Tuesday, October 16, 2012

St. Hildegard of Bingen - Liber Divinorum Operum: Prima Pars - Prima Visio, II (10)

Yet I am also the official*, since all things living blaze from me; and I am equally life in eternity, which is neither begun, nor will end; and at the same time God is life moving [itself] and working, and yet this life is one in three powers. Eternity is therefore the Father, the Word is the Son; the breath connecting these two is called Holy Spirit, as also God left His mark in man, in whom are body, soul and intellect.

(* Official could be understood as servant or attendant:
It comes from the Old French official (12th century), from the Latin officialis ("attendant to a magistrate, public official"), the noun use of the original adjective officialis ("of or belonging to duty, service, or office") from officium("office"). - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Official

Sed et officialis sum, quoniam omnia vitalia de me ardent; et aequalis vita in aeternitate sum, quae nec orta est, nec finietur, eademque vita se movens et operans Deus est, et tamen haec vita una in tribus viribus est. Aeternitas itaque Pater, Verbum Filius; spiramen haec duo connectens Spiritus sanctus dicitur, sicut etiam Deus in homine, in quo corpus, anima et rationalitas sunt, signavit.


This passage is fairly straight forward. St. Hildegard invites us to contemplate our experience of life in the natural world and perceive as it were the echo of the life of God. The same life that ignited life in creatures is eternal, without beginning or end. The limits we experience to life do not reflect the life of the Source.

Life without beginning or end is contrasted with life that moves and works - Eternal life is contrasted with the life of Creation. These two, are in fact one in three powers (or forces). Eternal life and created life are drawn together, as it were, by the life of the Spirit - the breath that connects the two. See also St. Augustine (De Trinitate VI, 10) and St. Hilary (De Trinitate II) for a similar reflection

The final phrase sees within man this Trinitarian mark of life: body, soul, and spirit. The life of the body is movement and work, the life of the spirit is contemplation - Eternal life, life without beginning or end -, and the life that unites the two: the soul - invisible, immaterial like spirit, and like breath, more essential to the body than food or drink. Saint Augustine pushes the analogy further by looking into the very spirit of man for a created trinity - see the last chapter of De Trinitate if you're interested.

What are your thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. A big thanks to Nathaniel for the following supplemental information on officialis:

    As to the word "officialis": you are on the right track. I checked several dictionaries, and the word seems to have been used most often as a noun denoting particular types of "officials", who were uniformly subordinate to magistrates, i.e. they were assistants. In ecclesiastical contexts, it was frequently used of diocesan curial agents, acting on behalf of senior clergy.

    But Hildegard is using it as an adjective, in which case the overriding meaning is really that of "duty". It appears again in the Liber Divinorum Operum at I.2.19, I.4.104, and III.5.38. The cross references in the notes to LDO I.1.2 are to the Vita S. Disibodi that Hildegard wrote at the request of the monks of the monastery of Disibodenberg -- I have the modern edition of that text by Hugh Feiss, but I was not able to find the reference (which the note makes to the older text printed by Pitra, to which I do not have current access); and to a passage in Hildegard's second major visionary work, the Liber Vitae Meritorum, V.77: "Et ut Deus ab angelis laudatur, et ut in hac laude opera ipsius cognoscuntur, ubi in citharis et in symphoniis ac in omnibus uocibus laudum sonant, quia hoc officialis lex eorum est, ita etiam et ab homine laudandus est..." ("As God is praised by the angels and his works are recognized in that praise, when they [the angels] resound upon their lyres in symphony and with every voice of praise, because this is their duty and law, so also is God to be praised by humanity...") and LVM VI.32, in which the Son of Man is speaking "Ore quoque meo officiale opus meum lambebam, uidelicet figuram quam de limo feci, et tunicaliter eam amando amplexus sum..." ("I licked my official / dutiful work with my mouth, that is, the figure that I made from mud, and I am embraced it like clothing by loving it...")

    So in this opening vision, it would probably be even clearer to translate the words of Caritas as, "But I also fulfill my duty..." Again, she [Caritas] is confirming here the notion of the eternal counsel, that her duty, her role, in giving life to the world was ordained from eternity -- and that she could do no other but to fulfill that duty to fill the world with fiery life. "Officialis" here gives Caritas' work a sense of proper necessity, as it were, just as it does in the Son of Man's words in the Liber Vitae Meritorum about his role in the creation of humanity.

    I hope this helps to clarify!