Tuesday, October 9, 2012

St. Hildegard of Bingen - Liber Divinorum Operum: Prima Pars - Prima Visio, II (8)

I am therefore the fiery power hidden in these, and they themselves blaze from me, just as breath constantly moves man, and as is the flame in the wind blown fire. All these things live in accord with their substance, and are not found in death, because I am life. I am also rationality, the sounding of the Word has wind, through which every creature is made, and I breathed into all these things, [thus] so that none of them at their origin [genere] would be mortal, because I am life.

Ego itaque vis ignea in his lateo, ipsique de me flagrant, velut spiramen assidue hominem movet, et ut in igne ventosa flamma est. Haec omnia in essentia sua vivunt, nec in morte inventa sunt, quoniam ego vita sum. Rationalitas etiam sum, ventum sonantis verbi habens, per quod omnis creatura facta est, et in omnia haec sufflavi, ita ut nullum eorum in genere suo mortale sit, quia ego vita sum. (monumenta.ch)

Personal note:

I encountered the work of Nathaniel Campbell today - he has been studying St. Hildegard closely for the past several years and has translated VERY FAITHFULLY several passages of the Liber Divinorum Operum. I would highly recommend taking a look at his blog if you are interested in St. Hildegard and why she is relevant today.


Once again, the symbol evoked by St. Hildegard is one of the strength of Creative Love - characterized by fire - present in what seems so frail and dissipate - characterized by wind and breath. She pushes this analogy to the extreme by reminding us of the analogy of the Word of God - "God spoke, and they came to be. He commanded, they were created." - which is itself the substance of God born up by His Breath. All things are created through the Word, and bear His mark, and breathe as it were His Creative Love. In face, that is what the Word of God is for Creation: Creative Love. It is a Word which orders according to wisdom - and that order is not static, it is totally relative to the the movement of creation, the movement of Divine Love.

St. Hildegard also goes on to describe the root of immortality in Creation. At our origin - at the place within our souls where we come directly from God, we encounter the Creative breath of the Word of Life.

What are your reflections on this passage?


  1. This is great, brother. I know so little about St. Hildegard. Your last statement in your first commentary paragraph has me. "It is a Word which orders according to wisdom - and that order is not static, it is totally relative to the the movement of creation." If you have the chance, I'd like to hear a greater explanation of this.
    Could you clarify what you mean when you say, "it is totally relative to the movement of creation." Thanks!!
    -Maureen Regina :)

  2. Maureen,

    I'm so excited to be getting to know St. Hildegard through her writings. She has the advantage of being a Doctor of the Church, so we know that by trying to understand what she is saying there is a special grace given to come closer to the mystery she teaches.

    St. Hildegard uses a symbolic language - which has both its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that she is able to evoke divine truths using comparisons with sensible objects: fire, wind, water, etc. This makes it much more accessible. The disadvantage is that something of the rigor of thought is eliminated, and so the intelligibility is formally inaccessible.

    On to your question about the order of Creation realized by the Word. God creates being, and being is two in principle: substance and act. On the one hand, the act of God's creation resulted in our substantial existence. In this perspective, what we are substantially does not change from day to day - what we are substantially is the fundamental determination of our being. I am one man, you are a substantially different being. We can have the same kind of being, the same nature, but never the same being - the same substance.

    On the other hand, God's act of Creation also extends to our being in act. God, Pure Act, is the finality of all beings, and draws them to the fullness of being. Our act of being is both that which finalizes us (a spiritual good - someone and/or God) and the effect of that being on our own being. Though we do not pass in and out of being at a substantial level, our being is more or less in act depending upon the extent to which we live from our finality. The experience of living from a truly human finality is the experience of being moved by love to commune with a spiritual personal good.

    So, to address your question, the Word of God - the author of Creation - is not the "Great Organizer," so to speak. He is not the one who was content to invent the natures of all of creation and simply set them in motion. He is also the motion itself - and that motion is not a formally perfect or calculated motion, God is not just the "watchmaker." The word "motion" refers not so much to a physical motion, as to that attraction every being experiences towards that for which they exist. This "motion" or "attraction" is the effect of the final cause, and ultimately of God as Goodness itself and Love. Wisdom is not in the line of the forms or substances of reality, but in the line of their end or finality. Wisdom knows that the highest order is not formal perfection, but perfection according to the end. So what is vital to contemplate in Creation is the attraction all things bear in their very being towards God. What comes first in the order of Wisdom is the "movement" of Creation. That is to say, the principle of wisdom is the attraction, or Love for God, that is at the source of all that exists by Him. That principle has priority in wisdom over the "static" substantial order whereby all that is created is rooted in being. We were not created to be content with our substantial autonomy in being, but to be attracted towards another being to the point that we make of our being a gift.

    Blessings on your studies of St. Hildegard!