Hildegard of Bingen lived in Germany in the 12th century. She was born in 1098 in the Rhineland, probably at Bermersheim, near Alzey, and she died in 1179, at the age of 81.

From the age of 8, she received a religious education at the Benedictine monastery of Saint Disibod. She received the habit in 1136, and spent the rest of her life in Bingen where she exercised authority in a joyful and charitable manner.

She submitted her visions to St Bernard of Clairvaux, and in 1147, Pope Eugene III authorized the mystic to write down her visions and speak in public. [1]

Hildegard's mystical visions resemble those of the Old Testament’s prophets: using the cultural and religious expressions of her time, she interpreted the Holy Scriptures in the divine light, applying them to the various circumstances of the life. Thus, all those who listened to her felt exhorted to practice a coherent and committed Christian way of life. 

For example, in her most famous work, Scivias, i.e. "Know the Way," she summarizes in 35 visions the events of the history of salvation, from the creation of the world to the end times.

With the characteristic traits of feminine sensibility, Hildegard, precisely in the central part of her work, develops the theme of the mystical marriage between God and humankind accomplished in the Incarnation.

On the tree of the Cross takes place the nuptials of the Son of God with the Church, his spouse, who is filled with grace and able to give God new children in the love of the Holy Spirit (see Visio Tertia: PL 197, 453c).

The Liber Vita Meritorum (Book of the Merits of Life) presents a unique and dynamic vision of God who infuses life in the universe by his strength and his light. Hildegard emphasizes the deep relationship between man and God and reminds us that all creation, of which man is the summit, receives the life of the Trinity.

This writing focuses on the relationship between virtues and vices: human beings face the daily challenge of rejecting vices, which take him away from his journey towards God, and choosing the virtues, which help with that journey.

The invitation is to move away from evil, to glorify God, and to enter, after a virtuous existence, into the life "of all joy."

In the Liber Divinorum Operum (Book of Divine Operations), also called de Operatione Dei, considered by many as her masterpiece, she again describes creation in its relation to God, and the central place that man occupies, characterized by a strong Christocentrism with biblical and patristic accents.

In other writings, Hildegarde shows the wide range of interests and vibrant cultural pursuits of medieval women's monasteries, contrary to common belief due to the prejudices still held on that period of history.

Hildegard was involved in medicine and natural sciences, as well as music, with great artistic talent.

She composed hymns, antiphons and songs, gathered under the title Symphonia Harmoniae Caelestium Revelationum (Symphony of Harmony of Celestial Revelations), which were joyfully performed in her monasteries, spreading a climate of serenity, and also reached us. For her, the whole creation is a symphony of the Holy Spirit, who is in itself joy and jubilation.

With the spiritual authority with which she was endowed, in the last years of her life Hildegard went on a journey, in spite of her advanced age and the difficult conditions of travel, to speak of God to the people. They all readily listened to her, even when she took a severe tone: they regarded her as a messenger sent by God. "[2]

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[1] See Benedict XVI, audience of September 1, 2010.

[2] Excerpts from Benedict XVI, audience of September 8, 2010.

See also: www.universitesaintehildegarde.org

 

 

Excerpts from F. Breynaert