St. Hildegard’s Curious Illuminations

Illumination from the Rupertsberg Manuscript

One of the interesting things about the illuminations that accompany the Rupertsberg manuscript of Scivias (late 12th-century), the book in which Hildegard recorded her visions, is that much of the artwork appears to contradict the text. For example, the ‘Yellow Lion’ is painted red and the ‘Pale Horse’ is kind of a brownish-green. In later manuscripts produced after her death this is not the case.

The manuscript was produced in Hildegard’s own abbey for which she was the abbess and scholars believe that the discrpancy demonstrates that Hildegard herself was either the artist that produced the illuminations or directly supervised their design.

The Pale Horse is pale because it is supposed to be extremely sickly, but the actual description of the symbolism of the horse is quite opposite:

“Another is like a pale horse; for those times will produce people who drown themselves in sin, and in their licentious and swift moving pleasures neglect all virtuous activities. And then these kingdoms will lose their ruddy strength and grow pale with the fear of ruin, and their hearts will be broken.”†

The paleness, you will notice, occurs only at the end of the era. In the beginning the horse is healthy, directing its energy towards licentiousness (sexual immorality). This era corresponds to the sexual revolution of the 1950s-1980s. You will recall that the damaging consequences of the sexual revolution on western society began to reveal themselves in the 1980s. Statistics on abortion, divorce, single-parent families, suicide, STDs (including AIDS), etc., all exploded higher as the era came to an end.

The five beasts from a 14th-century manuscript

Only Hildegard would have painted a horse that was not pale. As noted, illuminations on later manuscripts portray a white or greyish horse.

The same is the case with the Yellow Lion; it turns yellow only at the end of the era:

“Another is like a yellow lion; for this era will endure martial people, who instigate many wars but do not think of the righteousness of God in them; for those kingdoms will begin to weaken and tire, as the yellow color shows.”

This era corresponds to  the period of 1914-1945. It was an age of extreme nationalism that led to numerous genocides. As the militaristic era came to a close, the fall of the Nazis and their allies proved to be a spectacular exhibition of self-delusion and cowardice which has been well documented by historians.

I wrote The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard six years ago and the history that has unfolded since resembles events she describes in her fifth vision (Grey Wolf): migration, growing wealth inequality, sex and financial scandals in the Church, persecution, social unrest, etc.

…rjt

†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.

Now’s the Time to Reevaluate Catholic Prophetic Literature

A poll taken in the U.K. showed that more people believe in ghosts and UFOs than in God. While there’s a natural curiosity in the possibility of the existence of the supernatural, hence the popularity of movies like The Exorcist, it doesn’t necessarily lead people to God. St. Paul explains this curious phenomenon:

Now the natural person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can judge everything… (1 Cor. 2:12-15).

Continue reading “Now’s the Time to Reevaluate Catholic Prophetic Literature”

Dawn of the Grey Wolf?

In COVID-13 the leaders of the world have been dealt a hand of cards that revealed a big fat ‘Catch-22’. On the one hand little was known about the severity of the virus and inaction might have caused unpleasant scenes of overwhelmed hospitals like we saw in Wuhan, China and Northern Italy.

On the other hand, shutting down entire economies of the Western world indefinitely can only guarantee another depression. The debt burdens and expenses of governments, corporations, and individuals cannot be serviced if everything is closed. A negative-feedback loop is currently underway that may take years to unwind. 2020 will be the year historians use to mark an abrupt end of an era. Continue reading “Dawn of the Grey Wolf?”

St. Hildegard Warns on Compromising Church Authority

In 2018 the Pope cut a deal with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) which gave the Chinese government the power to make episcopal appointments. While the Vatican can accept or reject the candidates, history shows that papal accords that compromise its authority end badly and this one is ending very badly.

Hildegard detested Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (AD 1122-1190) for his determination to make ecclesial appointments. Not uncharacteristically, she responds by assuming her role as a prophet of the Old Testament type, delivering threats in the first-person voice of God:

“He who Is says: By My own power I do away with the obstinacy and rebellion of those who scorn me. Woe, O woe to the evil of those wicked ones who spurn me. Hear this O king, if you wish to live. Otherwise my sword will pierce you”.†

Continue reading “St. Hildegard Warns on Compromising Church Authority”

Pope Benedict’s ‘Year of the Priest’ Warning to the Curia

Many have commented that the depth of frustration and anger over the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report as well as Archbishop Vignano’s testimony is because they prove that the response by Church authorities to the first clergy abuse crisis in 2002 was inadequate and insincere.

The current crisis, however, is not the second but the third major series of revelations of abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church. In Pope Benedict’s 2010 (‘Year of the Priest’) Christmas address to the Curia, he laments the new round of abuse reports, primarily from western Europe, and recalls a vision given to St. Hildegard: Continue reading “Pope Benedict’s ‘Year of the Priest’ Warning to the Curia”

‘Office of the Angelic Order’: St. Hildegard’s Ode to Priests

The Choirs of the Blessed, Rupertsberg Manuscript

In Book III, Vision 13 from Hildegard’s Scivias (hard ‘c’, and is an abbreviation for Sci vias domini, “Know the Ways of God”), she describes a vision of heavenly choirs, “I heard the praises of the joyous citizens of Heaven”. There is a song for angels, martyrs, Mary, etc. She wrote down the words to the songs and called them the “Symphony of the Blessed”. The following is a hymn to confessors:

O ye who succeed and serve the mighty Lion,
And rule between the temple and the altar,
The angels sing praises and stand to help the peoples,
And so do you in the Lamb’s service careful.

O ye who imitate the Most Exalted,
In His most precious and glorious Sacrament!
How great is your glory, in which the power is given
To loose and bind the indolent and the straying,
to beautify white and black, and lift their burdens.
Yours too is the office of the Angelic order,
And yours is the task of knowing the firm foundations
And where to lay them, and therefore great is your honor.†

This is one of the rare places in the book where Hildegard has something nice to say about priests. By the middle of the twelfth-century the priesthood had been corrupted and was in deep need of reform. Historians generally agree that at the time most priests disregarded celibacy and were either married or supporting a concubine. They also would regard their church and attendant properties as their own personal real estate, using the land to accumulate wealth.

Hildegard would later be authorized by Pope Eugenius III as well as his successors to conduct speaking tours primarily to groups of priests, harshly condemning their behavior. From her correspondence we know that these speeches had a powerful influence and included prophesying, as her reputation as a genuine seer had spread throughout Latin Christendom.

…rjt

†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.

Understanding the Writings of St. Hildegard

I have recently added a page on the top menu, “Understanding the Writings of St. Hildegard“. It is the first chapter of my book, Liberating Marriage in an Age of Heresy. It is probably the only introduction to Hildegard written from an orthodox Catholic perspective that can be found online (as far as I am aware).

Most of the literature on this Doctor of the Church comes from university women’s and gender studies departments; she quickly became a feminist folk-hero as a result of her remarkable rise to power in the patriarchal world of Latin Christendom during the High Middle Ages. Consequently, her visions and gift of prophecy, which were recognized as authentic by the Church, are generally explained in human terms.

The first complete English translation of Scivias appeared in the 1990s and the secular interest in her exploded. But the resulting literature generally misrepresents this great saint and her devotion to God and His Church.

If you’re interested in Hildegard and her message to today’s Church, kindly take the time to introduce yourself to the remarkable Abbess and prophetess. And please feel free to share the article.

…rjt

The Church as a ‘Maternal Womb’

Illumination from Scivias, Rupertsberg Ms., 12th-century

In her book, Scivias (book II, vision 3), St. Hildegard explains the symbolism of her vision of a woman with many children in her womb. The woman is the Church and the children represent the life of all baptized Christians. She describes differences among these children and notes:

“…some direct their attention to spiritual purity and shine with serene virtue, treading earthly things underfoot.” These, she states, “…are marching forward vigorously in the womb of the image” (p.195).

“…[Some] tear away from her and attack her and break her established rules. They abandon the maternal womb and the sweet nourishment of the Church” (p.196).

The life-giving sacraments which are administered by the Church to her sons and daughters are like the “sweet nourishment” of a mother’s womb. When Christians cut themselves off from this sustenance, they are spiritually aborting themselves. Continue reading “The Church as a ‘Maternal Womb’”

St. Hildegard’s ‘Five Beasts’ in a Nutshell

In 1150 St. Hildegard completed her first major work, Scivias (“Know the Ways of God”), a description of 26 highly symbolized visions that manifest the history of salvation. Soon after her death, inexplicably, Scivias and Hildegard fell into obscurity. It wasn’t until the late 20th-century that the work was rediscovered by Latin scholars looking for material for their students. The first complete English translation appeared in the 1990s.

In Book Three, Vision 11, Hildegard describes five symbolic animals as the forerunners of the Antichrist: a Fiery-Red Dog, Yellow Lion, Pale Horse, Black Pig, and Grey Wolf. She explains that each one represents individual and brief historical periods that follow each other in succession. She also reveals how each animal symbolizes a particular evil that afflicts society during the corresponding period.

In my book The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard: Prophetic Symbols of Modern Society, I start with an examination the 20th-century with the intention of seeing how historians divided it up and then how they characterized the individual eras that the divisions would unveil. It turned out that there is general agreement among them; certain years marked major social and geopolitical changes in Western society: 1914, 1945, and 1991. Continue reading “St. Hildegard’s ‘Five Beasts’ in a Nutshell”

St. Hildegard’s Unsettling Vision of the Bride of Christ

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Bride of Christ, Scivias, Book III, vision 11, chapter 13

It is generally agreed that the illuminations which accompany Hildegard’s Scivias (Rupertsberg Manuscript) were either sketched and painted by her, or produced under her supervision. The image of the Church as a Bride appears periodically throughout her visionary work. In Book III, Vision 11, chap. 13, which immediately follows her description of the era of the Grey Wolf, she describes the vision that corresponds to the illumination here:

“And I saw again the figure of a woman whom I had previously seen in front of the alter that stands before the eyes of God, …but now I saw her from the waist down. And from her waist to the place that denotes the female, she had various scaly blemishes, and in that latter place was a black and monstrous head.”

The Bride who appeared in an earlier vision only from the waist up is now seen fully complete, which reflects that the last days have arrived. Importantly, Hildegard adds that by this time the Church will be “…replete with the full number of her children” (Chap. 13); it will have completed her mission of evangelization. Continue reading “St. Hildegard’s Unsettling Vision of the Bride of Christ”