Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cum processit factura

Psalm antiphon for the Virgin (D 154v, R 467rb) by Hildegard of Bingen Back to Table of Contents
Cum processit factura
digiti Dei,
ad imaginem Dei
in ortu mixti sanguinis
per peregrinationem
casus Ade,
elementa susceperunt gaudia in te,
o laudabilis Maria,
celo rutilante
et in laudibus sonante.
Although the craft
of God’s extended finger,
created in
God’s image,
came forth in birth of blood commingled,
in pilgrimage exiled
by Adam’s fall;
the elements received their joys in you,
O Mary, worthy of our praise,
as heaven gleams with rubied light
and echoes gladsome shouts of praise.
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.

Commentary: Themes and Theology
by Nathaniel M. Campbell

This antiphon is a companion piece to Cum erubuerint, as both draw the contrast between the “pilgrimage exiled” (peregrinatio) of fallen humanity and the grace of the Virgin as she restores that fallenness and leads it back to its paradisical, celestial home. The breadth of that restorative and re-creative agency is celebrated in the last four lines, which Barbara Newman has described as a “sonnet-like volta” (Symphonia, p. 274), as the elemental fibers of the universe regain the harmonious joy that they had lost when, after the Fall and the expulsion from paradise, they had been cast into noisome confusion:
And so all the elements of the world, which before had existed in great calm, were turned to the greatest agitation and displayed horrible terrors, because when humankind chose disobedience, rebelling against God and forsaking tranquility for disquiet, that Creation, which had been created for the service of humanity, turned against humans in great and various ways so that humankind, having lowered themselves, might be held in check by it. What does this mean? That humankind showed themselves rebels against God in the place of delights, and therefore that Creation, which had been subjected to them in service, now opposed itself to them.
     —Scivias I.2.27[1]
The hallmark of this harmony is the very music with which Hildegard has set this praise of the Virgin, which echoes the praises that ring presently and eternally in the heavens where she reigns as Queen—as Newman notes, the ablative absolute with present participles of the last two lines shifts the piece out of the past tenses of its finite verbs into the heavenly state of the eternal present (Symphonia, p. 274). Music exemplifies the intended order of the opus Dei, the “work of God,” which is both the liturgical life of the Benedictine monastery and the entire expanse of creation upon which Hildegard constantly reflects, held in eternal order in the heart of God (cf. O quam mirabilis est). The celestial symphony that closes today’s antiphon with a lengthy melisma on sonante is also intimately bound up with the celestial light, in this case the ruby-red glow (rutilante) that in Hildegard’s symbolic lexicon refers to the dawn light, her favorite image for the Virgin’s womb as it mediates the irruption of divine light into the world. This synaesthetic complex of light and sound was the hallmark of her visionary experiences, in which light resounds and music sparkles.

Two particular images in the first part of the antiphon elaborate the contrast between God’s craft and handiwork—humankind as factura digiti Dei—and its fallen exile, whose originally ordered procreation was corrupted into “birth of blood commingled” (in ortu mixti sanguinis). The first image, of humankind “crafted” (factura) and “formed” (formata) by God, is grammatically striking: the terms are gendered female. This is also not the only verse in which Hildegard uses this feminine factura for humankind; although its musical notation does not survive, the verse O factura Dei explicitly celebrates this grammatically feminine handiwork as it is transformed by the Incarnation itself. While the term factura is almost certainly an allusion to Ephesians 2:10 (Ipsius enim sumus factura, creati in Christo Jesu in operibus bonis, “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus in good works”), Hildegard’s choice to keep the feminine gender with formata rather than follow St. Paul’s masculine plural creati is a conscious decision to cast the humankind whose chaotic exile is reordered by the Virgin with a feminine face. The same word is used in the verse in praise of the Incarnation because, as Hildegard famously put it, “Man signifies the divinity of the Son of God, but woman signifies his humanity” (Liber Divinorum Operum I.4.100). The feminine is the place where God meets humankind, stooping down to us as we open ourselves to receive him through the virginal fecundity of Mary and her continuation, the Church. As a result, for Hildegard, “humankind in its totality—women and men in history, community, in relation with God—had a feminine face.”[2]

By casting unfallen humankind as God’s feminine handiwork, this antiphon is one of the few places in Hildegard’s Marian corpus where she makes Adam the representative of fallen sexual intercourse—the “birth of blood commingled.”[3] (Hildegard understood sexual procreation to be a mingling of the man’s blood—in the form of cool, foamy semen—with the woman’s blood—the warmer environment of the uterus.[4]) This leaves the unnamed Eve free to represent the original factura digiti Dei, to be renewed and restored by the Virgin. Edenic procreation, according to one of Hildegard’s descriptions of it, would not have been by vaginal intercourse, though it would have been sweetly sensual. As Adam and Eve, husband and wife, lay side-by-side in their paradise:
They would gently perspire as if sleeping. Then the woman would become pregnant from the man’s perspiration (sudor), and, while they lay thus sweetly asleep, she would give birth to a child painlessly from her side … in the same way that God brought Eve forth from Adam, and that the Church was born from the side of Christ.[5]
This painless birth was commonly understood to have been part of the grace of the Virgin Birth of Christ, as Mary would bear the Christ child absent the birthing pangs that were given in punishment of the Fall. Moreover, as with the third wing in O virtus Sapientie and verse 4b of Hildegard’s hymn to the Holy Spirit, O ignis Spiritus paracliti, the concept of sudor (and its verb, sudare) represented for Hildegard’s the Holy Spirit’s active, life-giving (vivificans) presence in the world as the sweet, aromatic distillation of fecundity. When the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin at the Annunciation, it was this procreative sudor by which she would have conceived the Christ child. Thus, as Newman points out, “To this way of thinking, only the Virgin’s conception and childbearing reveal true ‘nature’ as God ordained it from the beginning; it is the motherhood of fallen Eve and her daughters that is ‘unnatural.’”[6]

The connection between the macrocosmic elements and the microcosmic human body was central to Hildegard’s understanding of human biology, including sexual intercourse and postlapsarian procreation. Thus, the chaos and disorder of sexual intercourse—the uncontrollable urges of lust seething in the loins—are the human experience of the discord of all of creation and its elements after the Fall. As Hildegard described it in Scivias I.2.15:
But after Adam and Eve were driven out of the place of delight, they knew in themselves the work of conceiving and bearing children. And falling thus from disobedience into death, when they knew they could sin, they discovered sin’s sweetness. And in this way, turning My rightful institution into sinful lust, although they should have known that the commotion in their veins was not for the sweetness of sin but for the love of children, by the Devil’s suggestion they changed it to lechery; and, losing the innocence of the act of begetting, they yielded it to sin.
In this antiphon, the elements themselves rejoice to be put back into balance with the restoration of the virginal nature to the factura Dei, the sinless God-made-human in the sinless Virgin’s womb. The lecherous, shame-faced blush with which its companion piece, Cum erubuerint, begins, is transformed into the glowing red light of the dawn that burst forth in heaven as the Son of God entered upon earth—or, as Hildegard put it in the antiphon, O quam magnum miraculum, when the Virgin did “the heavens grace / far more than e’er the earth in chaos cast.”

Commentary: Music and Rhetoric
by Beverly Lomer

E mode
Range: C below the final to D an octave and a second above the final
Setting: primarily neumatic, with one long melisma on the final word and several short melismas

The piece offers an example of some interesting phrasing. It begins with the phrase, Cum processit factura, outlined by the modal final, E. The three short phrases that follow the opening, digiti Dei, formata, and ad imaginem Dei, are extensions of the first. Together they create the opening statement. Each of these sub-phrases begins with the pitch, D, a less usual choice for this mode, and contain similar opening melodic motives. The melodic structure lends force to each image individually.

B is also used as a tonal demarcating tone, and this is more conventional, as it is the secondary focal tone of the mode. Lines 8 and 9 of the first page of the transcription comprise one phrase that is outlined by B; they are separated in the transcription for ease of reading. Similarly, the last line of page 1 is connected to line 1 of page 2. Tick barlines have been inserted as guides to performers.

The text begins as a narrative describing the fall, but transitions to address Mary at the end. The salutatory phrase, o laudabilis Maria, begins with B, ascends to C, and incorporates the melodic motive found on Dei in line 2 (page 1). The final word, sonante, is set to a lengthy melisma that also contains melodic motives from throughout the antiphon, thus serving as a musical peroratio.

Further Resources for Cum processit factura
  • Hildegard of Bingen, Symphonia, ed. Barbara Newman (Cornell Univ. Press, 1988 / 1998), pp. 118 and 273-4.
  • Lomer, Beverly R. “Rhetoric and the Creation of Feminist Consciousness in the Marian Songs of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).” Ph.D. diss., Florida Atlantic University, 2006.
  • Lomer, Beverly. Music, Rhetoric and the Sacred Feminine. Saarbrücken, Germany: Verlag Dr. Müller, 2009.
  • Newman, Barbara. Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard’s Theology of the Feminine (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1987 / 1997), p. 179.
  • For a discography of this piece, see the comprehensive list by Pierre-F. Roberge: Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) - A discography


[1] Adapted from Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias, trans. Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop (New York: Paulist Press, 1990), p. 86; Latin text from the edition of Adelgundis Führkötter and Angela Carlevaris, CCCM 43 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1978), p. 32. 
[2] Barbara Newman, Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard’s Theology of the Feminine (Univ. of California Press, 1987 / 1997), p. 249. 
[3] Adam also appears in verses 1b-2a of the sequence O virga ac diadema, but his appearance there is mirrored by Eve’s in verses 5a-6a. 
[4] For Hildegard’s biology of sexual procreation, see Book II, chs. 129 and 137 of Cause et Cure [Causae et Curae], ed. Laurence Moulinier and Rainer Berndt (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2003), pp. and 94-97 and 103. 
[5] Hildegard of Bingen, Fragment IV.29, as quoted in Newman, Sister of Wisdom, p. 111. 
[6] Newman, Sister of Wisdom, pp. 111-2. 

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