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By Hildegard of Bingen / Catholic University of America / 2018
Declared a Doctor of the Church in 2012, St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) is one of the most remarkable figures of medieval Latin Christianity. A visionary theologian and prophetic reformer, as well as composer, artist, and natural scientist, her voice echoes across the centuries to offer today an integrated vision of the relationship between cosmos and humanity.
Completed in 1173, The Book of Divine Works (Liber Divinorum Operum) is the culmination of the Visionary’s Doctor’s theological project, offered here for the first time in a complete and scholarly English translation. The first part explores the intricate physical and spiritual relationships between the cosmos and the human person, with the famous image of the universal Man standing astride the cosmic spheres. The second part examines the rewards for virtue and the punishments for vice, mapped onto a geography of purgatory, hellmouth, and the road to the heavenly city. At the end of each Hildegard writes extensive commentaries on the Prologue to John’s Gospel (Part 1) and the first chapter of Genesis (Part 2)—the only premodern woman to have done so. Finally, the third part tells the history of salvation, imagined as the City of God standing next to the mountain of God’s foreknowledge, with Divine Love reigning over all.
For Hildegard, the Incarnation is the key moment of all history, willed from eternity to complete God’s Work. God’s creative capacity and loving mission are thus shared with the humans he made in his image and likeness—for Hildegard, the incarnate Christ’s tunic and the Word’s creative rationality, respectively. Containing all creation within ourselves, we are divinely called to cooperate in the Creator’s work, to enter into a fruitful and sustainable relationship with creation. The scope of Hildegard’s visionary theology is both cosmic and close—reflections of God’s loving self-revelation are both grand and utterly intimate as the Work of God reaches from the very heart of infinity down into every smallest detail of the created world.
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Blessed Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 17 September 1179), also known as Saint Hildegard, and Sibyl of the Rhine, was a writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, German Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath. Elected a magistra by her fellow nuns in 1136, she founded the monasteries of Rupertsberg in 1150 and Eibingen in 1165. One of her works as a composer, the Ordo Virtutum, is an early example of liturgical drama.