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Friday, December 17, 2010

Hildegard von Bingen - Mystical Visions and Music

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Hildegard of Bingham was a 12th century nun, who when she was 3 years old saw a brightness so great that her soul trembled.  From childhood she appeared to be clairvoyant and clairaudient, experiencing  what she described as secret and marvelous vision of light.

“The visions which I saw I did not perceive in dreams nor when asleep nor in a delirium nor with the eyes and ears of the body.  I received them when I was awake and looking around with a clear mind with the inner eyes and ears in open places according to the will of God.”

These visions came in every day life settings.  When awake and looking into the world with a clear mind.  Not befuddled with attachment and manipulation or whatever else, and not altered by consuming anything.

She was not  completely comfortable with these visions.  In Medieval Europe it was probably risky to exhibit out of the norm behavior.  But the visions wouldn’t stop.  One day, dramatically, the icon of her faith showed up in front of her in a fiery and intensely flashing light.  This light poured from the heavens through her whole brain.

She said of it that it kindled her heart and breast as the sun warms anything upon which her rays fall.  And she began to understand the old and New Testament and other spiritual books and she began to compose music, paint, write books about spiritual matters and the natural sciences.

O virtus Sapientiae Translation:

At the heart of Hildegard von Bingen's extraordinary creativity was her accomplishment in music. In the poetry and melody of her songs, she reveals the full authority, intelligence and striking originality of her genius. She wrote profusely as no woman before her. Even though she received no formal training in music, her talent and motivation drove her to write 77 chants and the first musical drama in history, which she entitled The Ritual of the Virtues. She writes in her autobiographical passages: "I composed and chanted plainsong in praise of God and the saints even though I had never studied either musical notation or singing." Unlike the mild, mainstream music of her day, her lyrical speech breaks into rhapsodic emotion; her zesty melodies soar up to two and one half octaves, leaping and swirling into flourishing roulades which leave the singer breathless.  Hildegard's music can only be fully understood, however, in the light of all her work.

Dr. Nancy Fierro, CSJ

Blessed Hildegard of Bingen (German: Hildegard von Bingen; Latin: Hildegardis Bingensis)  
(1098 – 17 September 1179), also known as Saint Hildegard, and Sibyl of the Rhine, was a writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, German Benedictine abbess, visionary, and
polymath.[2] Elected a magistra by her fellow nuns in 1136, she founded the monasteries of
Rupertsberg in 1150 and Eibingen in 1165. One of her works as a composer, the Ordo
Virtutum, is an early example of liturgical drama.[3]    She wrote theological, botanical and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical  songs, poems, and the first surviving morality play, while supervising brilliant miniature  Illuminations.



Born at Bermersheim in Rheinhesse in 1098, the tenth and last child of noble parents,  Hildegard showed early signs of exceptional spiritual gifts. Looking back, she placed the  onset of her visionary experiences in early childhood, although at that stage she did not understand their significance. As the monk Godfrey wrote in his and the monk Theodoric's Vita Sanctae Hildegardis (Life of Saint Hildegard, circa 1180s): "nomine Hildegardis, patre Hildeberdo, matre Mechtilde progenita. Qui licet mundanis impliciti curis et opulencia conspicui creatoris tamen donis non ingrati filiam pre-nominatam divino famulatui manciparunt. Eo quod cum ineuntis etatis eius prematura sinceritas ab omni carnalium habitudine multum dissentire videretur" (Her parents, Hildebert and Mechtilde, although wealthy and engaged in worldly affairs, were not unmindful of the gifts of the Creator and dedicated their daughter to the service of God. For when she was yet a child she seemed far removed from worldly concerns, distanced by a precocious purity). The life they chose for her was that of a companion to Jutta, daughter of Count Stephan of Spanheim, who lived in a cell near the church of the Benedictine monks at Disibodenberg.

Jutta instructed her young charge in the recitation of the Psalter, teaching her to read and (by no means an obvious corollary at the time) to write. In subsequent years Hildegard was always quick to point out how limited her formal education had been, emphasizing that she had been taught by an "indocta mulier" (unlearned woman) and, consequently, that any insight she gained into theological or secular matters was divinely inspired.

Sabina Flanagan

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