Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Saints of Autumn: Hildegard of Bingen

Today we celebrate the feast day of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), an abbess on the Rhine who was hugely influential in her own time and whose work continues to touch and inspire in our own time.

She is among the giants of Christian spirituality in the 12th century, a time of flowering of art, music and religious fervor in Europe. Most unusual for her time, Hildegard was a renowned preacher. Her advice was sought by paupers and kings. In 1141, Hildegard had a vision, and at its end she wrote:
And it came to pass ... when I was 42 years and 7 months old, that the heavens were opened and a blinding light of exceptional brilliance flowed through my entire brain. And so it kindled my whole heart and breast like a flame, not burning but warming... and suddenly I understood of the meaning of expositions of the books...
She continued to write about her prayers and meditations, using both male and female images of God. She also composed a great deal of music, much of it we still have. Her mystical chants are mediations on her prayers, and her music has been rediscovered in our own time. The group Anonymous 4 has several recordings of Hildegard's works that I have long enjoyed. Here is a sampling from one:

1 comment:

Emily said...

Thank you for the reminder that it is Hildegard's feast day! I, too, am fascinated with her life and work.