St. Hildegard of Bingen
Abbess, artist, author, composer, mystic, pharmacist, poet, preacher, theologian--where to begin describing this remarkable woman?
Born into a noble family, she was instructed for ten years by the holy woman Blessed Jutta. When Hildegard was 18, she became a Benedictine nun at the Monastery of St. Disibodenberg. Ordered by her confessor to write down the visions that she'd received since the age of three, Hildegard took ten years to write her Scivias (Know the Ways). Pope Eugene III read it and in 1147 encouraged her to continue writing. Her Book of the Merits of Life and Book of Divine Works followed. She wrote over 300 letters to people who sought her advice; she also composed short works on medicine and physiology, and sought advice from contemporaries such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
Hildegard's visions caused her to see humans as "living sparks" of God's love, coming from God as daylight comes from the sun. Sin destroyed the original harmony of creation; Christ's redeeming death and resurrection opened up new possibilities. Virtuous living reduces the estrangement from God and others that sin causes.
Like all mystics, she saw the harmony of God's creation and the place of women and men in that. This unity was not apparent to many of her contemporaries.
Hildegard was no stranger to controversy. The monks near her original foundation protested vigorously when she moved her monastery to Bingen, overlooking the Rhine River. She confronted Emperor Frederick Barbarossa for supporting at least three antipopes. Hildegard challenged the Cathars, who rejected the Catholic Church claiming to follow a more pure Christianity.
Between 1152 and 1162, Hildegard often preached in the Rhineland. Her monastery was placed under interdict because she had permitted the burial of a young man who had been excommunicated. She insisted that he had been reconciled with the Church and had received its sacraments before dying. Hildegard protested bitterly when the local bishop forbade the celebration of or reception of the Eucharist at the Bingen monastery, a sanction that was lifted only a few months before her death.
In 2012, Hildegard was canonized and named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Benedict spoke about Hildegard of Bingen during two of his general audiences in September 2010. He praised the humility with which she received God's gifts and the obedience she gave Church authorities. He praised the "rich theological content" of her mystical visions that sum up the history of salvation from creation to the end of time.
Pope Benedict said, "Let us always invoke the Holy Spirit, so that he may inspire in the Church holy and courageous women like St. Hildegard of Bingen, who, developing the gifts they have received from God, make their own special and valuable contribution to the spiritual development of our communities and of the Church in our time."
Hildegard once wrote, "In the year 1141...a fiery light, flashing intensely, came from the open vault of heaven and poured through my whole brain. Like a flame that is hot without burning, it kindled all my heart and all my breast, just as the sun warms anything on which its rays fall. And suddenly I could understand what such books as the Psalter, the Gospels and the other Catholic volumes both of the Old and New Testament actually set forth."
Saint of the Day
Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.; revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
Dear Jesus, I come to you today
Many countries are at this moment suffering the agonies of war.
I ask how I am within myself today? Am I particularly tired, stressed, or off-form?
The Word of God
Reading 1 gn 49:2, 8-10
Jacob called his sons and said to them:
Responsorial Psalm ps 72:1-2, 3-4ab, 7-8, 17
R. (see 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel mt 1:1-17
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
Listen to audio of this reading
Watch a video reflection
What feelings are rising in me as I pray and reflect on God's Word? I imagine Jesus himself sitting or standing near me and open my heart to him.
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
Meditation: Matthew 1:1-17
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3rd Week of Advent
The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1)
A family of liars, adulterers, murderers, fornicators, connivers, and blasphemers. What a miserable lot! And yet the most famous member of this family tree isn't known for some heinous crime. Quite the opposite, in fact. He is God become man.
Why do you think God chose such a rogues' gallery of ancestors for his Son? Is this the best he could come up with? In a sense, yes! No matter how good any family may look on paper, they are still fallen, imperfect human beings.
Centuries of biblical history have shown us that God doesn't usually choose the bravest or the strongest or even the holiest people to fulfill his plan. He chooses ordinary, sinful people. And so Jesus was born into an imperfect line—but a line that was made holy by God's grace. God can work with anything. In fact, it delights him to fill us, cracked and leaky vessels though we are, with his overflowing love.
Do you feel unworthy of being part of God's plan? You're right: you are! We all are. However spotty our personal history or family tree, it doesn't keep the Lord from offering us a new identity as his sons and daughters. Everyone who is baptized into Christ is grafted into a spotless lineage.
God redeemed a line of misfits and miscreants with his power. And he used this family as an important part of his plan. Even so, he is ready to do the same for you. You are more than able to bring Christ into the world, just as David, Solomon, Moses, and all the others did.
So come to the Lord and ask him to show you his plans for your life. Does he want you to bring Christ to someone in your life? Will you let him renew your zeal for sharing the good news? You are part of a royal line, and nothing is impossible for God!
"Thank you, Father, for making me part of your family. Help me to take up my role in your great plan. Unworthy though I am, let me be your light to the world!"
Genesis 49:2, 8-10