieland, Symbolische und rationale Vernunft, in: A. Haverkamp (a cura di), Friedrich Barbarossa = VortrĂ¤ge und Forschungen XI, Sigmaringen 1992, 533-549, 543ff.; in greater detail: K. Bahlmann/M. Dreyer, Wissensarchitekturen oder der Aufstieg zur Weisheit, in: K. Bahlmann and others (editors), Gewusst wo? Wissen schafft RĂ¤ume, Berlino 2008, 3-16. 20 Cf. R. Zimmermann (Editor), Bildersprache verstehen, Monaco 2000.
vias (1141-1151), the Liber vitae meritorum (Book of Lifeâ€™s Merits, 1158-1163) and the Liber divinorum operum (1165-1174), i.e. the Book of Divine Works. The latter work, which chronicles Hildegardâ€™s cosmological visions, is considered the masterpiece of her creative genius. Her writings on the natural sciences and medicine took shape between the years 1150 and 1160. Today they are thought to represent compilations of folkloric experience, classical lore, and Christian tradition. By the thirteenth century the original work had fallen out of existence. The Liber subtilitatum diversarum naturarum creaturarum (Book on the Subtleties of Different Kinds of Creatures), was subdivided into the Physica (Natural History) and Causae et curae (Causes and Cures). Additionally there are the 390 extant letters we previously discussed. There are also other shorter works, such as her commentaries of the Rule of St. Benedict, the Gospels, and the Creed; her responses to pressing theological questions of the day; biographies on the saints; and an extensive lyric-musical opus (Ordo virtutum, hymns, sequences). These poems, songs, and chants have been widely translated and partially published under the label Symphonia. The Cologne Ensemble for Medieval Music, Sequentia, has recorded the complete works of Hildegard under the title â€œDeutsche Harmonia Mundiâ€? (5 CDs).134 Hildegard is regarded as a unique phenomenon in European intellectual history. She has been called the wisest woman of the Middle Ages.14 And of no other woman of medieval times have so many literary testimonies been handed down. ,Q WKLV UHJDUG ZH FDQ REVHUYH D VLJQLĂ€FDQW VKLIW LQ WKH DVsessment of St. Hildegardâ€™s importance, e.g. in relation to philosophy and the history of philosophy. In the older meritorious works of E. Gilson, B. Geyer and M. de Wulf, for example, St. Hildegard is not so much as mentioned. The position taken by K. Flasch is insightful LQWKLVUHJDUG,QWKHĂ€UVWHGLWLRQRIKLVIDPRXVERRNDas Philosophische Denken im Mittelalter15 (Philosophical Thought in the Middle Ages) he does not cite her at all, while in the second edition he treats of her extensively,16 though certain somewhat stereotypical judgments still remain.17 Today, she receives a notable place in respected textbooks and summaries on philosophical grounds.18 Yet, within this perspective, Hildegardâ€™s thought is limited to a â€œsymbolismâ€? of the WKFHQWXU\WKDWZDVUHSODFHGE\DQHZUDWLRQDOUHĂ HFWLRQZKLFK belonged to the future.19 In an age that has discovered the importance that image, metaphor, symbol, and narrative play in philosophy (thus also broadening the meaning of the term â€˜reasonâ€™) this sort of reduction is by no means acceptable.20 Nor does it correspond with modern hermeneutics. As I mentioned, over the centuries the appreciation and recep-
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ÂŤThus was Hildegardâ€™s mission carried out in the Church of her day. In WKHĂ€QDODQDO\VLVVKHLV nothing other than the living echo of the reforms of Gregory VII, the former monk of Cluny. And this echo breaks forth from an ardent heart and from a soul touched by the Spirit. In times when love is cool, the Spirit of God awakens men and women, who like the wind of Pentecost, breathe forth XSRQWKHZRUOGWKHĂ€UH that has fallen on them from heaven.Âť Carved wood portrait of Saint Hildegard of Bingen. Dotmotion Abbey on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
tion given to the prophetissa teutonica have experienced an ebb and Ă RZ,IWRGD\ZHKDYHDPRUHLQGHSWKXQGHUVWDQGLQJRI6W+LOGHgard, it is due in large part to the immense success of the diligent VFLHQWLĂ€FUHVHDUFKFDUULHGRXWLQWKHWZHQWLHWKFHQWXU\,QDGGLWLRQ to the Heidelberg medical historian Heinrich Schipperges, to whom we owe so many publications, we are especially indebted to the Abbey of Eibingen for having provided us with so many illuminating studies, and for the critical editions and translations they have prepared and made available. I will only mention the women religious Maura BĂśckeler, Angela Carlevaris, Adelgundis FĂźhrkĂśtter, Marianne Schrader, Walburga Storch, CĂ¤cilia Bonn â€“ and then of course Sr. Maura ZĂĄtonyi21 and her able collaborators, the abbesses Sr. Edeltraud Forster and Sr. Clementia Killewald. Many researchers
21 Cf. Vidi et intellexi. Die Schrifthermeneutik in der Visionstrilogie Hildegards von Bingen, MĂźnster 2012, Literatur: 325-356.
ALL CREATION IS ORIENTED TOWARD GOD AND WAS NOT FASHIONED TO REVOLVE AROUND MAN. THIS VISION OF MAN MAY BE FOREIGN AND UNFAMILIAR TO US. HOWEVER, WE MUST NOT UNDERSTAND IT IN THE MODERN ANTHROPOCENTRIC SENSE, WHICH CONSIDERS ALL THINGS AS SUBORDINATE TO MAN’S GOALS AND NEEDS, BUT RATHER THROUGH AN ANTHROPOLOGICAL APPROACH, WHICH ESTABLISHES A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GOD, MAN, AND THE WORLD THAT IS BOTH BROAD AND BALANCED. “The City as symbol of the human community”, Ilumination by Saint Hildegard.
and translators at home and abroad have also made important contributions. I wish to offer special thanks to Prof. P. Dr. Rainer Berndt, SJ of the Institute of Hugh of St. Victor in Frankfurt / St George, not only for the Congress held in 1997 and the one to be held in February / March 2013, but also for a great deal more.
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ANTHROPOLOGY IS STRONGLY LINKED TO COSMOLOGY AND, CONSEQUENTLY, ALSO TO ECOLOGY. IN THE SAINTâ€™S WRITINGS, CREATION APPEARS TIME AND AGAIN WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF A LIVING BOND AND INTERCONNECTEDNESS BETWEEN ALL OF THESE PHENOMENA. TO DESCRIBE THIS INTIMATE CONNECTION INTRINSIC TO ALL THINGS CREATED, AND ESPECIALLY THE â€œHARMONYâ€? WITH WHICH CREATURES RELATE TO ONE ANOTHER AND THUS ATTAIN COMPLETION, HILDEGARD OFTEN USES THE WORD â€œSYMPHONY,â€? PARTICULARLY IN HER POETRY AND SONGS. (...) â€œThe work of Christ in the worldâ€?. Ilumination by Saint Hildegard.
Importance for the Present Day If today good reason abounds for granting St. Hildegard the honor of being proclaimed a doctor of the Church, it is due in large part to this research. However, this honor carries with it an obligation, for we must not only look back with admiration and praise at this JUHDW KLVWRULFDO Ă€JXUH ,I WKLV ZRPDQ E\ KHU KROLQHVV RI OLIH KHU
(...) THIS HARMONIC SYMPHONY EMBRACES THE WHOLE WORLD â€œFROM THE SMALLEST THINGS OF LIFE TO THE IMMENSITY OF STARRY WORLDS, AND AT THE CENTER OF IT ALL WE FIND MAN, WHO IS THE HEART OF THE WORLD. PERHAPS THE UNPARALLELED SPIRITUALITY OF THIS VISION OF THE WORLD, WHICH CAN ONLY AND ALWAYS BE RIGHTLY INTERPRETED IN LIGHT OF SALVATION HISTORY, LIES PRECISELY IN THIS: THAT THE WHOLE BODY BECOMES PURE LIGHT AND MUSIC, AND THAT THE WHOLE COSMOS BECOMES SOUND AND HARMONY.â€?
22 Briefly cf. Symphonia, 225. 23 Cf. Buch der Lebensverdienste, III, 1-2: Der Mensch in der Verantwortung (Liber Vitae meritorum), Salzburg 1972, 133.
deep knowledge of divine things and her vast spirituality, has been put forth as a model for the whole Church, then we have the duty of translating the meaning of her life and teaching for our present GD\7KLV,EHOLHYHLVWKHPRVWGLIĂ€FXOWSDUWRIWKHWDVNHQWUXVWHGWR us by this celebration. The extraordinary spread of St. Hildegardâ€™s popularity in recent decades should caution us, however, not to make the mistake of adapting her to the shortsighted needs of the present day. We have DOUHDG\ H[SHULHQFHG VXIĂ€FLHQWO\ KRZ FHUWDLQ SDUWLFXODU SKHQRPHna, such as Hildegardâ€™s medicinal remedies, or many of the more esoteric elements in her writings, have often not remained marginal phenomena subject to a more limited evaluation, but have instead taken center stage. It is very helpful to know that, in recent decades, we have gained a deeper understanding of the great importance of the three foundational writings containing her visions and illustraWLRQV:KHQLWFRPHVWR6W+LOGHJDUGLWLVSDUWLFXODUO\GLIĂ€FXOWWR isolate individual details from the whole, no matter how insightful they might be. However, this very universal interconnectedness of all things, rooted in a theological and spiritual center, makes transposing its meaning to the present day no easy task. We are accustomed today in theology to thinking and speaking in relatively abstract and rational categories. Naturally, this rationality is also found in Hildegard, but it is imbued with a close inner relation of all things to their cause (connaturalitas). Here the Platonic-Augustinian understanding of human knowledge comes into play: in personal encounters and in relationships of faith, it is particularly important to nourish a certain affection, a certain sympathy for a particular thing â€“ and even more so for a particular person â€“ if one truly desires to understand them. Today we call it empathy. Hildegard called it love.22 Creation lies at the center of Hildegardâ€™s theological and spiritual vision. Creation, however, understood not in the modern sense but rather as pointing to its author, to God the Creator, who in his incomparable love for created existence, willed to place man at its center. Godâ€™s predilection is revealed especially in manâ€™s rationality (rationalitas), which enables him to know God and to know all things in him, to praise him and to accomplish his purposes in the world. Thus, God honors man by giving him a share in his own love for creation. But man can fail and abuse creation. Hildegard provides us with a true and veritable â€œlament of the elements.â€?23 This does not mean, however, that God deprives man of the grandeur of his creation. Man is to explore the world in all sobriety; indeed, he must penetrate it completely (perpenetrare +HLVWRIXOĂ€OO his vocation before God at the center of creation, but he is not to
Year of Faith 2012 - 2013
place himself at the center of the world. For all creation is oriented toward God and was not fashioned to revolve around man. This vision of man may be foreign and unfamiliar to us. However, we must not understand it in the modern anthropocentric sense, which considers all things as subordinate to manâ€™s goals and needs, but rather through an anthropological approach, which establishes a relationship between God, man, and the world that is both broad and balanced. This also has important implications for our understanding of created reality. Hildegard never sees man and the world, the body and the soul, nature and grace, as isolated phenomena. Anthropology is strongly linked to cosmology and, consequently, also to ecology. In the saintâ€™s writings, creation appears time and again within the context of a living bond and interconnectedness between all of these phenomena. To describe this intimate connection intrinsic to all things created, and especially the â€œharmonyâ€? with which creatures relate to one another and thus attain completion, Hildegard often uses the word â€œsymphony,â€? particularly in her poetry and songs.24 Thus â€œevery element has a sound, an original sound from the order of God; all those sounds unite like the harmony from harps and zithers.â€?25 This harmonic symphony embraces the whole world â€œfrom the smallest things of life to the immensity of starry ZRUOGVDQGDWWKHFHQWHURILWDOOZHĂ€QGPDQZKRLVWKHKHDUWRI the world. Perhaps the unparalleled spirituality of this vision of the world, which can only and always be rightly interpreted in light of salvation history, lies precisely in this: that the whole body becomes pure light and music, and that the whole cosmos becomes sound and harmony.â€?26 Color plays an important role in this context, particularly the viriditas or living greenness that served as one of the Sybil of the Rhineâ€™s most beloved expressions. And here the physical dimension and the reality of the soul are one. For viriditas refers both to created life and to the renewal accomplished by the Holy Spirit. Creationâ€™s lush and verdant energy was weakened by manâ€™s violence; it risks withering and stands in need of constant care. And yet, it remains DIRUFHĂ RZLQJIURPWKHJRRGQHVVRI*RGWKDWLVDEOHWRUHQHZDOO things. â€œLife does not come from mortality, for life consists only in living. No tree blossoms without the verdant force, no stone lacks green moisture, no creature is deprived of this special force; indeed, living eternity itself is permeated by this verdant power.â€?27 Man PXVWEHUHDG\DWDQ\PRPHQWWROHDYHWKHQDUURZFRQĂ€QHVRIKLV self-enclosed â€œIâ€? in order to be led off into the distance; that is, from drought to the verdant life-giving power of Godâ€™s Spirit. $W WKLV SRLQW ZH QHHG WR VKRZ PRUH VSHFLĂ€FDOO\ KRZ FUHDWLRQ
AT ITS CORE, CREATION TENDS TOWARD THE INCARNATION OF JESUS CHRIST. IT IS ONLY BY TAKING HIM AS OUR STARTING POINT THAT ALL THAT HAS BEEN SAID THUS FAR CONCERNING CREATION CAN BE REALIZED. BUT THIS ALSO IMPLIES THAT CREATION ITSELF IS TRANSITORY AND YET WILL BE REDEEMED AND SAVED THROUGH THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST AND OF MANKIND. THE CONSUMMATION OF ALL THINGS IN CHRIST IS SOMETHING OF WHICH HILDEGARD NEVER LOSES SIGHT.
24 Cf. H. Schipperges op. cit. Symphonia, 3ff., 222ff., cf. 205. 25 Ibid., 12. 26 Ibid., 13. 27 D. SĂślle, O GrĂźn des Fingers Gottes. Die Meditationen der Hildegard von Bingen, Wuppertal 1989, 57f.
“The origins of Creation”. Ilumination from Saint Hildegard’s Liber Divinorum Operum.
is intimately connected to Jesus Christ. At its core, creation tends toward the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It is only by taking him as our starting point that all that has been said thus far concerning creation can be realized. But this also implies that creation itself is transitory and yet will be redeemed and saved through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and of mankind. The consummation of all things in Christ is something of which Hildegard never loses sight. â€œThe coming of the end can do no harm to whoever cultivates the Ă€HOGRIKLVERG\ZLWKGLVFUHWLRQÂ´discreteâ€?): for he shall be welcomed by the symphony of the Holy Spirit (symphonia Spiritus Sancti) and what shall await him will be a life of joy (vita laeta).â€?28 Here also, then, we see a â€œsymphonyâ€? of the mysteries of faith closely interconnected. Within this context, St. Hildegard often uses the image of the circle. There are highly practical and ethical consequences that emerge IURPWKHVHGHHSIRXQGDWLRQV6W+LOGHJDUGXQKHVLWDWLQJO\DIĂ€UPV that God created our world good. She does not turn a blind eye to the evil and sin that brought so much destruction and disharmony to Creation. Therefore everything depends on manâ€™s conversion. With this optimistic theology of creation, Hildegard battled agaLQVWFHUWDLQQHRSODWRQLFLQĂ XHQFHVSUHYDOHQWLQWKHWKHRORJ\RIKHU day, and especially against all Manichaean-dualistic tendencies that sought to devalue and diminish the importance of matter. Perhaps this stands out most clearly in Hildegardâ€™s positive attitude toward the body, and in the surprising ease with which she considered human sexuality. This also has consequences for the way Hildegard saw the relationship between man and woman.29 While it is true that she looks upon this relationship in a conservative manner, in terms of woman being subordinate to man, yet within this basic structure she allows for certain corrective accents. Thus, for instance, she considers man and woman as fashioned equally in the divine image â€“ something by no means taken for granted in her day. Her assessment also applies to the human body. Virginity and motherhood are not presented as being opposed to one another but rather as enjoying a NLQGRIUHFLSURFLW\$QGIRUDOORI$XJXVWLQHÂˇVLQĂ XHQFHPDUULDJHLV described in positive terms. For Hildegard, woman is not merely the weaker sex. She is â€œmollioris roboris,â€? i.e. of â€œgentler strength.â€? So, too, the strength of men must also be tempered by â€œmansuetudo,â€? i.e. by mildness. This is the background that also explains why St. Hildegard, especially in her later years, fought so vehemently against the socalled Cathars, a sect-like movement that, while motivated by asceticism, nevertheless arrived at a fundamentally negative view of
ST. HILDEGARD UNHESITATINGLY AFFIRMS THAT GOD CREATED OUR WORLD GOOD. SHE DOES NOT TURN A BLIND EYE TO THE EVIL AND SIN THAT BROUGHT SO MUCH DESTRUCTION AND DISHARMONY TO CREATION. THEREFORE EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON MANâ€™S CONVERSION. WITH THIS OPTIMISTIC THEOLOGY OF CREATION, HILDEGARD BATTLED AGAINST CERTAIN NEO-PLATONIC INFLUENCES PREVALENT IN THE THEOLOGY OF HER DAY, AND ESPECIALLY AGAINST ALL MANICHAEAN-DUALISTIC TENDENCIES THAT SOUGHT TO DEVALUE AND DIMINISH THE IMPORTANCE OF MATTER.
28 Symphonia 12; Chr. Meier, Die Bedeutung der Farben im Werk Hildegards von Bingen, in: FrĂźhmittelalterliche Studien 6 (1972), 245-355; A. BĂ¤umer, Wisse die Wege, Frankfurt 1998, 332ff.; G. LautenschlĂ¤ger, â€œViriditasâ€?, in: E. Forster (Editor), Hildegard von Bingen. Prophetin durch die Zeiten, Freiburg i. Br. 1997, 224-337. 29 Cf. E. GĂśssmann, Hildegard von Bingen. Versuche einer AnnĂ¤herung, Monaco 1995; A. BĂ¤umer, Wisse die Wege, 237; H. Schipperges, Hildegard von Bingen, 50ff.; B. Newman, Hildegard von Bingen, Freiburg i. Br. 1995, 153ff., 171ff.,292ff.
THIS ALSO HAS CONSEQUENCES FOR THE WAY HILDEGARD SAW THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MAN AND WOMAN. WHILE IT IS TRUE THAT SHE LOOKS UPON THIS RELATIONSHIP IN A CONSERVATIVE MANNER, IN TERMS OF WOMAN BEING SUBORDINATE TO MAN, YET WITHIN THIS BASIC STRUCTURE SHE ALLOWS FOR CERTAIN CORRECTIVE ACCENTS. THUS, FOR INSTANCE, SHE CONSIDERS MAN AND WOMAN AS FASHIONED EQUALLY IN THE DIVINE IMAGE â€“ SOMETHING BY NO MEANS TAKEN FOR GRANTED IN HER DAY.
30 Cf. in this regard A. Borst, Die Katharer, Freiburg 1991; ibid, Barbaren, Ketzer und Artisten. Welten des Mittelalters, Monaco 1988; ibid., Lebensformen im Mittelalter, Franckfurt 1979 (Ullstein-Sachbuch); U. Bejick, Die Katharerinnen, Freiburg i.Br. 1993; cf. also: H. Grundmann, Ketzergeschichte des Mittelalters, in: Die Kirche in ihrer Geschichte. Ein Handbuch, vol. II, GĂśttingen 1963; ibid., ReligiĂśse Bewegungen im Mittelalter, third edition, Darmstadt 1970.. 31 Vita Sanctae Hildegardis. Leben der Heiligen Hildegard von Bingen. Canonizatio Sanctae Hildegardis. Kanonisation der Heiligen Hildegard, translation and introduction by M. Klaes = Fontes Christiani 29, Freiburg i. Br. 1998, 90f. 32 Ibid., 231.
the body. The aforementioned journeys that led Hildegard along the banks of the Rhine and into southwest Germany were motivated by her rejection of this markedly dualistic movement. The Cathars were characterized by their sharp criticism of marriage and the status of women. It is very likely that most of the women in this movement were subjected to sexual and domestic violence: â€œMarriage is of no value,â€? â€œWomen are demons.â€? Armed with a strong spirituality and theology, St. Hildegard became a tireless combatant against this heretical movement; and in her defense of the human body and of created reality, the fact that she was a female religious conferred on her a special credibility.30 ,DPFRQĂ€GHQWWKDW+LOGHJDUGÂˇVVLJQLĂ€FDQFHIRUXVWRGD\FDQEH further explored and more deeply understood under a variety of aspects. Rarely, however, can these advances be made directly. For despite her relevance, some of Hildegardâ€™s thought remains apparently inaccessible and requires careful interpretation. Only by such efforts shall truly enriching contributions be made. Now that all the meticulous work has been completed at the historical and editorial levels, this is the task to which we must now dedicate ourselves. And here systematic theology is called upon to serve in a special way. But we must arm ourselves with holy patience (cf. the conference on Hildegard scheduled for February/ March 2013 in Mainz). Perhaps we might conclude with what the chronicler tells us DERXW WKH Ă€QDO \HDUV RI 6W +LOGHJDUGÂˇV OLIH Â´,Q KHU KHDUW DELGHV D love so good, that she denies no one her embrace ... But since â€˜the kiln tests the potterâ€™s vesselsâ€™ (Sir 27:5) and â€˜my power is made perIHFWLQZHDNQHVVÂˇ&RU IURPKHUFKLOGKRRGVKHZDVDIĂ LFWHG by frequent, almost continual painful illnesses, such that only rarely was she able to use her feet to walk. And as her whole bodily constitution was unstable, her life was like an image of a precious death. But what strength she lacked exteriorly was added to her inner being through the spirit of wisdom and power, and while her ERG\ GHWHULRUDWHG WKH PDUYHORXV EUHDWK RI WKH Ă DPH RI KHU VSLULW made itself felt.â€?31 The conclusion of this â€œLifeâ€? emphasizes that Hildegard, â€œafter having rendered faithful service to the Lord through many hard EDWWOHV>DQGĂ€QGLQJKHUVHOIEHVHWE\WKHWHGLXPRIOLIH@SUD\HGHDFK day to be â€˜freed from her body to be with Christâ€™ (Phil. 1:23). God granted her desire (just as she had prayed), and to her prophetic spirit He revealed her end, which she then announced to her sisters. Thus, after struggling for some time against her illness, on September 17, in the eighty-second year of her life, she happily returned to the home of her heavenly Bridegroom.â€?32
Many people deserve our thanks. However, we owe the deepest gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for the great courage he has shown in proclaiming St. Hildegard of Bingen a doctor of the Church. Perhaps KLVWKRXJKWLQGRLQJVRLVEHVWUHÁHFWHGLQWKHJUHHWLQJVKHDGGUHVsed in 1994 to participants in an international symposium on Hildegard to which he had been invited. At the time, he stated: “I would have gladly accepted the invitation to your conference on Hildegard of Bingen, for she has fascinated me from my youth. My interest in her was awakened in the early forties, through reading the then very popular novel by Hünermann: Das lebendige Licht [The Living /LJKW@7KLVÀUVWHQFRXQWHUHQFRXUDJHGPHWRSXUVXHWKHVRXUFHRI this light more closely. Unfortunately, however, I never found time to devote to a proper study of Hildegard. “Today Hildegard stands before us in all her daring universality. We are attracted by the loving attention she pays to the healing powers of creation, and by her many artistic talents, but above all by the intensity with which she proclaimed the faith; she is close to us as a woman who loved Christ and His Church, without any naïveté and without fear. Indeed, it was her contact with the mystery of God that enabled her to speak the right words to her times, in all freedom and without fear. Hildegard still has many important things to say to us today amid the crisis of the human image we are now facing. And so I wish you fruitful discussions, in order that Hildegard’s message in its unchanging relevance may be heard and understood anew.”33
Translated by Diane Montagna.
Year of Faith 2012 - 2013
Gratitude to the Holy Father
THIS IS THE BACKGROUND THAT ALSO EXPLAINS WHY ST. HILDEGARD, ESPECIALLY IN HER LATER YEARS, FOUGHT SO VEHEMENTLY AGAINST THE SO-CALLED CATHARS, A SECT-LIKE MOVEMENT THAT, WHILE MOTIVATED BY ASCETICISM, NEVERTHELESS ARRIVED AT A FUNDAMENTALLY NEGATIVE VIEW OF THE BODY.
33 M. Schmidt (Editor), Tiefe des Gotteswissens – Schönheit der Sprachgewalt bei Hildegard von Bingen, Stoccarda 1995, VII.
Published on Sep 9, 2013
By Cardinal Karl Lehmann. For almost 2000 years the doctors of the Church were invariably men. However, the period following the Second Va...