Saturday, December 19, 2020

Hildegard of Bingen on Saturn and Jupiter

Detail of the Celestial Bodies, from
The Book of Divine Works, 1.2
(Biblioteca Statale di Lucca, MS 1942, fol. 9r)
In honor of the celestial conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, we present Hildegard of Bingen’s description of the two planets from her cosmological vision in The Book of Divine Works. Saturn is “the highest and first celestial body,” and Jupiter is the second in the circle of pure ether, illustrated in the Lucca manuscript as the top two stars in the band of red flames (the sun is the large star in the band of black fire just below):
And from the middle of the sign of the highest and first celestial body that is marked out above the head of that image, there go out certain rays, one of which descends to the sign of the sun. This signifies that rays of strength go forth from the strength of this first celestial body, which appears first in the east because it is from there that the daylight comes forth. One of these rays is directed to the sun, succoring and tempering its course so that it does not discharge its fire beyond measure. Furthermore, one beams to the right foot of the crab’s head that proceeds from the leopard’s head. For as this celestial body arises from the part opposite that wind, it emits its ray to strengthen the latter’s egress as it shifts forwards and back and proceeds from the principal east wind to which it is collateral; and it holds it back with its stability, lest it proceed further than God has allowed it. Finally, one extends to the right horn of the stag’s head that comes from the same leopard’s head. For another ray comes from that part of this celestial body to oppose the strength of this wind that comes out there from the principal wind, restraining its shocks so that it emits its blasts according to the correct measure of fitting necessity, like a man who restrains the arms of his enemy, to keep him from harming either himself or others. Thus one part of creation is restrained by another part of creation, and likewise each is sustained by the other.

From the middle of the sign of the second celestial body a certain ray bends down as if to the sign of the sun, for this celestial body reveals its power when it touches the sun with its ray, soothing it to be mild. And another goes forth to the lamb’s head that comes from the sign of the lion’s head. For from its strong part, it extends a ray of its brilliance to the beginning of the collateral wind that signifies gentleness and proceeds from the major wind of the southern region. It holds onto that wind, so that rather than transforming its mildness to ferocity, it continues in its course without any aggressiveness. Another is directed to the aforesaid line that stretches in the firmament from the beginning of the eastern part of the wheel as if to the end of its western part and facing its northern region, at a spot above where the lamb’s head that goes out from the sign of the bear’s head is placed. This signifies that a ray comes from the firm course of that brilliance and is led to the course of another collateral wind that goes out from the major north wind. It resists that wind with its moderation, so that it emits its blasts with equal measure.

     —The Book of Divine Works 1.2.32 (pp. 84-85)
Hildegard also allegorizes these planets and their celestial rays, because for her, all of creation has a moral meaning, encouraging and strengthening us to grow in the virtues:
Moreover, from the middle of the sign of the highest and first celestial body that appears marked out above the head of that image, there go out certain rays, one of which descends to the sign of the sun. This is because the virtues spring from the choicest and outstanding gift of the spirit of wisdom, which surpasses the entire height of human understanding. From them, a holy breathing forth descends to the sign of the sun—to the spirit of fortitude—to which it allies itself, so that the fortitude of holiness might enter wisely into the faithful, lest they foolishly presume to undertake a task they cannot complete. But one beams to the right foot of the crab’s head that proceeds from the leopard’s head. This shows that in the salvation of souls, the breathing forth of the spirit of wisdom, which is made manifest for the correct advance of the trust that rises up from the fear of the Lord, spreads itself out and fortifies that trust, so that, with the fear of the Lord, it might have confidence in God and not think his mercy worthless or for naught. Furthermore, one stretches itself to the right horn of the stag’s head that comes from the same leopard’s head; for in chastisement, the breathing forth of rightness reveals itself to the fortitude of faith that also arises from the fear of the Lord. It stretches itself out and leads that fortitude to the right path, so that it turns itself away from the devil’s devices while unceasingly chastising humankind for their ignorance of the truth.

From the middle of the sign of the second celestial body a certain ray bends down as if to the sign of the sun. This signifies that an outpouring of intelligence from the abundant fullness of the spirit of understanding advances also towards the spirit of fortitude. This also shows that each faithful person understands acutely that he ought with a strong mind to serve his Creator and to renounce the devil. And another goes forth to the lamb’s head that comes from the sign of the lion’s head. For as a person walks successfully to his Creator, the breathing forth from the spirit of understanding extends towards the patience that proceeds from the judgment of God. This shows that, when a person imitates patience, he ought to bear both prosperity and tribulation with equanimity. And another is directed to the aforesaid line that stretches in the firmament from the beginning of the eastern part of the wheel as if to the end of its western part and facing its northern region, at a spot above where the lamb’s head that goes out from the sign of the bear’s head is placed. For as each faithful person shuns what is contrary to his soul, the breathing forth from the spirit of understanding comes on the other side to the rightness of justice, which extends from the origin of good deeds that persist under God’s power all the way to their fulfillment. With the assistance from above of the patience produced from bodily distress, it separates the devil’s tricks from just works, and admonishes a person that, when the judgment of God chastises him, he ought to endure that chastisement patiently, lest he be stricken even more sharply.

     —The Book of Divine Works 1.2.34 (pp. 91-92)

Friday, December 11, 2020

Nunc gaudeant

Votive Antiphon for the Dedication of a Church (D 170r-v, R 472va)Back to Table of Contents
by Hildegard of Bingen
Nunc gaudeant materna viscera
quia in superna
simphonia filii eius
in sinum suum collocati sunt.
Unde, o turpissime
serpens, confusus es, quoniam
quos tua estimatio in visceribus
suis habuit
nunc fulgent in sanguine Filii Dei,
et ideo laus tibi sit, Rex altissime.
Now let the Church’s mother womb
For in the heavens’
symphony her children
are gathered to her bosom.
O vile snake,
you are confounded,
for those your hollow reckoning had thought
it clutched within its guts
now sparkle in the blood of God’s Son—
praise be to you, the King most high!
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 completes the arc of its pair in the collection, O virgo Ecclesia, by affirming the resolution to the crisis described in the previous piece. This connection between the two antiphons is both thematic and musical. While O virgo Ecclesia is written with lower pitches in E mode, this C mode antiphon ranges much higher, as befits the thematic restoration of the celestial harmony. Meanwhile, the two antiphons deploy very similar melodic lines (adjusted for their respective modes) to match their shared textual elements: the two phrases Sed o quam preciosus est sanguis Salvatoris, / qui in vexillo regis (p. 1, line 8-p.2, line 1 in O virgo Ecclesia) each outline a similar melody followed by nunc fulgent in sanguine Filii Dei in the antiphon above (p. 2, line 3). Thematically, the resolution here rests on the same two key elements: the restoration of the Church’s children within the heavenly symphony, and their gleaming salvation from the Devil’s clutches by the blood of Christ. As with O virgo Ecclesia, these elements respond both to Hildegard’s cosmic vision of salvation and to the specific historical context that we can conjecture for this pair of antiphons.

Barbara Newman’s suggestion that Hildegard is writing in veiled response to Arnold of Brescia’s revolt helps to explain several elements of this antiphon (see Symphonia, p. 315). At the climax of his response to Arnold’s revolt, Pope Adrian IV put the city of Rome under interdict during Holy Week of 1155. This means that as the Church remembered the drama of Christ’s death and resurrection, the music that would usually accompany her most elaborate liturgies was silenced. This antiphon’s restoration of the heavenly symphony alludes to the resolution of the crisis, when the interdict was lifted. Meanwhile, the concluding “Alleluia!” of the antiphon alludes to the specific timing of that resolution, at Easter.

Yet the antiphon works equally well without reference to a specific historical circumstance, because for Hildegard, the restoration of celestial music is a hallmark of Christ’s restoration of life, a synaesthetic collaboration of light and sound and Word:
And you see a serene Man coming forth from this radiant dawn, Who pours out His brightness into the darkness; and it drives Him back with great force, so that He pours out the redness of blood and whiteness of pallor into it, and strikes the darkness such a strong blow that the person who is lying in it is touched by Him, takes on a shining appearance, and walks out of it upright. This is the Word of God, imperishably incarnate in the purity of unstained virginity and born without pain, and yet not separated from the Father. How? While the Son of God was being born in the world from a mother, He was still in Heaven in the Father; and at this the angels suddenly trembled and sang the sweetest praises of rejoicing. And, living in the world without stain of sin, He sent out into the darkness of unbelief His clear and blessed teachings and salvation; but, rejected by the unbelieving people and led to His passion, He poured out his beautiful blood and knew in His body the darkness of death. And thus conquering the Devil, he delivered from Hell his elect, who were held prostrate there, and by His redeeming touch brought them back to the inheritance they had lost in Adam. As they were returning to their inheritance timbrels and harps and all kinds of music burst forth, because humankind, who had lain in perdition but now stood upright in blessedness, had been freed by heavenly power and escaped from death.
     —Scivias II.1.13[1]
As Hildegard explained when responding to the interdict placed on her own monastery, this restoration of the inheritance lost in Adam was the restoration of the Spirit’s voice, the living breath that inspires the children of the Church to sing as the angels sing:
When we consider these things carefully, we recall that man needed the voice of the living Spirit, but Adam lost this divine voice through disobedience. For while he was still innocent, before his transgression, his voice blended fully with the voices of the angels in their praise of God. Angels are called spirits from that Spirit which is God, and thus they have such voices by virtue of their spiritual nature. But Adam lost that angelic voice which he had in paradise.
Consider, too, that just as the body of Jesus Christ was born of the purity of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, so, too, the canticle of praise, reflecting celestial harmony, is rooted in the Church through the Holy Spirit. The body is the vestment of the spirit, which has a living voice, and so it is proper for the body, in harmony with the soul, to use its voice to sing praises to God.[2]
The transition from Virgin Mother to Virgin Mother, from Mary to the Church, is another hallmark of Hildegard’s theology. We noticed in O virgo Ecclesia, for example, that Ecclesia took the place of Mary beneath the beam of the Cross in Hildegard’s vision of the Crucifixion. The analogous relationship between the two comes to the fore in Hildegard’s first vision of the Church in Scivias II.3 (ch. 9):
And on [Ecclesia’s] breast shines a red glow like the dawn; for the virginity of the Most Blessed Virgin when she brought forth the Son of God glows with the most ardent devotion in the hearts of the faithful. And you hear a sound of all kinds of music singing around her, “Like the dawn, greatly sparkling” [quasi aurora valde rutilans]; for, as you are now given to understand, all believers should join with their whole wills in celebrating the virginity of that spotless Virgin in the Church.[3]
These two Virgins conceive and give birth by the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the Church, the means of that rebirth are the waters of baptism that flowed mingled with blood from the Crucified’s side. Thus, Hildegard’s heavenly voice continues:
And thus the Church is the virginal mother of all Christians, since by the mystery of the Holy Spirit she conceives and bears them, offering them to God so that they are called the children of God. And as the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Blessed Mother, so that she miraculously conceived and painlessly bore the Son of God and yet remained a Virgin, so does the Holy Spirit illumine the Church, happy mother of believers, so that without corruption she conceives and bears children naturally, yet remains a virgin.
     —Scivias II.3.12
One final element of this antiphon worth noting is the contrast between the Church’s womb (viscera) and the Devil’s “guts” (visceribus). The Devil’s plan had been to ensnare the human race, stealing them away from God and his Church (as in O virgo Ecclesia) and swallowing them up in his greed. But his plan was flawed, because he made an assumption (estimatio) that turned out not to be true. As Hildegard explains in The Book of Divine Works 3.4.5:
Within his own deceit [the devil] assumed that humankind, now wallowing in such filth, could not enter the kingdom of heaven, for the children of fornication could not be God’s people, nor could he be their God. The devil indeed takes great pleasure in the smut of the flesh’s gyrations and says to himself, “I’ve yanked humankind from their glorious place and thrust them into the deepest filth! There’s no place left in them for God, for his utter cleanliness neither wants nor accepts any filth. That’s also why humankind will remain in my quarters.”

But God concealed from the ancient serpent how he wanted to free humankind: the dirtiness that bubbled up at the serpent’s trick he washed away through his Son, and through him blotted out the wounds that lust had inflicted upon humankind.[4]
All the Devil saw in humans was the transmission of original sin through procreation, and so the blood of human birth was a blood that tied them in bondage to him. But the Church’s womb is an altogether different kind of birth: bathed in the blood of the Cross, it is the rebirth of baptism, the rebirth unto eternal life.

Transcription and Music Notes
by Beverly Lomer

Mode: C
Range: G below final to C an octave above
Setting: primarily neumatic and syllabic

In this antiphon, C, the modal final, is the primary grammatical marker. Hildegard also deploys A to begin phrases on the last line of page 1 and line 2 of page 2. All phrases end on C. Lines 4 and 5 are intended as one phrase, so as to keep the C as the outlining tone. A tick barline has been added to indicate this. It does make for a long phrase, however, and thus it might mean some adjustments for performers in order to breathe.

There are considerable small differences between the manuscripts in this work that have resulted in many ossia staves. This was done in order to reduce clutter. On line 4 on page 1, there is one note that might need clarification. Parentheses were placed around the pitch D, with the note that this pitch is only found in Dendermonde. The next note, an E in Dendermonde, is F in the Riesenkodex.

As always, performers are welcome to adjust the breathing pauses and to reshape phrases in accordance with their individual interpretation.

Further Resources for Nunc gaudeant


[1] All quotes from Scivias are adapted from the translation of Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop (Paulist Press, 1990); Latin text ed. Führkötter and Carlevaris, CCCM 43 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1978). 
[2] Letter 23, Hildegard to the prelates at Mainz. Adapted from The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen. Vol. I, trans. Joseph L. Baird and Radd K. Ehrman (Oxford Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 76-80; Latin text in Epistolarium I, ed. L. Van Acker, CCCM 91 (Brepols, 1991), pp. 61-6. 
[3] The words of the song that Hildegard hears ringing around the Virgin’s central place upon the Church’s breast are from the antiphon for the Magnificat from First Vespers on the Feast of the Assumption: “Virgo prudentissima, quo progrederis quasi aurora valde rutilans? Filia Sion, tota formosa et suavis es, pulchra ut luna electa ut sol.” (See the entry for this antiphon in the Cantus database and at ChantBlog). 
[4] St. Hildegard of Bingen, The Book of Divine Works 3.4.5, trans. Nathaniel M. Campbell (The Catholic University of America Press, 2018), pp. 400-401. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

O virgo Ecclesia

Votive Antiphon for the Dedication of a Church (D 170r, R 472rb-va) Back to Table of Contents
by Hildegard of Bingen
O virgo Ecclesia,
plangendum est,
quod sevissimus lupus filios tuos
de latere tuo abstraxit.
O ve callido serpenti!
Sed o quam preciosus est sanguis Salvatoris,
qui in vexillo regis
Ecclesiam ipsi desponsavit, unde filios
illius requirit.
O Virgin Church,
lament and mourn!
A savage wolf has snatched
your children from your side.
O woe to serpent’s trickery!
But O, how precious is the Savior’s blood
that with the royal banner sealed
his bridegroom’s promise to the Church,
whose children he is seeking.
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 rubric for this antiphon in the Risenkodex (fol. 472rb) indicates that it was written for the dedication of a church, and it forms a natural pair with the antiphon that follows it, Nunc gaudeant (see that antiphon's commentary for a discussion of their musical links). Together, they showcase the dichotomy that defines Hildegard’s grand visions of the Virgin Mother Church: she is at once a powerful feminine force, birthing God’s children as the spouse of God’s Son; and again, she is a woman battered, attacked, and abused. The Church’s power is rooted in her divine dispensation and its consummation in eternity, while her pain must be endured in history while ministering to a fallen world.

Those two realms—eternal glory and temporal pain—meet on the Cross, and so with the explicit echo of Venantius Fortunatus’ hymn, Vexilla regis, this antiphon finds the Virgin Mother Church standing together with the Virgin Mother Mary beneath its beam, each a mater dolorosa grieving the schisms that have rent the body of Christ.[1] But in this antiphon, that lament is countered by the promise that Christ made on the Cross, his marriage vow to the Church (Ecclesia):
Scivias II.6: The Crucifixion.
Rupertsberg MS, fol. 86r

And after these things I saw the Son of God hanging on the cross, and the aforementioned image of a woman coming forth like a bright radiance from the ancient counsel. By divine power she was led to Him, and raised herself upward so that she was sprinkled by the blood from His side; and thus, by the will of the Heavenly Father, she was joined with Him in happy betrothal and nobly dowered with His body and blood.

And again I heard a voice from Heaven saying to Him: “May she, O Son, be your Bride for the restoration of My people; may she be a mother to them, regenerating souls through the salvation of the Spirit and water.”
     —Scivias II.6, Vision[2]

Upon the Cross, therefore, Hildegard links the Church’s two most important sacraments, the vehicles by which she administers Christ’s power to the children they bear together: in the illustration of this vision from the Rupertsberg manuscript, the blood pours from his side into Ecclesia’s chalice—the Eucharist—but also onto her head, baptizing her in his blood as he will then regenerate their children “through the salvation of the Spirit and water.”

Scivias II.3: The Church and Baptism.
Rupertsberg MS, fol. 51r (detail)
In the first appearance of this figure of Ecclesia in Scivias (II.3), Hildegard sees her:
…the image of a woman as large as a great city, with a wonderful crown on her head and arms from which a splendor hung like sleeves, shining from Heaven to earth. (…) And that image spreads out its splendor like a garment, saying, “I must conceive and give birth!”
As her children then enter into her womb, she “draws them upward to her head, and they go out by her mouth.” Stripped of the black garments of original sin, each is now “clothed in a pure white garment.” Yet, despite the glory that surrounds these reborn children, Ecclesia knows that dark days lie ahead of them on their pilgrimage in the world:
And she, benignly gazing on them, said in a sad voice, “These children of mine will return again to dust. I conceive and bear many who oppress me, their mother, by heretical, schismatic, and useless battles, by robberies and murderers, by adultery and fornication, and by many such errors. Many of these rise again in true penitence to eternal life, but many fall in false obduracy to eternal death.”
     —Scivias II.3, Vision
This is the dark journey that lies ahead for Ecclesia, whose true consolation awaits the end of time:
All things that are on earth hasten to their end, and the world droops toward its end, oppressed by the weakening of its forces and its many tribulations and calamities. But the Bride of My Son, very troubled for her children both by the forerunners of the son of perdition and by the destroyer himself, will never be crushed, no matter how much they attack her. But at the end of time she will rise up stronger than ever, and become more beautiful and more glorious; and so she will move sweetly and delightfully to the embraces of her Beloved.
     —Scivias III.11.1
Hildegard’s writings are full of recriminations against the abuses that the Church would suffer throughout history—it was a signature of her prophetic voice, denouncing corruption and promoting reform in visions, preaching tours, and fiery letters.[3] The hallmark of her way of thinking was to always connect particular crises in the Church with the universal movements of salvation history. As each of her children is joined through her to their head, Jesus Christ, so each of the wolves that attacks her is joined to their head, the serpentine Devil.

Barbara Newman has made the persuasive argument that this antiphon’s universalized image of Church in crisis marks Hildegard’s symbolic response to a specific crisis of the Church in the 1150’s, the revolt of Arnold of Brescia.[4] Arnold had long been a troublemaker in the twelfth-century church, in ways not dissimilar to Hildegard on occasion. He was deeply disturbed by the corruption that ecclesiastical wealth seemed to breed in those of the Church’s ministers who were entangled in political affairs, and began to preach poverty against the luxury of the bishops and possessions of the monasteries. But whereas Hildegard only prophesied the radical disendowment of church property as the punishment awaiting such corruption,[5] Arnold tried to actively effect it through his support of popular insurrections in Italy in the 1130’s, which earned him repeated condemnations, exiles, and penances.

As part of the penance enjoined on him by Pope Eugenius III in his reconciliation to the church in 1145, Arnold made a pilgrimage to Rome, where he fell in with those powers who agitated for the establishment of the Roman Republic and secular rule over the city—tensions that broke into a full-fledged rebellion against the papacy that forced Eugenius to flee the city from 1146 to 1149 while it was ruled as a republican commune, with Arnold as one of its greatest supporters. Excommunicated in 1148, Arnold’s rhetoric did not abate: he condemned the entire hierarchy from Pope on down for not acceding to his demands that they relinquish temporal power. Eventually, Eugenius’ successor, Pope Adrian IV, went so far as to the place the entire city of Rome under interdict during Holy Week of 1155, a measure that finally compelled the populace to hand over Arnold and receive back the Pope. It may thus have been the liturgical context of Arnold’s final defeat—a ban on the public performance of any liturgy during the highest week of the liturgical calendar—that prompted Hildegard to situate this antiphon within the drama of the Crucifixion.

It is clear why Hildegard would hold Arnold for censure as “a savage wolf”—he broke with the Church and went too far, rending her garments with his schismatic zeal. Yet, she also shared in some ways his quite valid concerns over the corruption of the Church—simoniacs were among her most frequent targets for censure. At the same time, she made no apologies for certain uses of finery and wealth, as she makes clear in her letter responding to Tengswich of Andernach’s criticism of her abbey’s classism and use of fine jewelry and silk veils.[6] The key is to understand the place of that wealth within the Church’s service of God—the opus Dei, the especially musical liturgical worship that Pope Adrian’s interdict would have silenced during that Holy Week of 1155 in the city of Rome. We know from Hildegard’s own response to such an interdict near the end of her life how grave such a situation was for her, for it would let loose the Devil from the symphonic fetters that kept him at bay.[7] As the companion antiphon Nunc gaudeant indicates, it is “in the heavens’ symphony” that the Church’s motherly office is restored after suffering the abuse of schism.

Transcription and Music Notes
by Beverly Lomer

E mode
Range: C below the final to E an octave above
Setting: syllabic and pneumatic

In this antiphon, Hildegard primarily outlines her phrases with the final, E. There are some exceptions. Notably, the piece begins on F, and several phrases also start this way—examples include lines 4 and 6 of the transcription. The phrase ecclesiam ipsi desponsavit unde filios concludes with B, a typical use of the secondary modal focus.

Lines 7 and 8 can be regarded as a single phrase, and a tick barline has been included at the end of line 8 to signify this.

While it might be possible to read the phrasing differently according to the lyrics, I have chosen to follow the musical structure, especially where the opening notes of a line repeat.

Further Resources for O virgo Ecclesia


[1] See Barbara Newman, Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard’s Theology of the Feminine (Univ. of California Press, 1987 / 1997), p. 236. 
[2] All quotes from Scivias are 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] See Nathaniel M. Campbell, “The prophetess and the pope: St. Hildegard of Bingen, Pope Benedict XVI, and prophetic visions of church reform,” postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies 10:1 (2019), 22-35; online here
[4] Newman, Symphonia, p. 315; and eadem, Sister of Wisdom, pp. 237-8. 
[5] Cf. Letter 149r to Werner of Kirchheim in The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen, Vol. 2, trans. Joseph L. Baird and Radd K. Ehrman (Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 92-4; and The Book of Divine Works 3.5.16, trans. Nathaniel M. Campbell (Catholic University of America Press, 2018), pp. 447-450. 
[6] See Letters 52 and 52r in The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen, Vol. 1, trans. Joseph L. Baird and Radd K. Ehrman (Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 127-30. 
[7] See Letter 23 in The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen, Vol. 1, pp. 76-80.