Friday, October 5, 2012

St. Hildegard of Bingen - Liber Divinorum Operum: Prima Pars - Prima Visio, I

On the Marvelous vision, upon which the following writings depend, are situated, and on the divine apparition of an image in the form of a man, and the characteristics or a subtle description of the circumstances of the latter.

I. And I saw as it were, in the midst of a beautiful and marvelous southern wind in the mystery of the image of God, as it were, the form of a man, whose face was of such great beauty and clarity, I could have more easily stared at the sun. A large and golden colored circle encircled his head and face. At the same time, in the same circle and above, another head, and above that the face of another older man appears, whose chin and beard were touching the top of the former's head. And on either side of the neck, the forms of wings extend, and rise above the aforesaid circle and there are joined together. In the cleft of the arc formed by the right wing was, as it were, the head of an eagle, which had fiery eyes I beheld, in which the radiance of the angels appeared as in a mirror. In the cleft of the left wing was like the face of a man, which shone with the brightness of the stars. And these two figures were turned towards the east.

But from each shoulder of the image a wing extends to the knee. He also wore a coat like the brightness of the sun, and had in his hands a lamb like the bright light of day. Yet a certain venomous monster of dreadful appearance and black in color, and a certain snake is trampled under his feet, whose mouth has fastened on the right ear of that same monster, for the rest of its body is wrapped around the latter's head, its tail extending along the left side of the monster to its feet.  (Revised Google Translation, also used this translation for comprehension, UPDATE, check out Nathaniel Campbell's translation).

Mirificæ visionis, de qua sequens opus pendet, positio, et in ea divinæ cujusdam imaginis in hominis forma apparentis, et habitus vel circumstantiæ ipsius subtilis descriptio.

I. Et vidi velut in medio australis aeris pulchram mirificamque in mysterio Dei imaginem, quasi hominis formam, cujus facies tantæ pulchritudinis et claritatis erat, ut facilius solem quam ipsam inspicere possem. Circulus amplus aureique coloris caput ejusdem faciei circumdederat. In eodem antem circulo supra idem caput alia facies velut senioris viri apparuit, eujus mentum et barba verticem capitis hujus tangebat. Et ex utraque parte colli ejusdem formae ala una præcedebat, quæ supra præfatum circuluæ ascendentes se ibi invicem conjungebant. In summitate autem arcuatæ recurvationis hujus dexteræ alæ quasi caput aquilæ, quod igneos oculos habebat aspiciebam, in quibus fulgor angelorum velut in speculo apparebat. In summitate vero arcuatæ recurvationis sinistre alae quasi facies hominis erat, quæ sicut fulgur stellarum radiabat. Et factes istae ad orientem versas erant.

Sed ab utroque humero imaginis hujus ala una usque ad genua ipsa extendebatur. Tunica quoque fulgori solis simili induebatur, et in manibus suis agnum velut lucem diei splendidum habebat. Quoddam autem monstrum horribilis formæ venenosi, nigrique coloris, ei serpentem quemdam sub pedibus suis conculcabat, qui os suum dextra auri ejusdem monstri infixerat, quippe reliquum corpus suum in transversum capitis ipsius incurvans, caudam suam in sinistra parte illius usque ad pedes ejus extenderat.  (Riesencodex, Patrologia Latina v. 197,


Simply getting through the translation of this first vision in Libro Divinorum Operum was a bit of a task.  I'd like to call attention to some important elements in this vision.  First, this vision bears lots of the same symbols you would find in the Book of Revelation:
  1. Vision of a man, whose aspect is brighter than the sun: "and his face was like the sun, shining with all its might." (Rev. 1:16) 
  2. Symbol of wings: "And the two wings of a great eagle were given to the woman, so that she might fly away, into the desert, to her place, where she is being nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent." (Rev. 4:8) 
  3. The eagle, and the face of a man: "the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle." (Rev. 4:1) 
  4. Image of the woman clothed with the sun, the beast, and the serpent - (Rev. 12-13)
Second, I'd like to offer an interpretation of some of the elements of this text.  In all honesty, this text makes me think of the Virgin Mary.  The figure does not have to be translated as masculine, and when we see the figure crushing the serpent - having the two wings supported by the eagle (St. John - the beloved, entrusted to Mary by Jesus) and the face of the man (St. Luke - the one who sought Mary out to write his Gospel, the Magnificat) - and holding the Lamb - there would seem to be a lot of support for seeing Mary as this figure enveloping the figure of the man (Christ) both beautiful and resplendent.

In the figure's halo, we see as it were God the Father - an indication of holiness being connected with a mind wholly devoted to the Father's Will.  The wings coming from the neck make one think of the role of the Holy Spirit.  The neck, being that part of the body that turns the head has special significance in the Body of Christ.  Christ is the head, and as St. Bernard says, Mary is the neck - the part that turns the head and therefore directs the attention of the whole Body of Christ.  She has this role precisely because of her proximity with the Holy Spirit (in this vision represented by the wings that come forth from the neck), "They have no wine."

Just a few quick reflections... what does this vision for you?  Let me know in the comments!

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