“The earth is at the same time mother,
She is mother of all things that are natural,
Mother of all that is human.
She is the mother of all,
For contained in her
Are the seeds of all.”
~~ Hildegard of Bingen ( 1098-1179) ~~
On Sunday, October 7th, 2012, Hildegard of Bingen was named a Doctor of the Church, removing all doubt about her status as a saint of the Catholic Church. She has been called a “true master of theology and a great scholar of the natural sciences and of music” by the former pope Benedict. Hildegard was indeed a scholar, a writer, a poet, composer, mystic, philosopher, Benedictine Abbess, visionary, and a polymath of a simply awesome intellect. What is even more remarkable, is that she gained her stupendous reputation within the straight jacket of a fiercely patriarchal society, where women were preferred to be seen and not heard: it is rare in history for a woman to be considered on an equal footing with men; when this happened, they were almost invariably written off and denigrated at some stage, as having bewitched their men folk, or to have acquired their influence and reputation by the unfair advantage of spells, potions, sexual enticements, or some such extra curricula activities. Hildegard was simply humongously clever; but being fully aware of the fragility of her position as a hyper intelligent woman, she played by the rules which required her to be submissive to the masculine church hierarchy. Within the strict parameters of her designated place, she displayed the full measure of her gob smacking talents, and became a religious icon without equal.
Her reputation survived unscathed and intact, by being sincerely loyal to the institutional, hierarchical Church structure, showing complete obedience to the ecclesial authority; on the surface, she was neither left nor right, but straight down the middle. However, she did poke her head above the parapet from time to time; she abhorred the practice of burning heretics, because she considered that heretics “bore the image of God..Do not kill them, for they are in God`s image.” Her position was stunningly plain by those words, which unfortunately fell upon deaf ears…….Men made the rules and ran the Church; end of story. She did not believe in capital punishment, which is a truly remarkable concept coming from such a violent and inhumane age. Hildegard recieved divine revelation from heaven through her visions, and used her acute observations from nature in her healing arts; her healing treatises are the only ones surviving from the 12th century.
Remarkably, she saw humanity as a microcosm of the macrocosm, and saw illness and aggressive behaviour as maladies caused by an harmonic imbalance with nature. For her, humanity had it`s rightful place within the general ecology of nature, and not as the rapacious pillager it has become. Hildegard`s interpretation of the Bible goes beyond her imposition of her vision upon it: she was spiritually, fully engaged with her theological interpretation, her nose buried deep in the textual details. The harmony of faith and reason are the key stone of Hildegard`s religious, and spiritual being at one with mother nature, and a gentle and kind heart.
One last thing needs to be pointed out – her musical talent: as if her talent existed without limits, her musical compositions are haunting, lyrical and, like the woman herself, challenging to sing. They shimmer like an oasis of celestial gold; they convey awe, love and devotion which stands out even amid the rich tapestry of developing polyphonic music of the period, and give us some of the most beautiful compositions ever written.
“Hildegard tells us that we need to be centred again, to allow the Light of God to be in us and shine through us. She gives us permission to look inside ourselves and find a way to let God shine through us – That God isn`t finished yet.”
~~ Lisa Maxwell ~~
Within Hildegard lived a giant intellect, as sharp as a cut throat razor, but also gentle and humble; a soul that was a living, breathing sacred page of religious and spiritual theology, which we can still read and learn from, as the modern world moves further from the natural values of mother earth she so ardently believed in.