In the same vision as the five beasts, recorded in Scivias, Book III, Vision 11, Chapters 25-42†, the Doctor of the Church shares what was revealed to her about the Antichrist and offers clues to Christians during the last days on how to identify him.
She starts with the mother of the Antichrist, who begins learning “the arts of the Devil” in her infancy. We are told that she grows up apart from her family, and in the care of “abominable people” living in the “vilest of waste places”. As she matures her parents do not recognize her, nor even the people who raised her. At some point, we are not told what specific age, she will be visited by the Devil in the guise of an angel. She will depart from her community and seclude herself under the guidance of this angel from hell (chap. 25).
At some point after this the devil/angel commands her to engage in intercourse with a succession of men at the same time, with all participants remaining anonymous. She is impregnated by one of the men but she will never know who it was. Hildegard tells us that at this point Satan “…will breath on the embryo. and possess it with all his power”. (At this point we are reminded by the Saint that this is all done with the permission of God). After the baby is born the mother will show the infant boy to the people around her, declaring to them that she does not know who the father is or how she got pregnant. At the same time, although she had been given to a life of debauchery, she begins to observe a chaste lifestyle. The reaction of people to this will be to give her and her baby respect and even consider her a holy woman (Chap. 25).
Just like his mother, the boy will be “nurtured by the Devil’s arts” from a young age and will grow up in seclusion. Hildegard explains that while the boy is still a youth his mother, with the help of her “magic arts”, will present her son to the broader public. We are not told his exact age, but Hildegard declares that it is before the age of maturity. His reception is positive; he is admired by both Christians and non-Christians and even “loved” by them. When he reaches the age of maturity he will begin preaching a doctrine that is “clearly perverse” (Chap. 26). This inaugurates his gradual rise to international fame and power.
The strategy he uses to achieve his goal of world domination is to align himself with “…kings, dukes, princes, and the rich” (Chap. 27). To accomplish this he employs his knowledge of the “Devil’s arts”, to deceive people into supporting him. Hildegard tells us that he performs a series of miraculous events that appear supernatural, but in reality are only apparently so. Much of this, we are told, will center on an illusive ability to manipulate the climate. The Antichrist will “…bring forth fire and lightnings from heaven, and raise thunders and hailstorms.” All of these, she explains, will only be “illusions” (Chap. 27).
He will seem to cause people to get ill and then miraculously heal them. He will even raise the dead. Hildegard explains how he can accomplish this. A corpse, whose soul is in the hands of the Devil, will move as if alive, but remain dead. We are reminded again by Hildegard that this will be permitted by God, but she adds that it will only be allowed to occur a few times. He will also appear to cast out demons (Chap. 27).
At this point there will be two types of response to the Antichrist by the public: those who fully believe in him and follow him, and those who admire and believe in him, but also want to retain and continue practicing their Christian faith. The latter group will suddenly fall ill by the hand of the Antichrist. Doctors and medicines will be of no help to them and the Antichrist will generously offer to miraculously cure them. Many accept his offer of healing and once cured, they are moved to abandon their faith and follow him exclusively (Chap. 27).
“And he will acquire for himself many peoples, telling them to do their own will and not restrain themselves by vigils and fasting; he will tell them that they need only love their God, Whom he will pretend to be” (Chap. 30).
Hildegard adds that he will encourage sexual immorality and people will feel fortunate to be living at this time, regarding earlier generations of Christians as fools for their formality, religiosity, and ignorance of God’s love.
At this point he will prohibit baptism and the sacraments, and will “throw out” the gospel of Christ. This is when his greatest deception occurs: he will arrange to be run through by a sword and die; he will be covered by a shroud, and then falsely rise from the dead. The will amaze his followers and his power will increase. He will produce a document that he claims will be for the salvation of souls, but in reality, Hildegard tells us, it is a “dire curse” (Chap. 31).
It is clear that Hildegard’s vision of the Antichrist supplements the biblical evidence and is meant to provide the generation of Catholic Christians living at the time an ability to recognize him early and avoid being deceived by his apparent miraculous abilities and the general appeal of his early religious teachings.
Hidegard adds a message, not addressed to people of the twelfth-century, but to those living in the last days during the era of the Grey Wolf. And it is directed specifically to teachers, referring to them in the chapter title as the “learned”. Hildegard generally identifies these with clergy. It is a demand, in the first person voice of God, for priests to heed the words of Hildegard:
“O fruitful and rewarding teachers! Redeem your souls and loudly proclaim these words, and do not disbelieve them; for if you spurn them you contemn not them but Me Who Am Truth. …But from now on the predestined epoch is fast approaching, and you are hastening toward the time when the son of perdition will appear. Grow therefore in vigor and fortitude, My elect! Be on your guard, lest you fall into the snare of death; raise the victorious banner of these words, and rush upon the son of iniquity. For those who forerun and follow the son of perdition whom you call Antichrist are in the way of error; but as for you, follow the footsteps of Him Who taught you the way of truth” (Bk. 3, Vis. 11, Chap. 19).
Post Scriptum: Once Abbess Hildegard’s visionary work, Scivias, was discovered by St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) and Pope Blessed Eugenius III (1088-1153), both of whom regarded it as divinely inspired, her reputation as a prophet began to spread throughout Christendom. Her rediscovery in the late 20th-century led to her elevation to Doctor of the Universal Church by Pope Benedict XVI.
†All quotations taken from Hildegard of Bingen: Scivias, translated by Columba Hart and Jane Bishop. The Abbey of Regina Laudis: Benedictine Congregation Regina Laudis of the Strict Observance, Inc. Paulist Press, 1990.