Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Sybil of the Rhine

Today is the feast of the great Benedictine mystic Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), known as the Sybil of the Rhine.  Although Hildegard was apparently one of the first blesseds subject to the official process of canonization, the process was never completed in her case, and technically she remains at the level of beatification.  Nonetheless, Hildegard began to be named in the Roman Martyrology in the sixteenth century, and has been called a saint by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. 

"When I was 42 years and seven months old," she wrote, "a burning light of tremendous brightness coming from heaven poured into my entire mind, like a flame that does not burn but enkindles. All at once I was able to taste of the understanding of books—the Psalter, the Evangelists, and the Books of the Old and New Testaments."

Hildegard was also a composer, one of the first women in the Western tradition to be identified as such, and the first identified Western composer whose biography is known.  She wrote more than seventy liturgical pieces which were performed at her abbey, and even a sort of proto-opera, Ordo Virtutum, about the conversion of the fallen human soul (I was crazily fortunate to see a very good performance of this piece in college, ambitiously mounted by a fellow music student).

Here is one of St. Hildegard's hymns to the Blessed Virgin. I'm pretty sure it will fill you with joy.


BettyDuffy said...

Thank you for this--it does fill me with joy.

What would we do without Hildegard's voice in the Church? Thank God for her consecration, for her gifts, and for her fearlessness in using them.

Pentimento said...

Amen, BD. May God grant us such courage, energy, and vitality in revealing His beauty.

Otepoti said...

Is the text available?

It is beautiful. Think how much more beautiful Mary must be.

Pentimento said...

I found this:

The text is by Hildegard as well.

Otepoti said...


Rodak said...

I have owned a recording of some of her music for years. And I'm honestly not sure why I acquired it. I often play that CD when I'm feeling alienated.
I also have a text by and about her.