September 17, 2008

Hildegard of Bingen

Today is the Feast day of St Hildegard of Bingen. I know her story. And like other stories I share, like in August of St Lawrence, from the church calendar, they are stories to remember/retell each year. The protestant movement threw the church calendar out with the bath water, yet it's all a part of church history. People used to wake up and say, "Oh this is so-and-so's day" and remember their story--a God-consciousness. I consider it all a part of the Third Testament, of God-in-our-midst stories. A good reminder that if God was there for them, He'll be here for me.

I googled Hildegard, and knew what I'd find. I wanted to hear a representation of the music she wrote and found some (similar to Gregorian Chant). Most sites tell her story. She's a person of the 1100's, who died September 17 (thus her birthdate into heaven, which is the way the calendar is set up) at the age of about 83. At the age of 8 she began living in a convent. Her education was for what she needed for her daily rounds of prayer, so she did learn to read and write. She had migraines and she had visions. And in her middle age she started writing to kings and popes, and traveled preaching, and people visited her.

Some have passed off her visions to a neurophysiological basis. But not every migraine sufferer can claim Hildegard's achievements. She wrote many hymns, many letters, and many books--some of which are on natural history and science. Once she told about her visions, people, including church leaders, thought they could be from God and encouraged them to be written down.

There's a few sites I knew I would find that are feministic in nature. If I could read German ... I don't know her actual usage of pronouns, but some have translated her writings referring to God as 'she'. The book I have, translates God as 'he'. But, we are all created in the image of God, both male and female, which means 'whatever' God is, we all are representations of that image. So differing pronoun usage doesn't bother me.

BUT...her story, along with some other female saints', remind me of a small book by Virginia Woolf called A Room of One's Own. She was asked to come speak at a male college (male and female were divided in her day). She would be reprimanded throughout the day about things she couldn't do--no sitting on the grass, no leaving the sidewalk, no entrance into the library or classrooms. She had to be met at the door by a man who had invited her. But the message of her book was the fact that women didn't write books. She talked of Jane Austin hiding her writing under papers when servants or guests entered the family room. Women were only to write letters. So if women could have had five pounds of money a year and a room of their own, there might have been more women writings.

So when you start learning the stories of many of the women in the church calendar, you see that the church gave more women a voice than was normal.

A 15th century painting. Hildegard is the young kneeling child.

For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.
-Virginia Woolf

Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But in fact they are perpetually passing into one another. Fluid hardens to solid, solid rushes to fluid. There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman.
-Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) Woman in the Nineteenth Century, 1845

I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual.
-Virginia Woolf, Diary, 17 February 1922
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