Monday, October 15, 2012

St. Hildegard of Bingen - Liber Divinorum Operum: Prima Pars - Prima Visio, II (9)

For I am life unblemished, which is not hewn from the stones, and is not sprouted from the branches, and from virile strength has not taken root, but all life is rooted in me. In other words, intelligence is the root, the true Word sounding in it [intelligence] flourishes. Since the source is God's intellect, how could it [intellect] be made and not be used, because every work of His shall flourish through man, whom according to his image and likeness He made, and He marked all creatures according to the standard [/measure] [found] in man himself. For in eternity it has always been that God's own work, namely man, was willed, and when this work was accomplished, in order to work with him He gave him all creatures, in this way furthermore God Himself had made His own work, that is man.

Integra namque vita sum, quae de lapidibus abscissa non est, et de ramis non fronduit, et de virili vi non radicavit, sed omne vitale de me radicatum est. Rationalitas enim radix est, sonans vero verbum in ipsa floret. Unde cum Deus rationalis sit, quomodo fieri posset ut non operaretur, cum omne opus ipsius perfloreat [per hominem floreat*], quem ad imaginem et similitudinem suam fecit, et omnes creaturas secundum mensuram in ipso homine signavit. In aeternitate namque semper fuit, quod Deus opus suum, scilicet hominem, fieri voluit, et cum idem opus perfecit, omnes creaturas ut cum ipsis operaretur ei dedit, quemadmodum etiam ipse Deus opus suum, id est hominem, fecerat.

(*Riesencodex differs from PL)


This was a very difficult passage to translate and I have a number of questions left on the best way to render a few of these phrases. As usual, however, the meditation Saint Hildegard offers is compelling and eye-opening. As St. John puts it in his prologue, "In Him (the Word) was life, and the life was the light of men." (Jn. 1:4) The Word resonating in Creation is life - and the high point of Creation is man (human nature). The Word resonating in the mind of God is the source of created intellect - which is what places man in such unique proximity with God's work, God's Creation. Man is not only in close proximity with Creation, but has an opportunity and even a mandate to continue God's own work in Creation. All of Creation is under man's dominion because of his intellect. And the proper use of this dominion is indeed to bring Creation to fruition. "Be fruitful and multiply" applies not only to procreation, but to the way man alone is able to bring fullness of life into Creation by the light within him: his intellect. The light by which we know creatures has its source in the light through which they were created - and while that light has left its mark in all creatures, it abides in the creature God made in His image and likeness: man.

In my effort to translate this paragraph, I have been tempted to read in the last phrase not only God's eternal plan to create man, but also His plan to bring His divine work to fulfillment as a man Himself. This brings up the famous theological question of whether or not God, the Word, would have incarnated had sin not entered into the world. It would seem that Saint Hildegard was of the opinion that God's eternal plan, independently of sin, was to become incarnate. In other words, the motive of the Incarnation was not limited to the redemption of mankind. The fact of the matter is, humanity fell in Adam by his disobedience, and, as St. Augustine said - and the Exultet reminds us every Easter - "O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem." God doesn't tell us that He would have come anyway, though we are free to think so if we like. Theology cannot base itself on what was simply a possibility and is now only hypothetical. At any rate, it is splendid to meditate on how God has entrusted the fruitfulness of His work to man ("The heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth He has given to men," Psalms), so much so that He becomes one of us - a man - so that by a man the work of God may be divinely fruitful.

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Here is a comment from Nathaniel on how best to translate that last phrase:

    Nathaniel M. Campbell said...
    To Br. Francis Therese:

    The entire sentence there reads, "In eternitate namque semper fuit, quod Deus opus suum, scilicet hominem, fieri uoluit; et cum idem opus perfecit, omnes creaturas ut cum ipsis operaretur ei dedit, quemadmodum etiam ipse Deus opus suum, id est hominem, fecerat." (This, by the way, is a classic example of St. Hildegard's use of the doctrine of the eternal counsel and the absolute predestination of Christ.)

    I would translate the sentence in this way: "That God would will his work, that is humanity, to come into being was always determined from eternity; and when He perfected this work, he gave all creation to humanity so that humans might do their work with it, just as God Himself had done his work, that is, humanity."

    ("id est hominem" is simply a gloss on the object "opus suum", and the verb for the entire phrase is "fecerat", with God ipse as its subject.)

    October 15, 2012 1:35 PM