Today the Church celebrates the Feast Day of Hildegard of Bingen, a multi-talented individual who left behind a legacy of writings, song and study of nature.
Hildegard was born around 1098. When she was about 3 years old, she began having visions. Most often, those visions were of light – the light of Christ. As she put it in her later years, “From my early childhood, before my bones, nerves and veins were fully strengthened, I have always seen this vision in my soul … The light which I see thus is not spatial, but it is far, far brighter than a cloud which carries the sun. I can measure neither height, nor length, nor breadth in it; and I call it ‘the reflection of the living Light.’ And as the sun, the moon, and the stars appear in water, so writings, sermons, virtues, and certain human actions take form for me and gleam.”
Moved to a convent at age 15 or so, she embarked on mysticism and study. Her studies included theology, music and nature. Her life’s work ultimately resulted in three major publications, incorporating her theological visions of “the voice of the living light.” Her surviving music, mainly monophonic (one melodic line) chants, totaled more than any other Middle Ages musician – 69. And her works on nature, including properties of 213 healing herbs, survived, sparking the creation in modern times of Hildegard Networks, dedicated to holistic, natural healing.
In later life, she founded two abbeys, at Rupertsburg and Eibingen. She insisted on an all-female abbey to her Abbot. When he denied her, she went over his head – and eventually got her way.
Hildegard died in 1179. Today, we can give thanks for her theology, her music and her commitment to healing through natural remedies.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington