Tuesday, July 5, 2022

O viriditas digiti Dei

Responsory for St. Disibod [Feast, July 8; Translation, Sept. 8] Back to Table of Contents
(D 162r-b, R 470v) by Hildegard of Bingen
R. O viriditas digiti Dei,
in qua Deus constituit plantationem
que in excelso resplendent ut statuta columna:

R. Tu gloriosa in preparatione Dei.

V. Et o altitudo montis
que numquam dissipaberis
in differentia Dei,
tu tamen stas a longe ut exul,
sed non est in potestate armati
qui te rapiat.

R. Tu gloriosa in preparatione Dei.

Gloria Patri
et Filio et Spiritui sancto.

R. Tu gloriosa in preparatione Dei.
R. O fresh viridity of God’s creative finger,
in which God planted his green vineyard
that glistens in the heights, a lofty pillar:

R. How glorious you are as you prepare for God!

V. And O, the mountain’s height!
O never shall you be laid low
when God marks the difference—
no, you stand yet afar, an exile,
but not ensnared by that brigand’s power
who snatches after you.

R. How glorious you are as you prepare for God!

Glory be to the Father
and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

R. How glorious you are as you prepare for God!
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.
Note: Newman’s edition follows a textual variant from Letter 74r to Abbot Kuno, which reads “discretione” instead of “differentia” in the versicle (Riesenkodex, fol. 347rb); we have followed the text as found in the musical settings of the responsory.

by Nathaniel M. Campbell

This responsory was the second of the pieces that Hildegard “revealed” for the community of Disibodenberg, and it continues seamlessly the themes first established by the antiphon O mirum admirandum. St. Disibod’s presence “glistens” upon the monastery’s mountaintop, shimmering like sunlight filtered and dappled through the green leaves of its garden and vineyard—the plantatio, a classic metaphor for the monastic house that for Hildegard was also literal, given her experience keeping the monastery’s gardens. Yet the saint is also purposely kept separate from the monastery as “an exile” from the scandal that Hildegard chastises in the house. As one study of this responsory points out, its visionary text in Hildegard’s letter (no. 74r) to Kuno, the Disibodenberg’s abbot, is not formatted for liturgical use as a responsory; rather, the above arrangement comes from its later appearances in the two manuscripts that preserve its musical notation.[1] However, as noted in the commentary to O mirum admirandum, Hildegard’s letter specifically situates the problems of the monastery within the failures of its liturgical service to God. It is likely that, when she dispatched the textual letter to the Disibodenberg, she had the messenger also commit the melodies she composed for the three pieces within it to memory, to be recited for and learned by the men’s community. That messenger may even have been her beloved secretary and confidant, Volmar, who remained his entire life a brother of the Disibodenberg, on permanent loan to Hildegard’s community at the Rupertsberg as provost and spiritual advisor.

While imagery of the garden and its viridity is classically Hildegardian, she provides a unique emphasis in this responsory through the musical setting of the refrain. As Tova Leigh-Choate, William Flynn, and Margot Fassler have recently argued:[2]
It is the saint’s preparatory work that is celebrated in the repetendum: Tu gloriosa in preparatione Dei. Hildegard set the repetendum as a joyous melody with an extensive melisma of over 50 notes on the penultimate syllable “o” of preparatione. Three times as long as the chant’s opening melisma, the preparatione melisma emphasizes the chant’s highest note (g) through repetition of the note itself and the melisma’s entire opening arc (the rise to g and subsequent descent to G […]). This internal repetition not only highlights the word preparatione but also echoes the earlier word plantationem, whose penultimate syllable “o” descended in like manner from e to G, after peaking on g […]. As the repetendum would have been chanted at least twice, its repetitive preparatione melisma would have been the most memorable part of the performance. Hildegard clearly wanted to emphasize the preparatory work of St. Disibod.

Like every good confessor, Disibod would have prepared for the Lord’s coming with “loins girt and lamps burning” (Lk. 12:35-6). These verses from Luke may have opened the Gospel reading for Disibod’s feast at the Disibodenberg and Rupertsberg […]. But Hildegard’s line also brings to mind the preparatory themes in Isaiah 40:3 (“prepare ye the way of the Lord”) and in Ephesians 6:15 (“and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace”).[3] Like the wilderness prophet and precursor of Christ, John the Baptist, and like the Christian who has “put on the armor of God,” Disibod strengthened himself and his followers to stand firm—like the mountaintop that will not be leveled—against the wiles of the devil. […]

The melodic parallels between the settings of plantationem and preparatione suggest that Hildegard viewed Disibod’s founding of a monastic community, represented by the image of the vineyard, as integral to his preparatory work.
By constructing the image of St. Disibod’s “lofty pillar” upon the City of God’s mountaintop as one that “cannot be laid low” by the divine forces that “prepare the way of the Lord” (Isaiah 40:3-4), Hildegard implicitly contrasts his eternal, spiritual stability with the problems at the earthly Disibodenberg that her letter takes to task. “At God’s discretion” (Hildegard wrote in discretione Dei in the letter to Abbot Kuno, which was later changed to in differentia Dei for the liturgical version of the text), she seems to suggest, that monastic house might very well topple to the ground if its brothers and abbot do not set their affairs in order and stop trying to interfere with the holy work of Hildegard’s new community at the Rupertsberg. Indeed, in her later years, Hildegard would often prophesy in dark and loathsome visions the radical disendowment of the Church in punishment for the sins of her ministers. Drawing on the Augustinian image of being pilgrims and exiles in this world that she used, for example, in Cum erubuerint, Hildegard implies here that the monks have ceased to be, like their founder and patron, “exiles” from the Earthly City and true citizens of the Heavenly City (an image to which she will return at the opening of the sequence for St. Disibod, O presul vere civitatis).

Transcription and Music Notes
by Beverly Lomer

B mode (plagal version of E mode)
Range: G above the final B to C below the final
Setting: primarily syllabic and neumatic with several longer melismas

The use of the plagal version of the E mode, with B as the final, is unusual for Hildegard. Punctuation in this work is primarily achieved by using the final and/or E. Readers will note that the transcription includes a number of lines that begin with D, either below or above the final. In those cases where the text indicates that the phrase beginning on D belongs to what went before (in the previous line of the transcription), I have added tick barlines to indicate the full idea. If the long section cannot be performed in one breath, it would be possible to breath at the end of the first line in those instances where a barline has been included.

There are minor differences between the sources, with one exception. Dendermonde does not include the Gloria patri.

Further Resources for O viriditas digiti Dei
  • Hildegard of Bingen, Symphonia, ed. Barbara Newman (Cornell Univ. Press, 1988 / 1998), pp. 182 and 291.
  • Leigh-Choate, Tova; Flynn, William T.; and Fassler, Margot E. “Hildegard as Musical Hagiographer: Engelberg, Stiftsbibliothek MS. 103 and Her Songs for Saints Disibod and Ursula.” In A Companion to Hildegard of Bingen. Ed. Beverly Mayne Kienzle et al. (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2014), pp. 193-220.
  • For a discography of this piece, see the comprehensive list by Pierre-F. Roberge: Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) - A discography


[1] Tova Leigh-Choate, William T. Flynn, and Margot E. Fassler, “Hildegard as Musical Hagiographer: Engelberg, Stiftsbibliothek MS. 103 and Her Songs for Saints Disibod and Ursula,” in A Companion to Hildegard of Bingen, ed. Beverly Mayne Kienzle et al. (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2014), pp. 193-220, esp. p. 203. 
[2] Ibid., pp. 205-6. 
[3] As Newman notes, the parallel with the famous verses in Isaiah that prefigure the Baptist is extended in the second versicle with the reference to the “hills made low” (Symphonia, ed. Newman, p. 291). 

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