“O vis aeternitatis”: The Power of St. Hildegard’s Music

One of the best online resources for the study of St. Hildegard’s music is on the blog run by the International Society of Hildegard von Bingen Studies, which includes a large collection of her works along with Latin texts and translations that can be found here. Medievalist Nathaniel Campbell, a contributor to the blog,makes the astonishing claim:

“More works can be definitely attributed to Hildegard than any other composer from the Middle Ages. The melodic variety of Hildegard’s chant, ranging from the highly florid works of her early years to the more restrained chant, reflect her intimate familiarity with chant genres and the compositional practices of late medieval chant. Where Hildegard’s musical brilliance shines brightest is the sublimity of the liturgical poetry that accompanies it.”

“…For Hildegard, music rises almost to the level of a sacrament, channeling the perfection of divine grace from the heavenly choirs down to us.”

O vis aeternitatis, “O power within eternity”, is one of her responsories:

R. O power within Eternity:
All things you held in order in your heart,
and through your Word were all created
according to your will.
And then your very Word
was clothed within
that form of flesh
from Adam born.

R. And so his garments
were washed and cleansed
from greatest suffering.

V. How great the Savior’s goodness is!
For he has freed all things
by his own Incarnation,
which divinity breathed forth
unchained by any sin.

R. And so his garments
were washed and cleansed
by greatest suffering.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit.

R. And so his garments
were washed and cleansed
by greatest suffering.

(Translation by Nathaniel Campbell, the Latin text can be found here).

…rjt

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