HILDEGARD of  BINGEN
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LETTER 103;   LETTER 23


Van Acker, Lieven, ed. Hildegardis Bingensis Epistolarium: Prima Pars. In Corpus Christianorum: continuatio medievalis, vol. 91. Turnhout, Belgium, 1991. (pp. 61-66), The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen, vol. 1 tr. J.L Baird, R.K. Ehrmann (Oxford Univ. Press, 1994)


 

 


HILDEGARD of  BINGEN
LETTER 103 to the Monk, Guibert CIII HILDEGARDIS AD GVIBERTVM MONACHVM
 

 

 


1175 Hildegard writes in answer to the insistent Guibert of Gembloux. Much of this letter is taken up with answers to some, though not all, of the questions posed by Guibert.


 

 

 

 

THE words I speak are not my own, nor any human being’s. I merely report those things I received in a supernal vision. O servant of God, you gaze into the mirror of faith in order to know God, and through the formation of man in whom God established and sealed His miracles, you have become a son of God. For just as a mirror, which reflects all things, is set in its own container, so too the rational soul is placed in the fragile container of the body. In this way, the body is governed in its earthly life by the soul, and the soul contemplates heavenly things through faith.

Hec uerba non a me nec ab alio homine dico, sed ea ut in superna uisione accepi prof ero. O serue Dei, per speculum fidei in quo Deum cognoscendo attendis, et o fili Dei per formationem hominis in quem Deus miracula sua constituit et signauit, quia, sicut speculum in quo queque uidentur uasi suo imponitur, ita rationalis anima corpori uelut fictili uasi immittitur, quatenus per ipsam uiuendo regatur et anima per fidem celestia contem­pletur, audi quod indeficiens lumen dicit.

Hear, then, O son of God, what the unfailing Light says. Man is both heavenly and earthly [cf. I Cor 15.47–49]: through the good knowledge of the rational soul, he is heavenly; and through the bad, fragile and full of darkness. And the more he recognizes the good in himself, the more he loves God. For if someone looks in a mirror and finds that his face is very dirty, he will want to wash it clean. So too, if he understands that he has sinned and been caught up in vain pursuits, let him groan and cry out with the Psalmist because his good knowledge makes him aware that he is polluted: “O daughter of Babylon, miserable” [Ps 136.8].

Homo celestis et terrestris est, per bonam quidem scientiam rationalis anime celestis, et per malam fragilis et tenebrosus; et quanto se in bonis cognoscit, tanto amplius Deum diligit. Nam si in speculo uultum suum sordidatum et puluere sparsum aspexerit, mundare et tergere illum studet. Ita etiam, si se peccasse et uarietati uanitatum se implicitum esse intellexerit, gemat, quoniam in bona scientia se pollutum scit, et cum psalmista plangat, dicens: Filia Babylonis misera.

Here is the sense of this verse: human desire was tainted through the poison of the serpent. Thus it is impoverished and wretched, for despite the fact that it tastes the glory of eternal life through its good knowledge, it nevertheless fails to seek that glory from God with true desire— for which reason it has a low reputation in philosophical thought.a But blessed is he who understands that he has his life from God, and blessed is he whose knowledge teaches him that God created and redeemed him. For through this divinely given freedom, he breaks the evil habit of his sins, and poor as he is in celestial riches, he dashes his wretchedness upon the rock that is the foundation of beatitude.

Quod est: Humana concupiscentia per spumam serpentis est confusa. Ipsa etiam pauper et egena est, quoniam in speculativa scientia honorifica opinione caret, eo quod gloriam eterne uite quam per bonam scientiam gustat, a Deo querendo non desiderat. Beatus autem est ille qui tenebit hoc quod a Deo uiuit, et cuius scientia eum docet quod Deus eum creauerit et redemerit, et quod propter liberationem hanc qua Deus ipsum liberauit, omnem malam consuetudinem peccatorum suorum conterit, omnemque miseriam et paupertatem quam in celestibus diuitiis habet, supra petram illam, que firmamentum beatitudinis est, proicit.

For when a person knows that he is filthy and cannot resist tasting sin whatsoever, black birds completely befoul him. But then also the rational soul, which he neither sees nor knows, leads him to put his faith in God by believing. Yet although he knows that this is his nature, and knows too that he will live forever, he still cannot keep himself from sinning over and over again.

Nam cum homo lutulentam putredinem se habere scit et nequaquam a gustu peccatorum se continere ualet, tunc nigerrime aues eum totum sordidant, sed tunc etiam ipse per rationalem animam quam nec uidet nec cognoscit, in Deum credendo confidat. Et licet se sic esse et infinita uita uiuere sciat, se tamen continere non potest quin frequenter peccet.

And so: O how lamentable is the fact that God makes such fragile vessels which cannot refrain from sin, save through the grace of God. And yet how wondrous that these same vessels are sometimes adorned with the stars of His miracles.

Et ideo : O quam mirabilis - et lamentabilis - uox est, quod Deus talia fictilia uasa quan­doque miraculis suis stellata facit, cum tamen ipsa non ualeant peccata deserere, nisi quantum per gratiam Dei ab ipsis pro­hibetur.

For even Peter, who vowed vehemently that he would never deny the Son of God, was himself not safe [cf. Matt 26.33ff; Mark 14.29ff; Luke 22.33ff; John 13.37f]. The same was true of many other saints, who fell in their sins. Yet these were all, afterward, made more useful and more perfect than they would have been if they had not fallen.

Petrus namque securus non fuit, qui Filium Dei se numquam negaturum ardenter promisit ; sic nec multi alii sancti qui in peccatis ceciderunt, qui tamen postmodum utiliores et perfectiores facti sunt quam fuissent, si non cecidissent.

   O faithful servant, I—poor little woman that I am—say these words to you again in a true vision: If God were to raise my body as He does my spirit in this vision, my mind and heart would still not be free from fear, because, although I have been cloistered from childhood, I am fully aware that I am only human. For many wise men have been so miraculously inspired that they revealed many mysteries, and yet they fell, because in their vanity they ascribed all these miracles to their own power. On the other hand, those who have drunk deeply of God’s wisdom in elevation of spirit while still regarding themselves as nothing—these have become the pillars of heaven. Paul was such a one, for although he was a far better preacher than all the other disciples, he still counted himself as nothing [cf. II Cor 12.11; Eph 3.8]. Likewise, the evangelist John was mild and humble, and therefore drank deeply of divine revelations [cf. Apoc 1.1—2],

O serue fidelis, ego paupercula feminea forma in uera uisione hec uerba iterum tibi dico : Si Deo placeret quod corpus meum sicut et animam in hac uisione leuaret, timor tamen ex mente et corde meo non recederet, quia me hominem esse scio, quamuis ab infantia mea inclusa sim. Multi autem sapientes miraculis ita infusi sunt quod plurima secreta aperiebant, sed propter uanam gloriam illa sibimetipsis ascripserunt, et ideo ceciderunt. Sed qui in ascensione anime sapientiam a Deo hauserunt et se pro nihilo computauerunt, hi columne celi facte sunt, sicut et in Paulo contigit, qui ceteros discipulos predicando precessit et tamen se quasi pro nihilo habebat. Iohannes quoque euangelista miti humilitate plenus erat, quapropter de diuinitate multa hauriebat.

   And how could God work through me if I were not aware that I am but a poor little creature? God works His will for the glory of His name, not for the glory of any earthly person. Indeed I always tremble in fear, since I know that I cannot safely rely on my own innate capacity. But I stretch out my hands to God so that He might raise me up like a feather,1 which, having no weight of its own, flies on the wind.

Et unde hoc esset, si ego paupercula me non cognoscerem ? Deus ubi uult ad gloriam nominis sui, et non terreni hominis operatur. Ego quidem semper trementem timorem habeo, quo­niam nullam securitatem ullius possibilitatis in me scio. Sed manus meas ad Deum porrigo, quatenus uelut penna, que omni grauedine uirium caret et per uentum uolat, ab ipso sustinear.

Still, I cannot fully understand those things I see, as long as I am an invisible spirit in a fleshly body, because man was injured in both these faculties.

Nec ea que uideo perfecte scire possum, quamdiu in corporali officio sum et in anima inuisibili, quoniam in his duobus homini defectus est.

 

 

 

 

    I am now more than seventy years old. But even in my infancy, before my bones, muscles, and veins had reached their full strength, I was possessed of this visionary gift in my soul, and it abides with me still up to the present day.

Ab infantia autem mea, ossibus et neruis et uenis meis nondum confortatis, uisionis huius munere in anima mea usque ad presens tempus semper fruor, cum iam plus quam septua­ginta annorum sim. Spiritus uero meus, prout Deus uult

In these visions my spirit rises, as God wills, to the heights of heaven and into the shifting winds, and it ranges among various peoples, even those very far away.

, in hac uisione sursum in altitudinem firmamenti et in uicissitudinem diuersi aeris ascendit, atque inter diuersos populos se dilatat, quamuis in longinquis regionibus et locis a me remoti sint.

    And since I see in such a fashion, my perception of things depends on the shifting of the clouds and other elements of creation.

Et quoniam hec tali modo uideo, idcirco etiam secundum uicissi­tudinem nubium et aliarum creaturarum ea conspicio.

Still, I do not hear these things with bodily ears, nor do I perceive them with the cogitations of my heart or the evidence of my five senses. I see them only in my spirit, with my eyes wide open, and thus I never suffer the defect of ecstasy in these visions. And, fully awake, I continue to see them day and night. Yet my body suffers ceaselessly, and I am racked by such terrible pains that I am brought almost to the point of death. So far, however, God has sustained me.

Ista autem nec corporeis auribus audio nec cogitationibus cordis mei, nec ulla collatione sensuum meorum quinque percipio, sed tantum in anima mea, apertis exterioribus oculis, ita ut num­quam in eis defectum extasis patiar; sed uigilanter die ac nocte illa uideo. Et assidue infirmitatibus constringor, et grauibus doloribus implicata sum, adeo ut mortem inferre minentur. Sed Deus usque adhuc me sustentauit.

    The light that I see is not local and confined. It is far brighter than a lucent cloud through which the sun shines. And I can discern neither its height nor its length nor its breadth. This light I have named “the shadow of the Living Light,”e and just as the sun and moon and stars are reflected in water, so too are writings, words, virtues, and deeds of men5 reflected back to me from it.

Lumen igitur quod uideo, locale non est, sed nube que solem portat multo lucidius, nec altitudinem nec longitudinem nec latitudinem in eo considerare ualeo, illudque umbra uiuentis luminis mihi nominatur, atque ut sol, luna et stelle in aqua apparent, ita scripture, sermones, uirtutes et quedam opera hominum formata in illo mihi resplendent.

Whatever I see or learn in this vision I retain for a long period of time, and store it away in my memory.And my seeing, hearing, and knowing are simultaneous, so that I learn and know at the same instant. But I have no knowledge of anything I do not see there, because I am unlearned. Thus the things I write are those that I see and hear in my vision, with no words of my own added. And these are expressed in unpolished Latin, for that is the way I hear them in my vision, since I am not taught in the vision to write the way philosophers do.

Quicquid autem in hac uisione uidero seu didicero, huius memoriam per longum tempus habeo, ita quod, quoniam illud aliquando uiderim et audierim, recordor. Et simul uideo et audio ac scio, et quasi in momento hoc quod scio disco. Quod autem non uideo, illud nescio, quia indocta sum. Et ea que scribo, ilia in uisione uideo et audio, nec alia uerba pono quam  illa que audio, latinisque uerbis non limatis ea profero quemad­modum ilia in uisione audio, quoniam sicut philosophi scribunt scribere in uisione hac non doceor.

Moreover, the words I see and hear in the vision are not like the words of human speech, but are like a blazing flame and a cloud that moves through clear air. I can by no means grasp the form of this light, any more than I can stare fully into the sun.

Atque uerba que in uisione ista uideo et audio, non sunt sicut uerba que ab ore hominis sonant, sed sicut flamma coruscans et ut nubes in aere puro mota. Huius quoque luminis formam nullo modo cognoscere ualeo, sicut nec spheram solis perfecte intueri possum.

    And sometimes, though not often, I see another light in that light, and this I have called “the Living Light” But I am even less able to explain how I see this light than I am the other one. Suffice it to say that when I do see it, all my sorrow and pain vanish from my memory and I become more like a young girl than an old woman.

Et in eodem lumine aliam lucem, que lux uiuens mihi no­minata est, interdum et non frequenter aspicio, quam nimirum quomodo uideam multo minus quam priorem proferre sufficio, atque interim dum illam intueor, omnis mihi tristitia omnisque dolor de memoria aufertur, ita ut tunc mores simplicis puelle, et non uetule mulieris habeam.

But the constant infirmity I suffer sometimes makes me too weary to communicate the words and visions shown to me, but nevertheless when my spirit sees and tastes them, I am so transformed, as I said before, that I consign all my sorrow and tribulation to oblivion. And my spirit drinks up those things I see and hear in that vision, as from an inexhaustible fountain, which remains ever full.

Sed et pre assidua infirmitate quam patior, aliquando tedium habeo uerba et uisiones que mihi ostenduntur ibi proferre, sed tamen cum anima mea gustando uidet, in alios mores ita conuertor quod, ut supra dixi, omnem dolorem et tribulationem obliuioni trado, et que tunc in eadem uisione uideo et audio, hec anima mea quasi ex fonte haurit, sed ille tamen semper plenus et inexhaustus manet.

    Moreover, that first light I mentioned, the one called “the shadow of the Living Light,” is always present to my spirit And it has the appearance of the vault of heaven in a bright cloud on a starless night7 In this light I see those things I frequently speak of, and from its brightness I hear the responses I give to those who make inquiry of me.

Anima autem mea nulla hora caret prefato lumine quod umbra uiuentis luminis uocatur, et illud uideo uelut in lucida nube firmamentum absque stellis aspiciam, et in ipso uideo que frequenter loquor et que interrogantibus de fulgore uiuentis lucis respondeo.

 

 

 

 

In a vision I also saw that my first book of visions was to be called Scivias,8 for it was brought forth by way of the Living Light and not through any human instruction. I also had a vision about crowns. I saw that all the orders of the church have distinct emblems according to their celestial brightness, but that virginity has no such distinguishing emblem save the black veil and the sign of the cross. And I saw that a white veil to cover a virgin’s head was to be the proper emblem of virginity. For this veil stands for the white garment which man once had, but subsequently lost, in Paradise. Furthermore, upon the virgin’s head is to be set a circlet of three colors joined into one. For this circlet stands for the Holy Trinity. To this circlet four others are to be joined: the front bearing the Lamb of God; the right, a cherubim;9 the left, an angel; and the one behind, man.10 For all of these are pendants to the Trinity. This sign given by God will bless God, for He once clothed the first man in the whiteness of light. All of this is fully described in the Scivias.

In uisione etiam uidi quod primus liber uisionum mearum Sciuias diceretur, quoniam per uiam uiuentis luminis prolatus est, non de alia doctrina. De coronis autem uidi, quod omnes ecclesiastici ordines clara signa secundum celestem claritatem habent, uirginitas uero clarum signum - preter nigrum uelamen et signum crucis - non habet. Vnde et istud signum uirginitatis esse uidi, scilicet ut albo uelamine caput uirginis tegeretur propter candidam uestem quam in paradiso homo habebat et perdiderat, et supra caput ipsius rota tribus coloribus in unum coniunctis, quod sanctam Trinitatem designat, cui quattuor rote adherent quarum una in fronte Agnum Dei habens, in dextera parte cherubim et in sinistra angelum, retro autem hominem, et hec omnia ad Trinitatem pendent. Hoc datum signum Deum benedicet, quia candore claritatis primum hominem uestierat.

And I wrote this Scivias, as well as other volumes, according to a true vision, and I continue my writing up to the present day.

Et hec in libro Sciuias pleniter continentur. In uera itaque uisione librum Sciuias et alios scripsi, et in eodem opere adhuc laboro.

Body and soul, I am totally ignorant, and I count myself as nothing. But I look to the living God and relinquish all these matters to Him, so that He, Who has neither beginning nor end, may preserve me from evil.

In duobus autem modis, scilicet corporis et anime, meipsam nescio et me quasi pro nihilo computo, atque in Deum uiuum intendo et omnia hec illi relinquo, quatenus ipse, qui nec initium nec finem habet, in omnibus istis a malo me conseruet

And so pray for me, you who seek these words of mine, and all of you who long to hear them in faith— pray for me that I may remain God’s servant in true happiness.

. Vnde et tu, qui hec uerba queris, cum omnibus illis qui ipsa fideliter audire desiderant, pro me ora, sic uidelicet ut in seruitute Dei feliciter permaneam.

   O child of God, you who faithfully seek salvation from the Lord, observe the eagle flying toward the clouds on two wings. If one of those wings is wounded, the eagle falls to earth and cannot rise, no matter how hard it tries. So too man flies with the two wings of rationality, that is to say, with the knowledge of good and evil. The right wing is good knowledge, and the left, evil. Evil knowledge serves the good, and good knowledge is kept in check by the evil, and is even made more discerning by it. Indeed the good is made wise in all things through the evil.g

Sed et tu, o fili Dei, qui illum in fide queris et qui ab ipso petis ut te saluet, attende aquilam duabus alis suis ad nubem uolantem, que tamen, si in una leditur, super terram residet nec se leuare potest, cum se libenter ad uolandum eleuaret. Sic etiam homo cum duabus alis rationalitatis, scilicet cum scientia boni et mali, uolat. Dextera ala scientia bona est et sinistra mala scientia est, et mala bone ministrat bonaque per malam acuitur et regitur, atque in cunctis per illam sapiens efficitur.

Now, dear son of God, may the Lord raise the wings of your knowledge to straight paths so that although you come into contact with sin through the senses—since man’s very nature makes it impossible not to sin—you nonetheless never willingly consent to sin. The heavenly choir sings praises to God for the person who acts in this way, because, although made from ashes, he loves God so much that, for His sake, he does not spare himself, but, totally despising the self, preserves himself from sinful works. O noble knight, be so valiant in the battle that you may take your place in the heavenly choir, so that God will say to you: “You are one of the sons of Israel, because in your great desire for heaven you direct the eyes of your mind to the lofty mountain.”

Nunc autem, o care fili Dei, alas scientie tue Deus ad recta itinera eleuet, ita quod etsi aliquando peccatum ex sensu contingas, quoniam sic natus es quod sine peccato esse non possis - numquam tamen illud ex assensu committas. Bene celestis harmonia de homine sic faciente Deo cantat ilium laudans, eo quod cinerosus homo Deum tantum diligat quod, propter eum seipsum ex toto contemnens, sibi non parcat et a peccati opere se coerceat. Hoc modo, o probe miles, in certamine hoc esto, quatenus in celesti harmonia esse possis et ut tibi a Deo dicatur: Tu es ex filiis Israel, quia per oculos mentis et per studium celestis desiderii in montem excelsum aspicis.

As for all those you called my attention to in your letter, may they be guided by the Holy Spirit and inscribed in the Book of Life [cf. Apoc 20.12].

- Sed et omnes qui in litteris tuis mihi transmissis notati sunt, per Spi­ritum Sanctum regantur et in libro uite scribantur.

Moreover, O faithful servant of God, speak specifically to Lord Siger, and warn him not to turn from the right hand to the left [cf Deut 5.32; Prov 4.27]. For if someone resists a vow that he has made, let him put on the breastplate of faith and the helmet of celestial desire [cf. Eph 6.14ff], and fight manfully. Then, he will successfully complete his journey. And let him consider the fact that when the first man obeyed the voice of his wife rather than the voice of God, he perished in his presumption [cf. Gen 3.17], because he consented to her. But if the tribulation appears to exceed their powers, let them remember the Scripture: “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it” [I Cor 10.13]. Thus strengthened by this blessed promise, let him and his wife be of one mind, and let them follow whatever course of action is best, whether suggested by the husband or the wife. And let them not fall prey to that first deception, with the man accusing the woman, and the woman, the man. But let them settle this whole matter according to the will of God. I pray that the fire of the Holy Spirit so enkindle their hearts that they never withdraw from Him.

Tu quoque, fidelis serue Dei, dominum Sigerum compete, et admone ne a dextera in sinistram declinet. Quod si uoto ipsius aliquis resistit, ipse tamen lorica fidei et galea celestis desiderii indutus uiriliter repugnet, et iter suum perficiet. Sed et consi­deret quia, cum primus homo uoci uxoris sue plus quam uoci Dei obediret, presumptione sua periit, quoniam consensit. Si autem modus tribulations istorum tantus est ut uires ipsorum transcendere uideatur, meminerint scriptum: Fidelis Deus qui non patietur uos temptari supra id quod potestis, sed faciet etiam cum temptatione prouentum ut possitis sustinere. Cuius benigne promissionis ipse et uxor eius alacri exspectatione roborati, unanimiter in unum assensum conueniant, et consilium quod utilius est - siue uir siue femina illud dederit - teneatur, atque prouideant ne prima deceptio in ipsis sit, uidelicet ne uir feminam accuset aut econtra femina uirum; sed omnia hec secundum uoluntatem Dei perficiant. Igneus autem Spiritus Sanctus corda eorum ita accendat ne umquam ab ipso recedant.

LETTER 23 TO THE PRELATES of MAINZ  

 

 

 

 

 LETTER 23
TO THE PRELATES of MAINZ
(tr. Baird, pp. 76-79)  date: 1178-1179.

XXIII HILDEGARDIS AD PRAELATOS MOGVNTINENSES.

By a vision, which was implanted in my soul by God the Great Artisan before I was born, I have been compelled to write these things because of the interdict by which our superiors have bound us, on account of a certain dead man buried at our monastery, a man buried without any objection, with his own priest officiating.

In uisione que anime mee, antequam nata procederem, a Deo opifice infixa est, coacta sum ad scribendum ista, pro ligatura qua a magistris nostris alligate sumus propter quendam mortuum, conductu sacerdotis sui apud nos sine calumnia sepultum.

Yet only a few days after his burial, these men ordered us to remove him from our cemetery. Seized by no small terror, as a result, I looked as usual to the True Light, and, with wakeful eyes, I saw in my spirit that if this man were disinterred in accordance with their commands, a terrible and lamentable danger would come upon us like a dark cloud before a threatening thunderstorm.

Quem post paucos sepelitionis sue dies cum idem a magistris nostris nos e cimiterio eicere iussisset, ex hoc non minimo terrore correpta, ad uerum lumen ut soleo aspexi, et uigilantibus oculis in anima mea uidi quod, si iuxta preceptum ipsorum corpus eiusdem mortui efferretur, eiectio illa in modum magne nigredinis ingens periculum loco nostro minaretur et in similitudine atre nubis, que ante tempestates et tonitrua apparere solet, nos circumuallaret.

Therefore, we have not presumed to remove the body of the deceased inasmuch as he had confessed his sins, had received extreme unction and communion, and had been buried without objection. Furthermore, we have not yielded to those who advised or even commanded this course of action. Not, certainly, that we take the counsel of upright men or the orders of our superiors lightly, but we would not have it appear that, out of feminine harshness1 we did injustice to the sacraments of Christ, with which this man had been fortified while he was still alive.

Vnde et corpus eiusdem defuncti, utpote confessi, inuncti et communicati, et sine contradictione sepulti, nec efferre presumpsimus, nec consilio seu precepto istud suadentium uel iubentium acquieuimus, non consilium proborum hominum aut preceptum prelatorum nostrorum omnino paruipendentes, sed ne sacramentis Christi, quibus ille uiuens adhuc munitus fuerat, iniuriam seuitate feminea facere uideremur.

But so that we may not be totally disobedient we have, in accordance with their injunction, ceased from singing the divine praises and from participation in Mass, as had been our regular monthly custom.

Sed ne ex toto inobedientes exsisteremus, a diuinarum laudum canticis hactenus secundum eorum interdictum cessauimus, et a participatione dominici corporis, quam per singulos fere menses ex consuetudine frequentauimus, abstinuimus.

As a result, my sisters and I have been greatly distressed and saddened. Weighed down by this burden, therefore, I heard these words in a vision: ‘‘It is improper for you to obey human words ordering you to abandon the sacraments of the Garment of the Word of God, Who, born virginally of the Virgin Mary, is your salvation. Still, it is incumbent upon you to seek permission to participate in the sacraments from those prelates who laid the obligation of obedience upon you.

Super quo dum magna amaritudine tam ego quam omnes sorores mee affligeremur et ingenti tristitia detineremur, magno tandem pondere compressa, uerba ista in uisione audiui: Propter uerba humana sacramenta indumenti Verbi Dei, quod salus uestra est et quod in uirginea natura ex Maria Virgine natum est, dimittere uobis non expedit, sed inde uobis a prelatis uestris qui uos ligauerunt, licentia querenda est.

For ever since Adam was driven from the bright region of paradise into the exile of this world on account of his disobedience, the conception of all people is justly tainted by that first transgression. Therefore, in accordance with God’s inscrutable plan, it was necessary for a man free from all pollution to be born in human flesh, through whom all who are predestined to life might be cleansed from corruption and might be sanctified by the communion of his body so that he might remain in them and they in him for their fortification.

Ex quo enim Adam de lucida regione paradisi in huius mundi exsilium depulsus est, omnium hominum conceptio merito prime transgressionis corrupta est, et ideo necesse est ut ex impenetrabili consilio Dei ex humana natura homo sine contagio totius lesionis nasceretur, per quem omnes ad uitam predestinati a sordibus cunctis mundarentur et, ut ipse in eis et illi in ipso ad munimentum suum semper manerent, corpore ipsius communicando sanctificarentur.

That person, however, who is disobedient to the commands of God, as Adam was, and is completely forgetful of Him must be completely cut off from participation in the sacrament of His body, just as he himself has turned away from Him in disobedience. And he must remain so until, purged through penitence, he is permitted by the authorities to receive the communion of the Lord’s body again.

Qui autem, sicut Adam, preceptis Dei inobediens exsistit et eum omnino in obliuione habet, hic a corpore eius separari debet quemadmodum per inobedientiam ab eo auersus est, donec per penitentiam purgatus a magistris iterum corpore eiusdem Domini communicare concedatur.

In contrast, however, a person who is aware that he has incurred such a restriction not as a result of anything that he has done, either consciously or deliberately, may be present at the service of the life-giving sacrament, to be cleansed by the Lamb without sin, Who, in obedience to the Father, allowed Himself to be sacrificed on the altar of the cross that he might restore salvation to all.’’

Qui uero in tali ligatura se esse nec conscientia nec uoluntate cognouerit, securus ad perceptionem uiuifici sacramenti accedat, mundandus sanguine Agni immaculati, qui seipsum obediens Patri ad salutem omnibus restituendam in ara crucis immolari permisit.

In that same vision I also heard that I had erred in not going humbly and devoutly to my superiors for permission to participate in the communion, especially since we were not at fault in receiving that dead man into our cemetery. For, after all, he had been fortified by his own priest with proper Christian procedure, and, without objection from anyone, was buried in our cemetery, with all Bingen joining in the funeral procession.

In eadem quoque uisione audiui quoniam in hoc culpabilis essem, quod cum omni humilitate et deuotione ad presentiam magistrorum meorum non uenissem, ut ab eis licentiam communicandi quererem, maxime cum in susceptione illius mortui culpa non teneremur, qui omni christiana rectitudine munitus a sacerdote suo, cum tota Pinguiensi processione sine contradictione cuiusquam apud nos sepultus esset.

And so God has commanded me to report these things to you, our lords and prelates.

Et ita hec uobis dominis et prelatis nostris nuntianda mihi diuinitus imposita sunt.

Further, I saw in my vision also that by obeying you we have been celebrating the divine office incorrectly, for from the time of your restriction up to the present, we have ceased to sing the divine office, merely reading it instead. And I heard a voice coming from the Living Light concerning the various kinds of praises, about which David speaks in the psalm: ‘‘Praise Him with sound of trumpet: praise Him with psaltery and harp,’’ and so forth up to this point: ‘‘Let every spirit praise the Lord’’ [Ps 150.3–5].

Aspexi etiam aliquid super hoc quod, uobis obediendo, hactenus a cantu diuini officii cessantes, illud tantum legentes remisse celebramus, et audiui uocem a uiuente luce procedentem de diuersis generibus laudum de quibus Dauid in psalmo dicit: Laudate eum in sono tube, laudate eum in psalterio et cithara, et cetera usque ad id: Omnis spiritus laudet Dominum.

These words use outward, visible things to teach us about inward things. Thus the material composition and the quality of these instruments instruct us how we ought to give form to the praise of the Creator and turn all the convictions of our inner being to the same.

In quibus uerbis per exteriora de interioribus instruimur, scilicet quomodo, secundum materialem compositionem uel qualitatem instrumentorum, interioris hominis nostri officia ad Creatoris maxime laudes conuertere et informare debeamus.

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.

Quibus cum diligenter intendimus, recolimus qualiter homo uocem uiuentis Spiritus requisiuit, quam Adam per inobedientiam perdidit, qui ante transgressionem, adhuc innocens, non minimam societatem cum angelicarum laudum uocibus habebat, quas ipsi ex spiritali natura sua possident, qui a Spiritu qui Deus est spiritus uocantur.

But Adam lost that angelic voice which he had in paradise, for he fell asleep to that knowledge which he possessed before his sin, just as a person on waking up only dimly remembers what he had seen in his dreams. And so when he was deceived by the trick of the devil and rejected the will of his Creator, he became wrapped up in the darkness of inward ignorance as the just result of his iniquity.

Similitudinem ergo uocis angelice, quam in paradiso habebat, Adam perdidit, et in scientia qua ante peccatum preditus erat, ita obdormiuit, sicut homo a somno euigilans de his, que in somnis uiderat, inscius et incertus redditur, quando suggestione diaboli deceptus et uoluntati Creatoris sui repugnans, tenebris interioris ignorantie ex merito iniquitatis sue inuolutus est.

God, however, restores the souls of the elect to that pristine blessedness by infusing them with the light of truth. And in accordance with His eternal plan, He so devised it that whenever He renews the hearts of many with the pouring out of the prophetic spirit, they might, by means of His interior illumination, regain some of the knowledge which Adam had before he was punished for his sin.

Deus uero, qui animas electorum luce ueritatis perfundens ad pristinam beatitudinem reseruat, ex suo hoc adinuenit consilio, ut quandoque corda quamplurium infusione prophetici Spiritus innouaret, cuius interiore illuminatione aliqua de scientia illa recuperarent, quam Adam ante preuaricationis sue uindictam habuerat.

And so the holy prophets, inspired by the Spirit which they had received, were called for this purpose: not only to compose psalms and canticles (by which the hearts of listeners would be inflamed) but also to construct various kinds of musical instruments to enhance these songs of praise with melodic strains. Thereby, both through the form and quality of the instruments, as well as through the meaning of the words which accompany them, those who hear might be taught, as we said above, about inward things, since they have been admonished and aroused by outward things. In such a way, these holy prophets get beyond the music of this exile and recall to mind that divine melody of praise which Adam, in company with the angels, enjoyed in God before his fall.

Vt autem etiam diuine illius dulcedinis et laudationis, qua cum angelis in Deo, priusquam caderet, idem Adam iucundabatur, et non eius in hoc exsilio recordarentur, et ad hec quoque ipsi prouocarentur, idem sancti prophete, eodem spiritu quem acceperant edocti, non solum psalmos et cantica, que ad accendendam audientium deuotionem cantarentur, sed et instrumenta musice artis diuersa, quibus cum multiplicibus sonis proferrentur, hoc respectu composuerunt, ut tam ex formis uel qualitatibus eorundem instrumentorum quam ex sensu uerborum, que in eis recitantur, audientes, ut predictum est, per exteriora admoniti et exercitati, de interioribus erudirentur.

Men of zeal and wisdom have imitated the holy prophets and have themselves, with human skill, invented several kinds of musical instruments, so that they might be able to sing for the delight of their souls, and they accompanied their singing with instruments played with the flexing of the fingers, recalling, in this way, Adam, who was formed by God’s finger, which is the Holy Spirit. For, before he sinned, his voice had the sweetness of all musical harmony.

Quos, uidelicet sanctos prophetas, studiosi et sapientes imitati, humana et ipsi arte nonnulla organorum genera inuenerunt, ut secundum delectationem anime cantare possent; et que cantabant, in iuncturis digitorum, que flexionibus inclinantur, adaptauerunt, ut et recolentes Adam digito Dei, qui Spiritus Sanctus est, formatum, in cuius uoce sonus omnis harmonie et totius musice artis, antequam delinqueret, suauitas erat.

Indeed, if he had remained in his original state, the weakness of mortal man would not have been able to endure the power and the resonance of his voice.

Et si in statu quo formatus fuit permansisset, infirmitas mortalis hominis uirtutem et sonoritatem uocis illius nullatenus ferre posset.

But when the devil, man’s great deceiver, learned that man had begun to sing through God’s inspiration and, therefore, was being transformed to bring back the sweetness of the songs of heaven, mankind’s homeland, he was so terrified at seeing his clever machinations go to ruin that he was greatly tormented. Therefore, he devotes himself continually to thinking up and working out all kinds of wicked contrivances. Thus he never ceases from confounding confession and the sweet beauty of both divine praise and spiritual hymns, eradicating them through wicked suggestions, impure thoughts, or various distractions from the heart of man and even from the mouth of the Church itself, wherever he can, through dissension, scandal, or unjust oppression.

Cum autem deceptor eius, diabolus, audisset quod homo ex inspiratione Dei cantare cepisset, et per hoc ad recolendam suauitatem canticorum celestis patrie mutaretur, machinamenta calliditatis sue in irritum ire uidens, ita exterritus est, ut non minimum inde torqueretur, et multifariis nequitie sue commentis semper deinceps excogitare et exquirere satagit, ut non solum de corde hominis per malas suggestiones et immundas cogitationes seu diuersas occupationes, sed etiam de ore Ecclesie, ubicumque potest, per dissensiones et scandala uel iniustas depressiones, confessionem et pulchritudinem atque dulcedinem diuine laudis et spiritalium hymnorum perturbare uel auferre non desistit.

Therefore, you and all prelates must exercise the greatest vigilance to clear the air by full and thorough discussion of the justification for such actions before your verdict closes the mouth of any church singing praises to God or suspends it from handling or receiving the divine sacraments.

Quapropter summa uigilantia uobis et omnibus prelatis satagendum est ut, antequam os alicuius ecclesie laudes Deo canentium per sententiam claudatis, uel eam a tractandis uel percipiendis diuinis sacramentis suspendatis, causas pro quibus hoc faciendum sit, diligentissime prius discutiendo uentiletis.

And you must be especially certain that you are drawn to this action out of zeal for God’s justice, rather than out of indignation, unjust emotions, or a desire for revenge, and you must always be on your guard not to be circumvented in your decisions by Satan, who drove man from celestial harmony and the delights of paradise.

Et studendum uobis est, ut ad hoc idem zelo iustitie Dei, non indignatione uel iniusto motu animi, seu desiderio ultionis trahamini, et cauendum semper est, ne in iudiciis uestris circumueniamini a Satana, qui hominem a celesti harmonia et a deliciis paradisi extraxit.

Consider too that just as the body of Jesus Christ was born of the purity of the Virgin Mary through the operation of the Holy Spirit so too the canticle of praise, reflecting celestial harmony, is rooted in the Church through the Holy Spirit.

Pensate itaque quoniam, sicut corpus Iesu Christi de Spiritu Sancto ex integritate Virginis Marie natum est, sic etiam canticum laudum secundum celestem harmoniam per Spiritum Sanctum in Ecclesia radicatum est.

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.

Corpus uero indumentum est anime, que uiuam uocem habet, ideo que decet ut corpus cum anima per uocem Deo laudes decantet.

Whence, in metaphor, the prophetic spirit commands us to praise God with clashing cymbals and cymbals of jubilation [cf. Ps 150.5], as well as other musical instruments which men of wisdom and zeal have invented, because all arts pertaining to things useful and necessary for mankind have been created by the breath that God sent into man’s body. For this reason it is proper that God be praised in all things.

Vnde et propheticus spiritus per significationem iubet ut in cymbalis bene sonantibus et cymbalis iubilationis, et ceteris instrumentis musicis Deus laudetur, que sapientes et studiosi adinuenerunt, quoniam omnes artes que ad utilitatem et necessitatem hominum pertinent, a spiraculo quod Deus misit in corpus hominis reperte sunt; et ideo iustum est ut in omnibus laudetur Deus.

And because sometimes a person sighs and groans at the sound of singing, remembering, as it were, the nature of celestial harmony, the prophet, aware that the soul is symphonic and thoughtfully reflecting on the profound nature of the spirit, urges us in the psalm [cf. Ps 32.2] to confess to the Lord with the harp and to sing a psalm to Him with the ten-stringed psaltery. His meaning is that the harp, which is plucked from below, relates to the discipline of the body; the psaltery, which is plucked from above, pertains to the exertion of the spirit; the ten chords, to the fulfillment of the law.

Et quoniam interdum in auditu alicuius cantionis homo sepe suspirat et gemit, naturam celestis harmonie recolens, propheta, subtiliter profundam spiritus naturam considerans, et sciens quia symphonialis est anima, hortatur in psalmo ut confiteamur Domino in cithara, et in psalterio decem chordarum psallamus ei, citharam, que inferius sonat, ad disciplinam corporis, psalterium, quod de superius sonum reddit, ad intentionem spiritus, decem chordas ad completionem legis referri cupiens.

Therefore, those who, without just cause, impose silence on a church and prohibit the singing of God’s praises and those who have on earth unjustly despoiled God of His honor and glory will lose their place among the chorus of angels, unless they have amended their lives through true penitence and humble restitution.

Qui ergo ecclesie in canticis laudum Dei sine pondere certe rationis silentium imponunt, consortio angelicarum laudum in celo carebunt, qui Deum in terris decore glorie sue iniuste spoliauerint, nisi per ueram penitentiam et humilem satisfactionem emendauerint.

Moreover, let those who hold the keys of heaven beware not to open those things which are to be kept closed nor to close those things which are to be kept open, for harsh judgment will fall upon those who rule, unless, as the apostle says [cf. Rom 12.8], they rule with good judgment.

Propterea qui claues celi tenent, districte caueant, ne eis et claudenda aperiant et aperienda claudant, quia iudicium durissimum in his qui presunt fiet, nisi, ut ait Apostolus, presint in sollicitudine.

And I heard a voice saying thus:

Et audiui uocem sic dicentem: Quis creauit celum? Deus.

Who created heaven? God.

Quis aperit fidelibus suis celum? Deus.

Who opens heaven to the faithful? God.

Quis aperit fidelibus suis celum? Deus.

Who is like Him? No one.

Quis eius similis? Nullus.

And so, O men of faith, let none of you resist Him or oppose Him, lest He fall on you in His might and you have no helper to protect you from His judgment.

Et ideo, o fideles, nemo uestrum ei resistat uel se ei opponat, ne in fortitudine sua super uos cadat, et nullum adiutorem, qui uos in iudicio eius tueatur, possitis habere.

This time is a womanish time, because the dispensation of God’s justice is weak.

Istud tempus tempus muliebre est, quia iustitia Dei debilis est.

But the strength of God’s justice is exerting itself, a female warrior battling against injustice, so that it might fall defeated.

Sed fortitudo iustitie Dei exsudat, et bellatrix contra iniustitiam exsistit, quatenus deuicta cadat.

 

 

 


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