Family and welcome. We’re Bob and Penny Lord, although Penny is
directing everything from Heaven. We want to share with you today, a
very special Super Saint, St. Hildegard of Bingen, a visionary, a
mystic, a doctor of the Church, who is not well known in the United
States, but is greatly admired and venerated in Germany and other
St. Hildegard is called the Sybil of the Rhine
meaning seeress. She is not only venerated by the Roman Catholic Church,
but also by the Anglican and Lutheran Church and many eastern religions.
She is many things. She is a visionary and mystic. She is an author, a
composer, a playwright, a person of great learning in many areas,
including medicine. Truth be known, there’s not a whole lot that she was
not adept at. During her lifetime, she was an advisor to Abbots,
Bishops, Popes, Kings as well as the everyday people who asked for her
help. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s begin at the
She was born in 1098, at Bermersheim, near Mainz. She
was the tenth and last child of a noble family. Apparently from her
earliest age, she was having visions, actually what we might consider
inner locutions today. There was always a bright light followed by a
voice. It was an interior voice which she understood rather than heard.
She and everyone around her were convinced that she heard the voice of
Tradition at that time was to give the tenth child
back as a tithe to God by sending her to a Convent. At 8 years old,
Hildegard was placed in a Benedictine monastery under the care of Jutta
von Sponheim, who was the abbess. Jutta was the youngest of four born
into a very rich family in what is called the county of the Rhein-Palatinate.
Jutta also was a very spiritual girl. She, too, joined the Benedictine
Abbey as a young girl and chose to live a solitary life, in one room
with only a small window from which food was passed in and out. A few
years later, she was made Abbess of her community. Jutta was a visionary
as well, and attracted many young women to her community.
nto this setting young Hildegard was placed and stayed cloistered with Jutta
in that one room for the rest of Jutta’s life. Jutta taught her many
things about God, (the Opus Dei) the Church, how to read and write and
subsequently had the child reading the Psalms, the Canonical Hours, and
gave her her first lessons in music, on a zither-like stringed
instrument called the psaltery. Music became a great part of Hildegard’s
life from that time on.
Jutta became aware of Hildegard’s gifts, especially
her visions and locutions. She mentioned them to monks in other abbeys,
who were also involved in Hildegard’s Benedictine education, but no one
paid much attention to them at the time, except for one Volmar, who
became Hildegard’s secretary and friend. Hildegard took her vows as a
Benedictine to live in the monastery for life. When Jutta died in 1136,
the nuns asked Hildegard to become the Magistra, the equivalent of
Consul, teacher, professor. So she was not yet elected Abbess, but she
was asked to lead the convent. She eventually came out of her solitary
confinement and her wings began to spread.
It was during this time that she was impelled by the
Holy Spirit to write down her visions. She tried to ignore the inner
voices because she feared public opinion, even though she truly believed
in what she had seen and heard. She said: “Up to my fifteenth year I saw
much, and related some of the things seen to others, who would inquire
with astonishment, whence such things might come. I also wondered and
during my sickness I asked one of my nurses whether she also saw similar
things. When she answered no, a great fear befell me. Frequently, in my
conversation, I would relate future things, which I saw as if present,
but noting the amazement of my listeners, I became more reticent.”
The command she was given was “O fragile one, ash of
ash and corruption of corruption, say and write what you see and hear.”
She writes: “But although I heard and saw these things, because of doubt
and low opinion of myself and because of diverse sayings of men, I
refused for a long time a call to write, not out of stubbornness, but
out of humility, until weighed down by a scourge of God, I fell onto a
bed of sickness.” Eventually, she could not resist the constant urging,
and began to write her visions in a book she titled Scivias (Know the
Ways) in 1141 when she was “forty two years and seven months”, her own
You have to understand that her visions and locutions
were not human. They were not voices and sights which she would see with
her eyes and hear with her ears. They were a stream of consciousness.
They were interior visions and voices. They would come at once and she
knew what they were saying.
She wrote: “A shaft of light of dazzling brilliancy
came from the opened heavens and pierced my heart like a flame that
warms without burning, as the sun heats by its rays. And suddenly I knew
and understood the explanation of the psalms, the gospels, and other
Catholic books of the Old and New Testaments.” It was a full infusion of
the Holy Spirit, which opened her mind and spirit to see in her heart
all that the Lord wanted her to write and say.
During the heat of writing these visions, she wrote
them down on a wax tablet as she received them from above, and her
secretary, Volmar the monk, would put them into written form. She said
“And I spoke and wrote these things not by the invention of my heart or
that of any other person, but as by the secret mysteries of God. I heard
and received them in the heavenly places. And again I heard a voice from
Heaven saying to me ‘Cry out therefore, and write thus.’”
It took ten years to complete this book. It
represents a view of God on His Holy Mountain with man at the base. It
tells of the original condition of man, his fall and redemption through
Jesus on the Cross, as well as man’s ongoing struggles. It talks of the
Mass, the times to come, the son of perdition and the end times.
Actually, there’s not much that is not said in the book. And a lot of it
has to do with our time. It’s very apocalyptic and not easy for the
average person to understand. Sometimes you have to read a passage over
and over two or three times before you can grasp its meaning. But the
work is notably brilliant, and without doubt the words of God.
It was put into finished form by her abbot and
presented to the Bishop of Mainz, who declared it was
from God. But that was not enough for Hildegard. She needed more. She
wrote a letter to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, also a doctor of the Church.
Through a long, lengthy letter, she basically asked his approval of the
work she was doing. His answer was much shorter, but to the point.
Without going into too much detail, he told her that he believed her
work was God-centered. He actually took some of her work to the Synod of
Trier and presented it to Pope Eugenius III, who studied it and was so
impressed; he read her writings aloud to the Cardinals at the Synod. He
gave her his blessing and the title German Prophetess.
As a result of the Pope’s vocal approval of Hildegard
and his subsequent l etter of blessing to her, she and
her monastery became very popular. Many aspirants came to join their
community. They outgrew their comfortable little convent. They were
running out of room for all the new people who were coming as a result
of Hildegard’s popularity. The convent was in a constant state of
construction. Under these conditions, plus her day job of running the
convent, it took her an additional three years after the Pope
acknowledged her, to finish the book.
She felt the need for a more austere, smaller
community, where she could concentrate on more prayer, less distraction
and all that the Lord had to tell her. Her first attempt at independence
of sorts came when Abbot Kuno asked her to be prioress of the community.
She said the Lord told her to move to a poorer convent in Rupertsburg,
about 30 kilometers away, which would allow the nuns more austerity in
their life styles and growth. The abbot refused. Hildegard, who by this
time had developed quite a reputation on her own, went over the Abbot’s
head to the Archbishop who gave her permission to take her nuns and
Apparently, she believed she did not move quickly
enough for the Lord. Hildegard was struck down with an illness which
paralyzed her and made her a prisoner of her bed. She claimed this was
God’s way of punishing her for not following the Lord’s command at once.
The situation became so bad; Abbot Kuno could not lift
her out of the bed. Finally, in frustration, he gave the nuns permission
to move to Rupertsburg, at which time Hildegard was released from the
bondage of her bed.