Hildegard Von Bingen: The Lessons of a Visionary Prioress


She was born nearly a millennia ago, amongst the wooded forests sloping toward the Rhine River. She seems to have been somewhat of a handful as a child–adventurous, curious and suffering from a variety of illnesses. Her parents placed her in the care of Jutta von Sponheim, somewhat of an anomaly in her own right. Blessed Jutta, as she was called, dissatisfied by some of the attitudes and teachings of her monastic contemporaries, founded a convent at Disibodenberg. When Jutta passed on to higher glory, Hildegard was her natural successor. Hildegard reigned as abbess for 10 years before she received a prophetic vision. Her vision directed her to establish a religious community on the site where St. Rupert had lived. In 1150 she and 18 nuns settled at this new abbey.

Hildegard had devoted her life to being a helpmeet and advisor. She was caught unawares when the extraordinary visions that had been with her throughout her life suddenly intensified. She was compelled to begin transcribing them. In the Scivias she writes. “Explain these things (seen and heard high in the heavenly places in the wonders of God) in such a way that the hearer, receiving the words of his instructor, may expound them in those words, according to that will, vision and instruction.” These visions emphasized her spiritual intimacy with her God as well as her fervent belief in the empowerment of humanity as a whole. She believed in individual attainment of harmony with nature. She espoused the tenet that nature’s bounty and diversity was a reflection of the divine and that our senses should be used to absorb this presence. Her works did not focus upon the original sin as much as those of her contemporaries, and seem to propose that strength of will is the most essential determinant for salvation. Her writings gained her both attention and notoriety, but were given the papal seal of approval.

All of the accolades did not give her a swollen head. When Frederick Barbarossa and Henry II sought her advice, she gave it to them. Her unerring commitment to the truth, in all its brutal self exploration, was a welcome change from simpering, scheming nobility intent upon gaining their own ends. Her end was simply closer communion with the ethereal world embodied in her surroundings.

Hildegard attempted to express her awe and appreciation of nature’s miracles through her music. Such riveting compositions as “Feather on the Breath of God” touch the heart with their sincerity and complexity. It is no wonder that she has been seized upon as an icon for the women’s movement, the deconstruction of history, and the restructuring of the church.

You may ask, “What can this old dame teach me?” The answer is, “A lot!”

– Seize the day and make it your own. No one cares what side of the bed you think you woke up on. Drink your cappuccino and move forward.
– Pay attention to detail! It is crucial to reliving the beauty of the moment at a later date.
– Cultivate your spiritual nature by communing with “Mother Nature.” Even if it’s just a walk in the park and a handful of breadcrumbs.
– Simplicity is best. Don’t complicate matters by jumping to conclusions or planning for a retirement two decades away.