I add one more on Hildegard, simply because I want to end this section with the words of Pope Benedict XVI. Also, read these words thinking of all the great ladies, Teresa, Therese, Catherine, Hildegard, and the greatest of all, Mary. It is important for me to stress the solid foundation of Hildegard as rooted in Catholic theology and spirituality.
We need to see her firmly in the Benedictine tradition of monastic order and prayer, as well as the medieval tradition of mysticism. Her writings are not those of some odd, eccentric woman who reaches down to an age of feminism, but the story of the response of every Christian to the Love of the Indwelling of the Trinity.
That the New Age movement has kidnapped her is most unfortunate, as the interpretations lead people astray. She is not a seer of the goddess movement, nor a prophet of feminism. Here is the Pope from the 2010 series of talks on the saint. This selection from the series is in italics, as usual, for this blog.
This vision burns like a flame in my breast and in my soul and teaches me to understand the text profoundly" (Epistolarium pars prima I-XC: CCCM 91).
Finally, in other writings Hildegard manifests the versatility of interests and cultural vivacity of the female monasteries of the Middle Ages, in a manner contrary to the prejudices which still weighed on that period. Hildegard took an interest in medicine and in the natural sciences as well as in music, since she was endowed with artistic talent. Thus she composed hymns, antiphons and songs, gathered under the title: Symphonia Harmoniae Caelestium Revelationum (Symphony of the Harmony of Heavenly Revelations), that were performed joyously in her monasteries, spreading an atmosphere of tranquillity and that have also come down to us. For her, the entire creation is a symphony of the Holy Spirit who is in himself joy and jubilation.
The popularity that surrounded Hildegard impelled many people to seek her advice. It is for this reason that we have so many of her letters at our disposal. Many male and female monastic communities turned to her, as well as Bishops and Abbots. And many of her answers still apply for us. For instance, Hildegard wrote these words to a community of women religious: "The spiritual life must be tended with great dedication. At first the effort is burdensome because it demands the renunciation of caprices of the pleasures of the flesh and of other such things. But if she lets herself be enthralled by holiness a holy soul will find even contempt for the world sweet and lovable. All that is needed is to take care that the soul does not shrivel" (E. Gronau, Hildegard. Vita di una donna profetica alle origini dell'età moderna, Milan 1996)
Readers, I purposefully did not use some of the drawings done by artists in the past twenty years concerning her visions and understanding of Love. Many of those do not reflect the connections between Christ and the soul, or the long history of the Illuminative and Unitive Ways which we have in the Catholic Church.
Doctors of the Church...to be continued....