4/11/22 THE GREAT REFORM AND HILDEGARD OF BINGEN

Today we get to delve into Hildegard of Bingen a little bit. She was an amazing woman, and probably the first to really stand out since Apostolic times. Her music is wonderful and well worth your time. She was also very well known for her visions, and we’ll be looking at one today. Dreams and visions have been questioned in Christianity since the beginning; the major, and really only, requirement is that they must agree with the Bible, and this one certainly does.

Here’s what Bernard McGinn has to say about Hildegard in VISIONS OF THE END:

“The events of the Great Reform also played a role in the speculations of the visionary and prophetess Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), one of the most remarkable religious leaders of the time. Hildegard’s striking visions mark her as one of the most original apocalyptic thinkers since the intertestamental period. Her writings display a wide variety of themes both cosmological and historical. The central production, the SCIVIAS completed in 1151, shows this Benedictine abbess as conservative and monastic in outlook, and primarily moralizing in intent. Hildegard was not particularly papalist; indeed, she predicted that both the universal powers of Christendom, the empire and the papacy, would fail as the age of crisis unfolded. According to her thought, this time of trouble…began at the end of the eleventh century with the attacks of Henry IV upon the Church. Although the German abbess tends to be less concerned with the details of the great controversy than some of her contemporaries, it is obvious that her view of history can only be understood within the context of the Great Reform movement.”

I find his conclusions about Hildegard to be somewhat dismissive, particularly because she was not that “concerned” about the “great controversy.” For myself, I find that refreshing about her. Her focus was on the next world rather than the foibles of this one. And her writing is fully understandable without knowing a thing about the “Great Reform.”

I am very unhappy with Mr. McGinn’s translation of a portion of Hilegard’s SCIVIAS, a book describing 26 of her visions. His translation was less than lyrical, but much worse was his attempt to use modern anatomical terms in the descriptions of the youth and the woman. I found a better translation in the book HILDEGARD OF BINGEN: AN INTEGRATED VISION by Anne H. King-Lenzmeier, though she doesn’t go as far into it as Mr. McGinn, so we will be picking up his translation at the end.

“Then I looked to the North, and behold! five beasts stood there. One was like a dog, fiery but not burning; another like a yellow lion; another was like a pale horse; another like a black pig; and the last like a grey wolf, and they were facing the west. In the West, before the them, a hill with five peaks appeared; so from the mouth of each beast one rope stretched to one of the peaks of the hill and the ropes were black, except for the one from the mouth of the wolf which was partly black and partly white.”

According to King-Lenzmeier, the allegorical meanings of the animals are representative of types of people, as follows:

The dog — “people of a ‘biting temperment’”

The lion — “warlike persons”

The pale horse — “those who sink themselves in sin”

The pig — “impure” persons

The wolf — “robbers and cunning deceivers”

King-Lenzmeier goes on to say: “They are there to show dissension in the final days of the world. They face the West because they will vanish as the sun sets.”

Back to Hildegard:

“And behold! in the East I saw again that youth, whom I had first seen on the corner of the wall of the building where the shining and stone parts come together, wearing a tunic of purple. I now saw him on the same corner, but now I could see him from the waist down. And from the waist down to the place where a man is discerned he shone like the dawn and there was a lyre in his lap lying with its strings across his body; and from there to the width of two fingers above his heel he was in shadow, but from there down to his feet he was whiter than milk.”

King-Lenzmeier identifies the youth as Christ “appearing in the last days of the old times.”  She identifies the building as “being under construction until now and is nearing completion.” 

Hildegard continues:

“And I saw again the figure of the woman whom I had previously seen in front of the altar, which stands before the eyes of God; she stood in the same place, but now I saw her from the waist down. And from her waist to the place where a woman is discerned, she had various scaly blemishes; and in that latter place was a black and monstrous head. It had fiery eyes, and ears like to an ass, nostrils and mouth like a lion’s; it opened wide its jowls and terribly clashed its horrible iron-colored teeth.

“And from this head down to her knees, the figure was white and red as if bruised by beatings repeatedly. From her knees to her tendons where they joined her heels, which seemed white, she was covered in blood. And lo! That  monstrous head moved from its place with such a great shock that the figure of the woman was shaken through all her limbs. And a great mass of excrement adhered to the head; and it raised itself up upon a mountain, trying to climb the heights of Heaven. And behold, there came a thunderbolt striking this head with such force that it fell from the mountain and sent its spirit into death. And a reeking fog enveloped the whole mountain, which wrapped the head in such filth that the people who stood by were terrified. And that fog remained around the mountain for a while longer. The people who stood there, seeing this, where shaken with great fright and said to one another: ‘Alas! Alas! what is this? what do you think that was? wretches that we are, who will help us and deliver us? unfortunate as we are? For we do not know how we were deceived. O Almighty God, have mercy on us! Let us return, turn back; let us hasten to the Gospel of Christ. For ah, ah, ah, we have been bitterly deceived!’ and lo, the the feet of the the figure of the woman glowed white, shining with a splendor greater than the sun’s.” 

King-Lenzmeier identifies the woman as the Church because “she appears [in Hildegard’s woodcut illustration] as is customary above the waist entirely in gold and crowned as usual.” But she also identifies the woman as “the most gruesome part of the whole picture…scarred and bleeding, with the head of the Antichrist where the genitals would be…the placement seems to have multiple meanings: the figure of Christ has harmony where the genitals should be (the lyre); when he joins his true spouse the monstrous aberration will leave her, torn away by the power of God embracing the bride…” To me, this says that the parts of the Church that are not following the Gospel will not be part of the Rapture; and that the Rapture is the “embracing” of the bride.

King-Lenzmeier continues: “The placement here could also mean that the human failings of those inside the Church help to give birth to the Antichrist, leaving the true Church maimed, beaten, and bleeding…”  This is frightening, but also makes sense. The Church feels “maimed, beaten, and bleeding” right now.

King-Lenzmeier goes on: “The commentary stands as a warning also to Christians to beware the Day of Judgment because one does not know when it will come. Like the people in the vision, many will cry out about how they have been deceived, fooled until the end.”  This goes directly against Adso’s idea that people will have time to repent after having gone along with the Antichrist. Of course, Revelation itself says that those who take the mark of the beast are lost, but it’s interesting to see it repeated in Hildegard’s vision.

Back to King-Lenzmeier: “Hildegard also warns about the mother of the Antichrist as steeped in sin and who will teach the Antichrist the false ways of magic and power.”  In the last 200 years or so, the idea of teaching “magic and power” would have seemed a bit foreign and unlikely for someone in western culture. But the current world has brought back much of the “magic and power” from the days of old, so that, in my opinion, it is not so unlikely anymore.

Returning to Hildegard:

“And again I heard a voice from Heaven speak to me:” [the continuation is now from VISIONS OF THE END] “’Even though all things on earth are tending toward their end, so that the world with all its powers now weakened and oppressed by many hardships and calamities is bowed down to its End, nevertheless, the Spouse of my Son, though much weakened in her children, will never be destroyed either by the heralds of the Son of Perdition or by the Destroyer himself, however much she will be attacked by them. At the End of time she will arise more powerful and more secure; she will appear more beautiful and shining so that she may go forth in this way more sweetly and more agreeably to the embrace of her Beloved. The vision which you saw signifies all this in mystic fashion’”

This last bit is pretty interesting. I have been noticing that Christians have been sorting themselves out quite a bit. There are those who are totally devoted to Christ, who may or may not be attending services (depending on the sincerity of the services available), but are finding others of the same devotion with which to study and have fellowship. There are those who still attend church, and maybe even attend bible studies, but rarely think of Christ beyond those times. And, there are those who were relieved to have the churches closed during the ‘pandemic’, and have moved on. The “embrace” is coming, are you ready?

That’s all for today. We have a place to move to and have been taking things into the new garage for storage, but this week we will get to actually move into the house, so moving will be intense for the next two weeks or so. If I have time to prepare posts, then I will. Otherwise, there may be a hiatus. In the meantime, I’ll be praying that you all are ready for Christ’s embrace!

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