Friday, April 21, 2017

O nobilissima viriditas

Responsory for Virgins (D 165r-v, R 471rb-va, Scivias III.13.7b) Back to Table of Contents
by Hildegard of Bingen
R. O nobilissima viriditas,
que radicas in sole
et que in candida
luces in rota
quam nulla terrena excellentia

R. Tu circumdata es
divinorum ministeriorum.

V. Tu rubes ut aurora et ardes
ut solis flamma.
R. O noblest green viridity,
you're rooted in the sun
and in the clear
bright calm
you shine within a wheel
no earthly excellence
can comprehend:

R. You are surrounded by
the embraces of the service,
the ministries divine.

V. As morning’s dawn you blush,
as sunny flame you burn.
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell. Although this is marked as a responsory, neither of the manuscripts repeat the repetendum after the verse, as would be proper for the form.

Commentary: Themes and Theology
by Nathaniel M. Campbell

Scivias II.2: The Trinity.
Rupertsberg MS, fol. 47r.
The beautiful paradox of this responsory is its opening image for virginity vital and fertile—viriditas, one of Hildegard’s favorite terms that connects the fresh, green life of nature to the active Life of the divine and its triple role as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Here, Hildegard traces virginal viridity back to its source, “rooted in the sun” of divinity and its incomprehensible wheel—the rota is one of her classic images for the creative and eternal movement of the divine, as in the opening vision of Part III of Scivias, or the circles of gold, silver, and blue used to illustrate the Trinity in several visions of the Rupertsberg manuscript of that work. Yet, this spinning wheel of divine power is not some cold or distant formulation, but one that sparks and glows with the red blush of dawn and the sun’s warming flames, as Hildegard describes its virginal, life-giving activity in the versicle.

The refrain, meanwhile, carries God’s generally creative activity into the particular service that Hildegard and her nuns offered in their daily lives—the “ministries divine” (divina ministeria) are the opus Dei, the “Work of God,” as St. Benedict described the hours of prayer and musical praise that monastics living under his Rule were to offer every single day. For Hildegard, this divine service was practically sacramental as its sung praises became an open channel to connect her community of nuns to the heavenly choirs and their eternal ministry of praise—in enacting God’s work every day, she and her virgins became agents of divine grace and power. Indeed, the very veils and ornate jewelry with which Hildegard (in)famously clothed her nuns on high feast days were divinely-commanded signs of the verdant, virginal grace that worked within and through them. Their design was revealed in Scivias II.5, a vision of the Orders of the Church—and as the illustration for this vision in the Rupertsberg manuscript shows, preeminent among those orders were the virgins standing at the breast of Ecclesia, some in verdant green cloaks and others in the sky-blue of the Incarnate Word. In their center stands the dawn-red-cloaked Virginitas—Virginity herself, hands lifted in the same virginal praise of God as Virgin Mother Church:[1]
Scivias II.5: Virginitas &
the Orders of the Church.
Rupertsberg MS, fol. 66r (detail)
After this I saw that a splendor white as snow and translucent as crystal had shone around the image of that woman from the top of her head to her throat. And from her throat to her navel another splendor, red in color, had encircled her, glowing like the dawn (…) and shining mixed with purple and blue [pupura hyacintho]. (…) And where it glowed like the dawn, its brightness shone forth as high as the secret places of heaven; and in this brightness appeared a most beautiful image of a maiden, with bare head and black hair, wearing a red tunic, which flowed down about her feet.

And around that maiden I saw standing a great crowd of people, brighter than the sun, all wonderfully adorned with gold and gems. Some of these had their heads veiled in white, adorned with a gold circlet; and above them, as if sculpted on the veils, was the likeness of the glorious and ineffable Trinity as it was represented to me earlier, and on their foreheads the Lamb of God, and on their necks a human figure, and on the right ear cherubim, and on the left ear the other kinds of angels; and from the likeness of the glorious and supernal Trinity golden rays extended to these other images.
     —Scivias II.5, Vision[2]
Hildegard elaborated this vision in a later letter to Guibert of Gembloux:
I saw that all the ranks [ordines] of the Church have bright emblems in accord with the heavenly brightness, yet virginity has no bright emblem—nothing but a black veil and an image of the cross. So I saw that this would be the emblem of virginity: that a virgin’s head would be covered with a white veil, because of the radiant-white robe that human beings had in paradise and lost. On her head would be a circlet [rota] with three colours conjoined into one—an image of the Trinity—and four roundels attached: the one on the forehead showing the lamb of God, that on the right a cherub, that on the left an angel, and on the back a human being—all these inclining towards the [figure of the] Trinity. This emblem, granted to me, will proclaim blessings to God, because he had clothed the first man in radiant brightness.[3]
When Tengswich, the magistra of a community of Augustinian canonesses in Andernach, wrote to Hildegard questioning the propriety of dressing her nuns in flowing white, silk veils, their hair bound only by a golden coronet (rota—the circlet of the crown and the wheel of divinity sacramentally combined, perhaps in a combination of gold and silver with blue enamel, to echo the illustration of the Trinity for Scivias II.2 in the Rupertsberg manuscript), Hildegard responded with a glorious defense of her virgins:
Because the beauty of woman radiated and blazed forth in the primordial root, and in her was formed that chamber in which every creature lies hidden. Why is she so resplendent? For two reasons: on the one hand, because she was created by the finger of God and, on the other, because she was endowed with wondrous beauty. O woman, what a splendid being you are! For you have set your foundation in the sun, and have conquered the world.
Listen: The earth exudes the viridity of the grass [terra sudat viriditatem graminis], until winter conquers it. Then winter takes away the beauty of that flower, and the earth covers over its vital force [viriditatem] so that it is unable to manifest itself as if it had never dried up, because winter has ravaged it. In a similar manner, a woman, once married, ought not to indulge herself in primordial adornment of hair or person, nor ought she to lift herself up to vanity, wearing a crown and other golden ornaments, excepts at her husband’s pleasure, and even then with moderation.

But these strictures do not apply to a virgin, for she stands in the unsullied purity of paradise, lovely and unwithering, and she always remains in the full viridity of the budding rod [in plena viriditate floris virge]. A virgin is not commanded to cover up her hair and her viridity [non habet tegmen crinium viriditatis sue in precepto], but she willingly does so out of her great humility, for a person will naturally hide the beauty of her soul, lest, on account of her pride, the hawk carry it off.

Virgins are married with holiness in the Holy Spirit and in the bright dawn of virginity [in aurora virginitatis], and so it is proper that they come before the great High Priest as an oblation presented to God. Thus through the permission granted her and the revelation of the mystic inspiration of the finger of God, it is appropriate for a virgin to wear a white vestment, the lucent symbol of her betrothal to Christ, considering that her mind is made one with the interwoven whole [intexte integritati mens eius solidetur], and keeping in mind the One to whom she is joined, as it is written: “Having his name, and the name of the Father, written on their foreheads” [Apoc. 14:1] and also, “These follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth” [Apoc. 14:4].[4]
Although the bridal imagery does not appear in today’s responsory, it does fill her another of her compositions, the “Symphony of Virgins”, O dulcissime amator. Nevertheless, this responsory does make clear the preeminent place that Hildegard perceived for the virgins whose mother she became—the most dedicated of God’s servants, and thus his most powerful agents of fertile grace and viridity.

Commentary: Music and Rhetoric
by Beverly Lomer

C mode
Range: G below the final to D an octave and a second above
Setting: primarily melismatic

In this responsory, the opening salutatio consists of the phrase, O nobilissima viriditas (“O most noble greenness”), with viriditas referring to the virgins. As with the corresponding antiphon, O pulcre facies, Hildegard likens the earthly virgins (nuns) to the Virgin Mary, as many of the same metaphors apply. They are rooted in the sun (divinity), blush like the dawn, shine and burn in the sun’s brightness, and are entwined in the embraces of God. The salutation, as is typical, emphasizes the key words through outlining by the final of the mode. Here, each of the words of the salutation is outlined by C.

The text continues with the phrase, que radicas in sole (“who are rooted in the sun”), which extends from the salutatio and begins to expound the various characteristics of these most noble creatures. On the word que, the final is replaced by the pitch E, but the phrase ends on C. In the next phrase, the most significant word, candida, is given a lengthy melisma that extends to the highest range of the piece. The emphasis, then, is on the brightness of the virgins, the highest order of saintliness and a signifier of their special closeness to the divine.

The theme of extraordinary sanctity continues with the text, quam nulla terrena excellentia comprendit (“which no earthly excellence can comprehend”). The final C outlines quam nulla terrena excellentia, while the verb comprehendit begins on C but ends on G, the dominant or second most significant pitch in the mode.

The respondendum (refrain) explicates the next theme, that the virgins are embraced by the divine (tu circumdata es amplexibus divinorum misteriorum). The use of non-standard pitches in this lengthy section—A and D as grammatical markers—might be considered as an indicator that the entire thought should be construed as one idea. This is, however, more than one can sing on a breath, and thus, the absence of a definitive tonal punctuator underscores the holistic nature of the phrase.

The closeness to divinity echoes again in the versicle that closes the responsory (the repetition of the refrain is not marked in the manuscripts): “As morning’s dawn you blush, as sunny flame you burn.” Through its analogy to Mary, this confirms again the special place virginity holds in the hierarchy of sanctity in Hildegard’s theology of the feminine.

Further Resources for O nobilissima viriditas


[1] See Nathaniel M. Campbell, “Imago expandit splendorem suum: Hildegard of Bingen’s Visio-Theological Designs in the Rupertsberg Scivias Manuscript,” Eikón / Imago 4 (2013, Vol. 2, No. 2), pp. 1-68, esp. pp. 36-39 and 57-61; accessible online here
[2] Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias, trans. Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop (Paulist Press, 1990), p. 201; Latin text ed. Führkötter and Carlevaris, CCCM 43 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1978), pp. 174-5. 
[3] Letter 103r, trans. Peter Dronke, Women Writers of the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1984), p. 169; Latin text in Hildegardis Bingensis, Epistolarium II, ed. L. Van Acker, CCCM 91a (Turnhout: Brepols, 1993), p. 253. 
[4] Letter 52r, adapted from The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen, vol. 1, trans. Joseph L. Baird and Radd K. Ehrman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 128-9; Latin text in Hildegardis Bingensis, Epistolarium I, ed. L. Van Acker, CCCM 91, pp. 127-9. Barbara Newman also notes the similarities between this letter and the above responsory (in Symphonia, pp. 304-5). 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

O pulcre facies

Psalm antiphon for Virgins (D 165r, R 471rb, Scivias III.13.7a) Back to Table of Contents
by Hildegard of Bingen
O pulcre facies
Deum aspicientes
et in aurora edificantes,
o beate virgines,
quam nobiles estis,
in quibus rex
se consideravit, cum in vobis
omnia celestia ornamenta presignavit,
ubi etiam suavissimus hortus estis,
in omnibus ornamentis redolentes.
O faces fair
that gaze on God
and build upon the dawn—
O virgins blessed,
how noble!
In you the King
can glimpse himself, for in you
he sealed once all the ornaments of heaven,
where too you are the lushest garden,
the fragrances of all its ornaments.
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.

by Nathaniel M. Campbell and Beverly Lomer

This antiphon and the responsory that follows it, O nobilissima viriditas, are the two pieces devoted to the Choir of Virgins in the celestial symphony of the final vision of Scivias (III.13.7). Whether as individual virgins in this antiphon or collectively as bearers of verdant virginity in the responsory, they are portrayed as analogues of the Virgin Mary. Were it not for the plural nouns in this antiphon and the manuscript rubrics identifying the songs as de virginibus, “for virgins,” one would be tempted to interpret them as pieces devoted to Mary, for the imagery recalls the attributes Hildegard assigns to her in the songs addressed to her. They mirror, for example, the two pieces devoted to the Virgin Mary that opened the Scivias symphony (III.13.1), O splendidissima gemma and O tu suavissima virga. In the latter responsory, the “divinity gazed upon a daughter’s beauty” (divinitas in pulcherrimam filiam aspexit), while in this antiphon, the gaze is reflected back by the beautiful faces of God’s daughters (O pulcre facies Deum aspicientes).

Other images common in Hildegard’s Marian corpus are gathered here, too—the dawn light in Hodie aperuit; the nobility of O frondens virga; and the nearly continuous imagery of the Virgin’s blooming branch and flower, enunciated here with the image of the aromatic garden (see e.g. verses 2-4 of O viridissima virga). Hildegard regularly refers to Mary as “a joyful ornament” (in the versicle of O clarissima) and a mirror of divine beauty (verse 4a of O virga ac diadema). In O quam magnum miraculum, God the King enters into “the female form subdued,” and it is quite simply woman (femina) who “builds up every sweet perfume of virtues” (omnem suavissimum odorem virtutum edificavit) to adorn the heavens. Likewise in this antiphon, God the King sees himself in the faces of the virgins as Mary was the mirror of the divine beauty.

Sanctity is often described by Hildegard as fragrant, and thus the concluding melisma on redolentes, a musical gesture of emphasis and the only melisma of any length in the piece, solidifies the theme of the special holiness of virgin women. The enclosed garden (hortus conclusus) was a common medieval metaphor for virginity, but in Hildegard’s hands (probably frequently smudged with dirt and streaked with green from actually working in the garden), it springs into beautiful, verdant, fragrant life. Experiencing the warm sunshine beaming into the garden and bursting its flowers into bloom might very well have provoked Hildegard in her praise of virgins in this antiphon, which also echoes her description of the Order of Virgins amid the towering figure of Ecclesia, Holy Mother Church in Scivias II.5.5:[1]
Scivias II.5: Orders of the Church.
Rupertsberg MS, fol. 66r.
But you see that from her throat to her navel another splendor, red in color, encircles her. This means that after the teaching of the apostles had so invigorated the Church (…), there arose the noblest perfection of churchly religion, which tasted heavenly sweetness with burning ardor and stringently restrained itself in order to gird itself with secret power; rejecting the union of human coupling, it avoided the division caused by the bitterness of the flesh. How?

That splendor glows like the dawn from her throat to her breasts, for this perfection arose from the taste of the excitement of miracles and extended in virginal gladness to the sweet nourishment of churchly religion. And it shines from her breasts to her navel mixed with purple and blue; for she fortified herself for the stringency of inner chastity by the noblest training, namely by imitating the Passion of My Son to gain the celestial love He guarded in His heart. Therefore, where it glows like the dawn, its brightness shines forth as high as the secret places of Heaven; for the perfection that flowers in the state of virginity directs its strength not downward toward heavenly things, but miraculously upward to what is in Heaven.
As most perfect handmaids of the Virgin Mother Church and successors of the Virgin Mother Mary, the women in Hildegard’s convent live out virginal fecundity. The verb presignavit is, in this regard, particularly significant—it shows that virgins have a special place in God’s order and plan for the beauty of the world. At the heart of Hildegard’s perception of the relationship between eternity and time, divinity and humanity, is the notion that Christ’s Incarnation was eternally predestined. By corollary, the means by which God became Man—the Virgin Mother who bore him—was also predestined before all time; and thus, the female figures who mediate God’s presence and activity into the world after and in analogue to her are also predestined. If God had foreseen Mary’s blooming branch in the very first moment of creation (so verse 3a of O virga ac diadema), then so too did he foresee the fragrant gardens of his virgins blooming throughout the Church.

Transcription and Music Notes

E mode
Range: D below the final to G an octave and a third above the final
Setting: primarily syllabic, with some neumatic segments and one long melisma

The salutation in this antiphon is not as straightforward as is often the case, as there is no clear outlining by the final of the mode in the first phrase. O pulcre facies (“O beautiful faces”), which might be considered a brief greeting, begins on the final but concludes on A. This strategy leads to the conclusion that the next two segments should extend the initial salutation. Deum aspicientes (“gazing on God”) employs D and G as tonal markers, neither of which are usually grammatically significant pitches in this mode. This supports the notion that the phrase is an extension of the first and connected to what comes after. The final phrase, et in aurora edificantes (“and building upon the dawn”) concludes on the final It is thus possible to consider the three phrases (lines 1-3 in the transcription) as the entire salutatio. Though it is a bit long, it makes better sense musically than subdividing it. Of course, in performance, breaths might have to be taken, but the rhetorical effect would be enhanced if the entirety were conveyed as a single phrase.

O beate virgines begins the next idea, and is more predictably outlined by the modal final. The remainder of the piece employs the fifth as its grammatical marker. Lines 8 and 9 (omnia celestia ornamenta presignavit) comprise a single phrase, and a tick barline has been inserted to indicate this continuity.

The seventh line of the piece presents an odd juxtaposition of musical and textual grammar. The verb consideravit ends one grammatical phrase in the text, while the conjunction cum begins another subordinate clause. In normal practice, syntactic units of text would coincide with musical phrases, with the first phrase ending on the final (or, as in this piece, the fifth), and the next phrase beginning there. But in this line, the two textual clauses are conjoined within a single musical phrase, though the conjunction is made on the octave of the final.

The final image commences with ubi etiam suavissimus hortus estis (“where too you are the lushest garden”). The pitch B remains the primary tonal marker until the conclusion of the long melisma on redolentes on the final. The use of A to end the phrase in omnibus ornamentis is a bit surprising, as one would expect to hear B. Redolentes, however, is clearly its own unit.

Further Resources for O pulcre facies


[1] Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias, trans. Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop (Paulist Press, 1990), pp. 204-205; Latin text ed. Führkötter and Carlevaris, CCCM 43 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1978), pp. 179-180. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

O successores

Psalm antiphon for Confessors (D 164r, R 470ra, Scivias III.13.6a) Back to Table of Contents
by Hildegard of Bingen
O successores
fortissimi leonis,
inter templum et altare
dominantes in ministratione eius
sicut angeli sonant in laudibus
et sicut assunt populis
in adiutorio,
vos estis inter illos
qui hec faciunt,
semper curam habentes in officio Agni.
Successors of
the mighty Lion,
between the temple and the altar
commanding in his service:
as angels sing in praise resounding
and quicken to defend the people
with their aid—
so you among them
as they do these things
keep ever carefully the office of the Lamb.
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

The first piece devoted to the choir of confessors—a class that for Hildegard consists of the clergy in general—in her vision of the heavenly symphony in Scivias III.13.6, this antiphon turns from the sacramental duties of their priestly office described in O vos imitatores to look at their Christ-like role as the servant-leaders of the Church: leading the people of God in their praise, helping them like the guardian angels, waging the battle against the fallen angel, and in all things imitating Christ’s mighty strength as the Lion and sacrificial love as the Lamb.[1]

This ministry of the confessors is situated within the particular progression of salvation history, reflected in the placement of the choir of confessors after those of the apostles and martyrs in the celestial symphony. After the apostolic dawn of the Church and the flowing of the martyr’s rose-red blood, this choir of confessors took its place among her orders, as likewise described in Hildegard’s exegesis of the Pillar of the Word of God in Scivias III.4.11:
For in the clear light in which My Son preached and spread the truth there have grown up apostles who announce that true light, and martyrs who faithfully shed their blood like strong soldiers, and confessors who officiate after My Son, and virgins who follow the Supernal Branch, and all My other elect, who rejoice in the fountain of happiness and the font of salvation, baptized by the Holy Spirit and ardently going “from virtue unto virtue” (Ps. 83:8[84:7]).[2]
In the antiphon above, the confessors in their office as “successors” or “imitators” of Christ take a middle place between the early martyrs, whose blood “watered” the foundations of the Church, and the order of Virgins who crown Ecclesia, the Church. Thus, the second line situates them as heirs of both the ancient prophets and the martyrs by alluding to Christ’s words of castigation against the scribes and Pharisees for “shedding the blood of the prophets, (…) from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar [quem occidistis inter templum et altare]” (Matt. 23:30 and 35). Moreover, Hildegard transforms their commanding rule (dominantes) over the Church into the service of her ministers (in ministratione); as Barbara Newman notes, “Following Christ’s example and commandment, they exercised their spiritual lordship only through service (Luke 22:25-26)” (Symphonia, p. 290).

As Hildegard explains in her discussion of the Church’s administration of the sacraments of Eucharist and confession in Scivias II.6.92:
One who desires the power of an office for his own boastful pride and not for the glory of My name is to Me like a putrid corpse, but one who seeks it desiring from it not his pride but My honor will be glorious in My kingdom. And so priests should take on the office of spiritual government not for their own sakes but for Mine, that they may rule more surely and devoutly over My people.
In the previous vision’s discussion of the clergy’s office of pastoral service, Hildegard compares them to the shepherd Abel:
The followers [of the apostles], who took their places, faithfully traverse streets and farms and cities and other places, regions and lands, carrying the health-giving charisms and announcing the divine law to the people. For they are fathers and stewards, carefully chosen to make church rules known to the people by their teaching and to distribute to them the food of life. (…)

So, as Abel was in charge of his flock, pasturing and guarding it and with simple devotion offering its increase and its fatty nourishment to God [Genesis 4:4], let the chrism-makers [bishops], who are set over the children of the Church, who are the sheep of Christ, pasture them according to His plan, faithfully nourish them by their words, teaching them the church rules, and protect them forcefully from the snares of the ancient waylayer, and offer gifts from some of them, with sincere reflection, to the Observer of all.
     —Scivias II.5.2
Scivias I.6: Choirs of Angels.
Rupertsberg MS, fol. 38r.
Although the antiphon above never mentions him, that “ancient waylayer” lies always in the background of Hildegard’s view of the Church’s place in salvation history, her battle against him, and her relationship to the angels. In comparing the office of the Church’s pastors to the angels as they both praise God and, as guardians, come to the aid of humankind, Hildegard draws on the belief that God created the angels for a twofold service, “for the honor of His name and for human salvation”—the latter office “by assigning some to help humans in their need, and others to manifest to people the judgments of His secrets” (Scivias I.6.1). Moreover, Hildegard held firmly to the belief that humankind was created to fill the tenth and highest choir of angels, left empty by the fall of Lucifer and his companions, as she explains Scivias III.2.19.[3]

Musically, Hildegard emphasizes the scope of the angelic analogy by having its two phrases (sicut angeli sonant in laudibus / et sicut assunt populis - in adiutorio) traverse a significant range, from the lowest note of the piece, A below the final (connecting laudibus, “praise,” with in adiutorio, “with aid”), to the D an octave above the final (on sicut, “as,” and assunt, “quicken to defend”). On the other hand, the angels stand slightly apart from the rest of the antiphon, as the analogy is the only phrase to open on a note other than the final (A on sicut). For all their glory, the angels lack the singular grace bestowed on humankind: participation in the divine nature itself, in the form of the Incarnation. Only humans can be “successors of the mighty Lion.” This is why the highest note of the antiphon—F an octave and a third above the final—comes near the end, on officio, “the office of the Lamb” which the confessors carefully keep.

Still, angelic ministry serves for Hildegard as an exemplar for a human ministry that is destined to surpass it. The angels and archangels offer their service to both God and God’s creation (humankind) with a humility to be imitated by the clergy:
Therefore have peace and charity and humility among you, as the souls of the just do not envy the office of the angels, and the angels announce lesser things in the normal course of events, while the faithful people humbly obey. Therefore, let each fulfill his office faithfully. How?

Let those who are vowed monks, like the archangels, renew their powerful assistance whenever there is a great occasion of necessity in the Church; and let those who have the office of clerics, like the angels, do their business in the daily life of their institution; and let people who want to attain to supreme beatitude faithfully receive their words.
     —Scivias II.5.36
The clergy of the Church thus assume the twofold office of the angels, analogous to Christ’s twofold summary of the law’s commandment of love: they praise and love God, and they serve and love their neighbors, the children of God and inheritors of the kingdom. As governors, they mediate the angels’ manifestation of God’s commands to his people; as pastors, they “keep and feed God’s sheep to imitate Him in honor” (Scivias III.9.22

Scivias III.9: The Tower of the Church.
Rupertsberg MS, fol. 192r
(full-page miniature rotated 90 degrees
counterclockwise from original orientation).
Finally, as successors of Christ, the confessors are also the successors of the apostles, the Church’s first leaders-in-service who “stand out among the defenders of the Church as its first founders” (Scivias III.9.15). As the successors of the apostles, the confessors also provide that defense, as Hildegard indicates through her interpretation of Song of Songs 4:4:
“Your neck is like the tower of David, which is built with bulwarks; a thousand bucklers hang upon it, all the armor of the valiant.” This is to say:

The Incarnation of the mighty Lion [fortissimi leonis], the Son of the Supreme Ruler, Who arose from the blooming of the Virgin, is the strongest instrument of the new grace; and so too the strength of your incorrupt faith, O Bride, is set as the sure rampart of the faithful people. How? All your children stand and join themselves into the walls around your strength, nourished by the new light that trickles from the pure living Fountain. And in this strong joining they cannot be destroyed or dismembered, anymore than the victorious weapons of true David could be defeated. How?

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 true Human, through Whom in your 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 the bulwarks of apostolic doctrine who planted the justice of the True Light.
And so a thousand bucklers, perfect defenses of the perfected faith, 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 other elect, who follow them, also form a heavenly militia and take arms to establish the love of God in this world.
     —Scivias III.9.15-17

Transcription and Music Notes
by Beverly Lomer

Mode: D
Range: A below the final to F an octave and a third above the final
Setting: primarily syllabic, one long melisma on final word

The phrasing in this piece is fairly straightforward, outlined primarily by the final of the mode. The salutation can be construed briefly as O successores (“O successors”), or to encompass the next phrase, fortissimi leonis (“of the mighty Lion”) Though the second option completes the textual thought, each of the two melodic phrases is outlined by D, the modal final.

The Bb is signed in instances where a tritone occurs and on the melodic figure, A,B,A. Flats are not consistent between the manuscripts. Note also that the melodic progression on the final melisma on agni contains repeated notes. One might want to flat the B in the descent, because it then lands on F. However, the landing on F might also be understood as a descent from A, which is repeated. Hence, the B in the previous phrase segment can be read as a part of a smaller descent that ends on A and thus would not carry a flat. Neither manuscript signs a flat here. In keeping with the signed flat in Dendermonde on A,B,A earlier (p. 1, line 6 of the transcription), one might include a flat on this same figure in the final melisma.

Further Resources for O successores


[1] Although this antiphon follows the responsory for confessors (O vos imitatores) in the Riesdenkodex (fol. 470va), it comes first in Scivias III.13.6. 
[2] 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). 
[3] As she explains Scivias III.2.19: “God foresaw that what had fallen in the lost group [of angels] could be more firmly restored in another. How? He created humankind from the mud of the earth, living in soul and body, to attain to the glory from which the apostate Devil and his followers were cast out. Humankind is thus exceedingly dear to God, Who made them truly in His own image and likeness; they were to exercvise all the virtues in the perfection of holiness, as indeed God formed all creatures to do, and to work in humble obedience to do acts of virtue, and so to fulfill the function of praise among the glorious orders of angels. And thus, in this height of blessedness, humankind was to augment the praise of the heavenly spirits who praise God with assiduous devotion, and so fill up the place left empty by the lost angel who fell in his presumption.” 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

O vos imitatores

Responsory for Confessors (D 163v-164r, R 470rb, Scivias III.13.6b) Back to Table of Contents
by Hildegard of Bingen
V. O vos imitatores excelse persone
in preciosissima
et gloriosissima significatione,
o quam magnus est vester ornatus,
ubi homo procedit,
solvens et stringens in Deo
pigros et peregrinos,

R. etiam ornans
candidos et nigros et magna onera

V. Nam et angelici ordinis officia habetis,
et fortissima fundamenta prescitis,
ubicumque constituenda sunt,
unde magnus est vester honor—

R. etiam ornans
candidos et nigros et magna onera
V. O actors, you who play the Highest Role
within that precious drama,
that glorious sacrament!
How great and beautiful your vested costume,
as steps forth such a man
to loose and bind in God
the slacker and sojourner,

R. to beautify
the shining and the squalid, and their heavy burdens
to remit.

V. For you both hold the office of the angels
and foreknow where’er the firm foundations
of the Church are to be laid—
this twofold duty marks your honor grand:

R. to beautify
the shining and the squalid, and their heavy burdens
to remit.
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

In this responsory, adapted from one of the two verses sung in praise of the choir of confessors in the heavenly symphony of Scivias III.13,[1] Hildegard uses the language of drama to explain the office of the Church’s principal clergy in their roles as “imitators” (imitatores) of the person of Christ, celebrating the Eucharist and hearing confessions under the apostolic power of “binding and loosing,” to remit the burden of the penitent’s sins. Moreover, they also participate in the “duties of the angelic order” (angelici ordinis officia)—the offering of praise in song to the Lord—and, guided by the Holy Spirit, receive the special knowledge of where to found new churches and monasteries.[2]

Scivias II.6: Crucifixion
and Eucharist.
Rupertsberg MS, fol. 86r
As with the other parts of the heavenly symphony at the end of Scivias, this responsory reflects upon elements earlier in the work—in this case, Hildegard’s vision of the Crucifixion and Eucharist in Scivias II.6. As the first illustration that accompanies this vision in the Rupertsberg manuscript makes clear, the drama of Christ’s life, culminating in his sacrifice upon the Cross, pierces through time to be reenacted and re-presented upon the altar each time the Church celebrates her dowry, the Eucharist. In both that vision and this responsory, moreover, the priestly office of performing the Eucharist is intimately intertwined with his office of granting absolution to the confessed penitent. Both Eucharist and Confession regenerate the faithful person into the life of the Resurrected, by lifting them up out of the sin they inherited from Adam and into the glory they receive from Christ, the New Adam. Moreover, each sacrament revolves around actions of memory:[3] in the Eucharist, both God and we the Church remember Christ’s sacrifice, while in Confession, each sinner turns away from the deceit that keeps their sin unremembered, “concealed in his secret heart,” and instead makes “manifest his sins, that he may have a witness to his penitence” (Scivias II.6.87).[4]

In Hildegard’s Eucharistic vision, Christ’s initial establishment of that ritual of memory becomes the script that the Church follows in each subsequent performance of the drama. The most vivid part of the vision is the heavenly spotlight that streams down upon the altar during each performance. Thus this play is unlike any other, for the stage crosses the divide between time and eternity: “in its most precious and glorious signification” (in preciosissima et gloriosissima significatione), God acts together with the priest, beholding the same memories, repeating the same lines, and through them, recreating the world (words in italics are from Hildegard’s description of the vision; the voice speaking is that from heaven):
When a priest clad in sacred vestments approaches that altar to celebrate the divine mysteries, you see that a great calm light is brought to it from Heaven by angels. For when he who has the charge of souls is girded with the sacred cincture and approaches the life-giving table to immolate the innocent Lamb, at once the great light of the heavenly inheritance drives away the darkness, shining with the help of celestial spirits from the secret places of Heaven. And it completely illumines the plan of sanctification, for here is the food of the soul by which believers are saved. How? Because the Church in the voice of the priest seeks her dowry, which is the body and the poured-out blood of My Son, in order to be fit for blessed childbearing in saving souls (…). And so then I, Who am the unfailing Light, illumine the place of that consecration with My holiness, to the honor of the body and blood of My Only-Begotten.

For when the priest begins to invoke me on the sanctified altar, and I consider that My Son offered Me bread and wine at the supper of death just before leaving the world; then I see that My Son did this in the hour of His death, as he was about to perish on the wood of the cross, so that when the blessed offering of the holy sacrifice is offered to Me by a priest I might always have His Passion in My sight, never blotting it from My sharp vision. For He too offered Me bread and wine in the outpouring of His blood, when He cast down death and raised up humanity. (…)

The Bride of My Son offers the gift of bread and wine on My altar with a most devoted purpose. How? To remind me in faithful memory by the hand of the priest that in this same oblation I delivered up the body and blood of My Son. How? Because the sufferings of My Only-Begotten are seen perpetually in the secret places of Heaven; and thus that oblation is united to My Son in My ardent heat in a profoundly miraculous way and becomes most truly His body and blood. And thence the Church is quickened with blessed strength.
     —Scivias II.6.6-11
For Hildegard’s typological mind, the signification of the Eucharistic sacrifice encompasses not just the Crucifixion, but also its foreshadowing in the Passover feast and the Exodus from Egypt. This provides her a natural bridge to consider its role in freeing the sinner from the bondage of sin:
“Remember this day in which you came forth out of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage; with a strong hand the Lord brought you forth out of this place, so look that you eat no leavened bread” [Exodus 13:3]. What does this mean?

You who wish to be imitators [imitatores] of My Son, turn your eyes from death to life and keep in mind the salvation of that Day which is My Son, Who trampled death and gave life, so that you went forth from the wretched exile of perdition; you threw off the thick darkness of infidelity and tore yourselves away from the house of the Devil, to whom Adam’s transgression had given you. Turn your eyes from earthly to heavenly actions, for by divine power I the Lord have led you out of evil; I Who rule all with such strength that no obstacle can stand against My might, but I sharply penetrate all things. So through My Son I have snatched you from the place where you shamefully lay in your wickedness, serving death by your infidelity instead of doing good works.

And now that you are freed in My Only-Begotten from that oppression, go from strength to strength and take care not to admit into your consciences the infidelity, which does not strengthen but bitterly weighs down your heart. What does this mean? Do not follow the arts of the Devil or the other fictions people devise for themselves (…), but imitate My Son as a mirror of faith, Who delivered you from the prison of Hell when He gave Himself for you to the suffering of the cross. And, that you may more carefully follow in His footsteps, strengthen your hearts with the celestial bread, and so with faithful devotion receive His body. For He came from Heaven and was born of the sweet and pure Virgin, and, by suffering for you on the cross, gave you His very self; so that now you may receive the sweet and pure bread, which is His body, consecrated on the altar by divine invocation, without any bitterness but with sincere affection, and thus escape from humanity’s inner hunger and attain to the banquet of eternal beatitude.
     —Scivias II.6.27
The “thick darkness of infidelity” that the light of this glorious sacrament dispels, and the “inner hunger” that it fulfills with its “sweet and pure bread”—these are the shadows and lusts of sin that, in enflaming a person with their dark fire, make a person “eat and drink unworthily” of the Eucharist (1 Corinthians 11:29). It is in her exegesis of St. Paul’s description of the Eucharist that Hildegard pivots to the failure of memory and the concealment of the truth with sin:
Truly I say to you, anyone who, being unworthy and foul with sin, eats the bread of life or receives the cup of salvation, which is the sacrament of Him Who is the Lord of Heaven and Earth, shall feel himself at fault for it. How? Because he receives the body and blood of the Lord, the Savior of the world, snarling and dying; inclined to evil and polluted with uncleanness, he forgets the fear of the Lord and approaches the palace of healing redemption in a state of contamination. And so he commits murder there. How? By treating the sacrament presumptuously, concealing his crimes without cleansing or washing them by penance; and so with many wounds he tears himself to pieces.
     —Scivias II.6.58
But there is a remedy for this state of corrupted memory and intentional forgetting:
But if anyone labors under too great a number of these tendencies and is not able to resist them by themselves, let them with devoted purpose seek Me and humbly uncover to Me the wounds of their heart. How? Let them lay bare these wounds by making a humble confession to a priest. And why is this? Because true confession is a second resurrection. How? The human race was slain by the fall of the old Adam; the new Adam by His death raised it up. And so the resurrection of souls arose in the death of the new Adam. (…) Hence confession was instituted, to raise people up after they fall. And so anyone who confesses their sins to a priest for love of Me rises again from death to life; as the woman who purged herself from her impurity with tears at the banquet in the presence of My Son was snatched away from uncleanness (cf. Luke 7:36-50).
Faithful people should seek the help of My Son, because when they repeat the ancient crime of Adam after baptism they cannot rise from their fall by themselves. And therefore they should seek counsel as it were from the patriarchs and prophets, and derive instruction as if from the high priests and the ordinary priests, and accept help as if from the apostles, laying bare their wounds and displaying their sins truly and purely. How?

They should confess their sins to the priest, who is the minister of My Son, with devoted heart and mouth. And then the priest will give them a remedy of penance and bury their sins in the death of My Only-Begotten. And then they will rise again to life and glorify the Resurrection of My Son.
     —Scivias II.6.82-83
Hildegard then turns her attention to those priests, with dire warnings against those who abuse their office, whether by failing “to teach true doctrine to the people” by not exhorting them to penance, or by their own crimes “in perverse filth and adulterous wickedness” (Scivias II.6.94-95). Throughout her works, the Visionary Doctor consistently castigated the clergy for their failures and sins, for she holds them the higher standard of responsibility and integrity owed the honor of their office:
You, rather than others, have received in My Son the keys of Heaven; which are righteous decisions of just judgment made in knowledge of the Scriptures, as long as you consider rightly what you should bind. What does this mean?

When people stubbornly oppose themselves to My Law, you must inspire them with fear of My judgment. And if they do not then correct themselves, extend over them your power of binding. How? You will bind these rebels in My words with a clear voice, and show them the power of the binding; for their stubbornness they are bound in My sign, as My Son showed to the Church’s first pastor, saying:

“I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. And whatsoever you shall bind on earth, it will be bound also in Heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose on earth, it will be loosed also in Heaven” (Matthew 16:19). What does this mean? I, Who have all power in Heaven and earth, by My grace give to you, My devout imitators [imitatores], those judgments that touch the dignity of the Kingdom of Heaven. As you see people sin on earth, you will bind the wicked deed on earth with just judgment, and it will be entangled in its wickedness and bound in Heaven; it will be separated and driven out from Heaven, for in the heavenly mansions there is no freedom and no place for iniquity. But after I withdraw a person’s soul from their body, you will not extend your judgment over them, for that judgment is Mine. Likewise, if a transgressor is penitent, you will loose on earth the chain you fastened on him in rebellion, and it will be loosed in the secret places of Heaven, for God does not reject the groans of a devout heart. But after the person’s death you will pray for their soul, but you cannot absolve it from being bound.
This is the purpose of that binding: that one who perversely refuses to obey Me or the precepts of their superiors may be separated by My word from celestial things. Thus Adam, when he disobeyed Me, was by My command cast out of Paradise. And until such a person repents and obeys, they will not be received into the company of the faithful; as the human race was recalled to the celestial country by the martyrdom of My obedient Son.
     —Scivias II.6.96-97 and 99
Scivias II.6: Eucharist, detail of recipients.
Rupertsberg MS, fol. 86v.
Finally, we turn to Hildegard’s description of the effects of this sacrament of penance, “to beautify the shining and the squalid” (etiam ornans candidos et nigros). This recalls her vision of the various states of grace and iniquity in which people might approach to receive the Eucharist, as illustrated below the priest at the altar in the second illustration for Scivias II.6 in the Rupertsberg manuscript:
And as other people approached the priest to receive the sacrament, I notice five modes of being in them. For some were bright of body and fiery of soul, and others seemed pale of body and shadowed of soul; some were hairy of body and seemed dirty in soul, because it was pervaded with unclean human pollution; others were surrounded in body by sharp thorns and leprous of soul; and others appeared bloody of body and foul as a decayed corpse in soul. And all these received the same sacraments; and as they did, some were bathed in fiery brilliance, but the others were overshadowed by a dark cloud.
     —Scivias II.6, Vision
In chs. 51-57, Hildegard offers an elaboration of these states of soul. Only the first (“bright of body and fiery of soul”) approach the altar “clear in faith about the sacrament, (…) and because they are sanctified by this mystery they will appear in this same body in Heaven after the resurrection of the dead; and their souls are transformed and enkindled by the fiery gift of the Holy Spirit, so that, flooded with enlightenment, they reject earthly things and long for the heavenly ones” (Scivias II.6.52). Each of the other four states of soul are mired in ever graver levels of sin—yet to each, Hildegard’s exposition holds out the offer of redemption: “the fountain of salvation will still flow for them if they take care to wash themselves from this wickedness of theirs by worthy penitence” (Scivias II.6.56).

Transcription and Music Notes
by Beverly Lomer

C mode
Range: F below the final to C an octave above
Setting: Primarily syllabic, one long melisma, several short melismatic segments

The responsory begins with a syllabic setting of the salutatio, “O you imitators of the most exalted person.” This is a bit different, as Hildegard often favors a more elaborate treatment of the opening greeting. The only substantial melisma in the piece is found on remittens at the end of the repetendum.

As is typical of the songs in which C is the final, the Bb is notated only in the lower octave. In this case, there are quite a number of differences between the manuscripts. In Dendermonde, most of the cadences on C that are preceded by B indicate a flat. This is not always the case in the Riesenkodex. Though we have added no editorial ficta, take note of the last line of page 1 of the transcription. The Bb noted in Dendermonde should be continued until the cadence on C, and similar figures should be treated the same elsewhere. For example, on page 2, line 5, the descent from G to B and finish on C appears elsewhere in Dendermonde with a notated flat. Our recommendation is to add the flat here and in other instances of repetition as well.

The second refrain, Etiam ornans…, differs in R from the way it appears earlier, as well as differing from D. It should be internally consistent.

Further Resources for O vos imitatores


[1] Although the responsory appears first in the Riesdenkodex’s ordering of the Symphonia (on fol. 470rb), it follows the antiphon for confessors (O successores) in Scivias III.13.6. 
[2] I will look more closely at the connections between the offices of the angels and the confessors in relation to Hildegard’s antiphon for confessors, O successores. Newman notes: “In the verse [Hildegard] calls to mind two additional privileges of these saints: they share in the angelic office, the singing of God’s praise, and they found churches on sites that have been providentially revealed to them. The abbess may have been remembering her own vision of the Rupertsberg as a site for her new monastery.” (Symphonia, p. 289) 
[3] See Anne W. Astell, “‘Memoriam Fecit’: The Eucharist, Memory, Reform, and Regeneration in Hildegard of Bingen’s Scivias and Nicholas of Cusa’s Sermons,” in Reassessing Reform: A Historical Investigation into Church Renewal, ed. Christopher M. Bellitto and David Zachariah Flanagin (Catholic University of America Press, 2012), pp. 190-213. 
[4] All quotes from Scivias II.6 adapted from the trans. of Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop (New York: Paulist Press, 1990), pp. 237-89; Latin text ed. Führkötter and Carlevaris, CCCM 43 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1978), pp. 229-306.