by Hildegard of Bingen
|O cohors milicie
epulantium cum porcis,
per infusum adiutorem
pleni operis Verbi Patris.
Tu etiam nobilis es gens Salvatoris,
aque per Agnum,
qui te misit in gladio
inter sevissimos canes,
in operibus digitorum suorum,
statuentes non manufactum
in subiectionem manuum suarum,
in qua non invenerunt eum.
|O cohort of the guard
of the thornless
You are the sound
of all the world,
surrounding all the places where
the senseless sensuous
are feasting with the swine
that you subdue
by the Comforter, the Aide poured out
of the Father’s Word that plants the roots
that grow into the tabernacles of
his fulfilled work.
You are the Savior’s noble race,
entering upon the way
of birth anew
of water through the Lamb,
who’s sent you with the sword
among the wildest dogs—
their glory they
within the works of their own fingers,
as the One Not Made by hand they rate
as subject to the works of their own hands,
in which they cannot find him.
 quos: This is the reading of R (in both Scivias [fol. 133ra] and Symphonia [fol. 469r]); D reads quas (as can be seen in the transcription below). Newman prefers quas, with reference to regiones; however, we have gone with quos, with reference to porcis; for the symbolic reference of the swine, see “Commentary: Themes and Theology” below. ↩
 ponentis: Newman (Symphonia, p. 162) emends to ponens, parallel to circuiens, with tu as the subject; Barth and Ritscher, in their edition of Hildegard’s Lieder (Salzburg: Otto Müller Verlag, 1969; p. 67), emend to ponentem, modifying adiutorem. Both emendations make better sense of the text, but the reading of the manuscripts (and the editors of Scivias in CCCM 43) as ponentis is unanimous, if difficult, as the only genitive nouns that ponentis could modify come at the end of the phrase (Verbi Patris). Such separation, however, encases the objects and action of the participle between it and its subject, making the entire phrase, then, a modifier of adiutorem: “the Aide of the Father’s Word that plants…” In addition, the setting of the third syllable to neumes (see transcription below) makes its retention necessary. ↩
Commentary: Themes and Theology
by Nathaniel M. Campbell
by Nathaniel M. Campbell
In this first of two pieces devoted to the choir of apostles in the celestial symphony of Scivias III.13, Hildegard begins the next phase of salvation history—the evangelistic campaigns of the apostolic Church to overcome the sinful indulgences of flesh and idolatry, to restore the world to the new, real life of the Savior. The imagery is dense with Hildegard’s symbolic vocabulary, drawing on both a range of scriptural allusions (catalogued in Newman, ed., Symphonia, pp. 285-6) and, as with the other pieces of this song cycle, images already deployed throughout Scivias to tell the story of salvation. The apostolic band’s world-wide sound, for example, hearkens to Psalm 18:1-5, as the sound of the heavens that “tell of the glory of the Lord…goes out into all the earth.” The opening allusion, meanwhile, to Christ as the flower of the Virgin’s thornless branch points immediately back to O tu suavissima virga, the responsory that is the second piece in the Scivias symphony (III.13.1b).
The overarching image for the apostolic mission in this antiphon, however, is military—but their cohort is a spiritual army, not a worldly one; as soldiers in Christ’s militia (see 1 Timothy 1:18 and 2 Timothy 2:3), led by their Captain (see the refrain and versicle of O vos felices radices), they fight in the armor of God and with the sword of the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 6:11-17), who is their adjutant general, poured out upon them at Pentecost (infusum adiutorem). Fundamentally, the enemy against which this guard of Christ wages war is the ignorance of sin, by which fallen humanity mistakes the selfish appearances of pride for true reality. In the first half of the antiphon, their Gospel-laden shout around the world offers the real rootedness “of the full work” of God, in contrast to the mindless (literally, insane) self-indulgence of the epicure—as Barbara Newman notes, a possible allusion to the Prodigal Son, who in his darkest hour would gladly have eaten the pigs’ fodder (Luke 15:15-16; Symphonia, p. 286). In the second half of the antiphon, the enemy is more insidious—the false reality worshiped by the idolater.
The military image is governed, moreover, by this contrast of what the world falsely takes to be reality—the works of its own hands—with the truth preached by the apostles—a God unmade, uncontainable, undiscoverable by the works of human hands; as Newman notes, this is the “unknown god” of St. Paul’s sermon at the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17; Symphonia, p. 286). This is not an army that trusts itself to the material sword—for it is upon the physical blade that they will fall, martyrs dying in the example of Christ. There is an intentional ambiguity in the phrase, qui te misit in gladio, “he sent you with the sword,” as the army of Christ wins its battle for eternal life with a spiritual sword precisely when it undergoes death to the world. One might alternatively translate in gladio as “to the sword,” i.e. to martyrdom at the hands of the idolaters of the last part of the antiphon. However, the preposition in is often used in the Vulgate’s idiom to show ablative of means; moreover, Newman notes this as a possible reference to Christ’s command to the disciples to buy swords (Luke 22:36; Symphonia, pp. 163 and 286), which comports with other references in Scivias (discussed below) to the apostles exacting divine judgment upon the unbelievers. Ultimately, Hildegard intends both meanings simultaneously—the contrast of the material sword (like the manufactured idols) upon which apostles would die with the spiritual sword that they wield in delivering the ultimate judgment of eternal life or death.
The scriptural sources for Hildegard’s language in the polemic against idolatry are often, like the context of this antiphon, directed against the gentiles, e.g. Wisdom 13-15 (especially 13:10, 14:8, and 15:11-17) and Psalm 134(135):15-18. The author of Wisdom is especially concerned about idolatry as a root sin, for its fundamental failure to recognize the true reality of God leads to all of the other failures of sin. Worshipping something man-made, inanimate, without life, dead, can only bring with it death, not the new life of “the Savior’s noble race” and its apostolic vanguard. As Hildegard puts it in Scivias I.4.11: “Let all who are still foul with this infidelity forsake their stupidity and be converted in faith to Him Who broke the Devil’s snares, laying aside old ignorance and embracing new life.” The connection between recognizing the truth and the life that comes with it is made explicit in the companion responsory to this antiphon, O lucidissima apostolorum turba.
The condemnation of idols also draws upon other internal references in Scivias, specifically in articulating the execution of judgment by God’s Jealousy or Zeal (zelus) in III.5. Thus, Hildegard describes the Israelites’ own disastrous turn to an idol, the golden calf in Exodus 32, and its consequences for their glory:
Another [evil deed] arose among that people of Mine; though they knew Me and saw My miraculous deeds, they adored the idol in Horeb, and therefore the crown fell from their head. And the law of God on the two stone tablets was corrupted by them, and therefore they fell from their glory and happiness, and my vengeance fell on them.Just two chapters later (in ch. 20), that zealous vengeance falls upon those who harm the Church:
Therefore, in My Jealousy, I remove and cast out the iniquity of anyone who, like a dog, despises the Church, which flowers in Me, and of anyone who in insane wickedness destroys a place consecrated to Me or any rights which properly belong to My temple.We begin to see here how images scattered throughout Scivias—in this case, the idolaters’ loss of glory, the flowering of the Church in Christ, and the dogs—have coalesced in the antiphon for the apostles.
The most important resonances that this antiphon recapitulates come in two parables that Hildegard used in Part III of Scivias to tell the story of the Incarnation and the apostolic Church. We have already looked at the beginning of one of these parables (III.9.17) in relation to the responsory for the patriarchs and prophets, O vos felices radices, which directly precedes this antiphon in the Scivias symphony. This parable is used to illustrate Hildegard’s exegesis of Song of Songs 4:4 in relation to the Tower of the Church, the dominant image of the ninth vision:
The strong tower is the strength of Christ Jesus the Son of God, and in it the conquering hosts of the faithful are tested without defeat. No adversary can boast of prevailing over them, for they hold fast to Christ, true God and Man, through Whom in the Second Coming all your children will gloriously attain adulthood in salvation. To this end the pure Incarnation was foretold by the prophets and adorned by precious gems of virtue. And it was manifested through the world for the salvation of believers through those bulwarks of apostolic doctrine who planted the justice of the True Light, as the following parable shows:
A certain lord had a marble city (…). And he spoke a single word to the waters of the sea, commanding them to rise above the mountaintops. And, this being done, he told the flames of the fire to burn on the altars of small tabernacles; and when they did, the tabernacles grew so high that they rapidly overtopped the city. Which is to say:
But after the Word of God became incarnate, the Heavenly Father gave a sign to his apostles, who, though human, were set apart from the common people, like pure streams diverted from the other waters that flow in a plain. He told them to flow forth into the world in a flood of true faith, overturning and wearing away [deprimentes et conterentes] the great divisions of pride and idol-worship [exaltatione culturae idolorum], that all by their preaching might know the true God and forsake their infidelity. And when this faith was strengthened in the people, the Provider [procurator] for all gently spoke to His elect, whose minds glowed with the flame kindled by the glowing hearts of those touched by the fiery tongues of the Holy Spirit. And he told them to despise the world and contemplate celestial life, and not to refuse to be humble and poor in spirit, but to dwell in humility so as to prepare themselves for treasure in Heaven. And those martyrs and virgins and other self-rejecters who did despise transitory things and worked in humility, meditating in lofty zeal on God’s wise precepts, ascended in that self-denial to the love of heavenly things. (…)
And so a thousand bucklers [Song of Songs 4:4], perfect defenses of faith perfected in new grace, hang from the Son of God. And the first shepherds of the Church follow His example and despise themselves for the hope of Heaven; they pour out their blood to protect the Catholic faith from the fiery darts of the Devil, which wound human souls. And the many virtues of the armor of the heavenly militia [caelestis militiae], which follow in the other elect, help them to love God in this world.
|The Pillar of|
And then the lord used his flint to produce a violent fire, which ran through his messengers with such heat that all their veins were inflamed and all timid indolence was stricken from them, as quickly as something poured over a dry skin runs off it. And so at last they remembered all the things they had learned and heard from their lord; and they went forth to the people who did not have a core connection [qui umbilcos non habet] and whose cities had been destroyed, and announced to them their lord’s command. For some of these they reestablished their cores and rebuilt their cities; but others they did not so treat, but slew them like pigs and divided them. And therefore that flint is respected by the whole world, and terrifies and slays all the sins of human flesh.And here are selections from the parable’s explication that illuminate this antiphon’s images of the apostolic mission (other portions are discussed in relation to its companion responsory, O lucidissima):
And, because the apostles had been taught by the Son, the Holy Spirit bathed [perfudit] them in Its fire, so that with their souls and bodies they spoke in many tongues; and, because their souls ruled their bodies, they cried out so that the whole world [totus orbis terrarum] was shaken by their voices [in vocibus eorum].Finally, in the following chapter (III.7.8), Hildegard summarizes the purpose of the apostolic Gospel:
And the Holy Spirit took their human fear from them, so that no dread was in them, and they would never fear human savagery [saevitiam hominum] when they spoke the word of God; all such timidity was taken from them so ardently and so quickly that they became firm and not soft, and dead to all adversity that could befall them. (…)
But there were some who did not believe, and did not choose to receive the faith of baptism and the protection of God’s command; and these, reading the signs, the apostles passed by and condemned to death for their hardness and unbelief. For in their crimes and the filth of their carnal pollutions, wallowing in fornication and adultery as a pig wallows in the mud, they were not willing to be converted to the true faith, and therefore they were divided and separated from life.
And thus the Son of God was shown throughout the whole world by many and wondrous signs, ineffably begotten of the Father in His Divinity and then miraculously born of the Virgin in time. (…) For the true Word of God bears testimony to the Holy Trinity and to life-giving salvation through the water of regeneration [per aquam regenerationis] (…).
They cried aloud that God the Father had completed the work whereby He created Man for heavenly happiness, of which he was then robbed. Man was made from the mud of the earth to stand upright, but by his own will had bent down toward the earth again; but now by grace he is able to stand upright a second time through the incarnate Son of God. And, enlightened and confirmed by the Holy Spirit, so as not to perish in perdition but be saved in redemption, he has been restored to eternal glory.The last pieces of the puzzle now fall into place: to feast with the pigs is to wallow in the muddy indulgences of the flesh, cut off and disconnected from God, turned away from the true glory of worshipping him and into the idolatrous self-absorption of sin. To be reconnected to that umbilical cord of true life is to enter the path of rebirth, the regeneration of the waters of baptism; and the good news of that truth rings out throughout the world in the fiery sound of the apostles’ voices. To ignore that message, however—to remain with the dogs and pigs, bent over and infatuated with earthly and man-made things and ignoring the heavenly works of God—comes with judgment, as the spiritual sword of the Lord’s messengers makes the disconnection from God permanent.
Commentary: Music and Rhetoric
by Beverly Lomer
by Beverly Lomer
Range: C below the final to C, an octave and a fourth above the final
Setting: melismatic (melismas are relatively short) and neumatic
In this piece, G remains primary, but the tonal focus makes several shifts.
The antiphon begins with an extended salutation, broken up into three melodic subunits: O cohors milicie floris virge non spinate. The first phrase, O cohors milicie, is outlined by G, the final of the mode. The second phrase begins a third higher on B, and the third starts with D, the fifth above the final and the second most important tone in this mode.
The next line (page 1, line 4: tu sonus), which initiates the narrative, commences and concludes on that secondary tone of the fifth, D. This strategy tends to highlight the notion of the voice of the apostles, as sound and voice are significant themes in Hildegard’s theology. The segment continues with orbis terre circuiens regiones, beginning on G and ending on D. A tick barline has been inserted in the transcription after regiones, in accordance with musical grammatical propriety. However, the text continues with insanorum sensuum. That phrase begins with G, and the melody is the same fragment that opens the song on O, used also on orbis and again on the first part of insanorum. This suggests that melodically, the lines should be grouped as transcribed, with the tick barlines observed; the text edited by Nathaniel Campbell has followed the punctuation of the song’s appearance in Scivias III.13.4 in R (fol. 133ra) in breaking between terre and circuiens. The last word of the group, sensuum, receives a somewhat heightened treatment with the outline by A.
On the next line, G again becomes the fulcrum for epulantium cum porcis, but the following phrase, quas/quos expugnasti, departs to either C or D, depending on the manuscript. Given that C is not a particularly key tone in the G mode, I would suggest the Riesenkodex version for quos expugnasti, which is found on the ossia staff above the line. Note also a text difference between the manuscripts, explained in note 1 above. The text continues with per infusum adiutorem, which ends on E; this tone is related to A, and Hildegard performs a neat transition to the next section, in which A becomes a temporary focal point.
With the conclusion of verbi patris, the pitch center returns to G. Note that a tick barline has been inserted after salvatoris to indicate that it should be grouped with the previous line. Again, the manuscript discrepancy suggests that R is more likely. The barline appears only on the main staff, as the music notation program would not permit one on the ossia—the reason remains mysterious.
On page 3 of the transcription, we encounter a long musical segment on qui te misit in gladio inter sevissimos canes. Syntactically, this is one idea, but it is quite long. A tick barline is placed after canes, but it would also be appropriate to breathe after gladio. Julia Smucker confirms this observation, stating that the entire phrase is too long too sing on one breath. Interestingly, the melody reaches to the piece’s highest note, C an octave and a fourth above the final, to add force to the word, gladio.
The melody shifts again briefly to A as the outlining tone and then moves to incorporate E as a key pitch. E never achieves full prominence, as it is only used to begin rather than end phrases. The last line begins with E but the final ending is on the final G.
Further Resources for O cohors milicie
- Hildegard of Bingen, Symphonia, ed. Barbara Newman (Cornell Univ. Press, 1988 / 1998), pp. 162 and 285-6.
- For a discography of this piece, see the comprehensive list by Pierre-F. Roberge: Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) - A discography
Footnotes to Commentaries
 Although Hildegard’s first contact with St. Bernard of Clairvaux came by letter in 1147 while he was in the Rhineland preaching the Second Crusade, is unlikely that she knew of his exhortative treatise for the fledgling Knights Templer, In Praise of the New Knighthood (De laude novae militiae), in which he expropriated the traditional language of spiritual battle used to describe the monastic life in order to justify the physical warfare of the Crusaders. The brief epistolary relationship between the Visionary and Mellifluous Doctors ended curtly, with little evidence of any meaningful or personal contact—see John Van Engen, “Letters and the Public Persona of Hildegard,” in Hildegard von Bingen in ihrem historischen Umfeld, ed. Alfred Haverkamp (Mainz: Trierer Historische Forschungen, 2000), pp. 375-418, esp. 381-2; for a more sympathetic comparison of the two figures, see Beverly Mayne Kienzle’s “Introduction,” pp. 14-22, in Hildegard of Bingen, Homilies on the Gospels (Cistercian Publications / Liturgical Press, 2011). ↩
 The two swords that the disciples bring to Jesus in Luke 22:38 were commonly understood in medieval political theory to refer to a material sword (the authority of secular government) and a spiritual sword (the authority of the Church); whether the Pope, as the supreme ruler of Christendom, could wield both was a central point of dispute. ↩
 All quotes from Scivias adapted from the trans. of Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop (New York: Paulist Press, 1990); Latin text ed. Führkötter and Carlevaris, CCCM 43 and 43a (Turnhout: Brepols, 1978). ↩