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The Theologian Hildegard

The Theologian Hildegard of Bingen is the most significant female theologian and writer of Christendom before the 16th century. She is on the same level with major theological thinkers of her age. In her extensive and diverse writings Hildegard is mainly concerned with the authentic interpretation of the Scriptures. It is her utmost concern to direct humans onto the way of salvation. The relationship between God, man and the world is at the centre of her theological concept. Man as God’s creature within creation and with responsibility for it is at the very heart of her thinking and her visions. Every single person is at all times called upon to be sensitive to their responsibility before God in their lives, in their thoughts and actions. As a theologian, I am fascinated by the individuality with which Hildegard interprets the Bible. I am particularly impressed by her reading of Genesis 2: in contrast to her contemporaries, for Hildegard, the secondary creation of Eve is not a shortcoming, but an advantage for woman – because Eve, unlike Adam, for whom God needed two steps (clay and breath), is fully human from the beginning. I gladly draw inspiration from Hildegard’s creative dialogue with the Bible! As a woman with management concerns in the Catholic Church, I am fascinated by Hildegard: She realistically assessed her opportunities and limitations in a male dominated church. Hildegard was no revolutionary, but a superb strategist, tactician and politician. She knew and accepted the conventions and rules – but at the same time did not let herself be diverted. Hildegard Gosebrink Theologian and Hildegard Biographer The Father, Son and Holy Spirit cannot be separate one from the other, but are at work in unison with one accord. These three persons of the true Trinity live inseparably in the majesty of the Godhead (…) Therefore, oh man, know the One God in three persons. But in the folly of your mind, you think that God was so powerless that He would not be able to truly live in three persons, but in weariness to only exist in one. (…) But the Father is not without the Son, nor the Son without the Father, nor are the Father and the Son without the Holy Spirit, nor the Holy Spirit without them both, since these three persons are inseparable in the unity of the Godhead. Hildegard, Liber Scivias In the midst of the structure of the world there is man, because he is more powerful than the other creatures that live in it; admittedly, he is of slight stature, but he is great due to the strength of his soul. His head he turns upwards, his feet downwards and thus moves the upper and lower elements. Similarly he penetrates them with the work he does with his right and his left hand, because with the power of his inner person he has the strength to do this. Just as the size of man’s body exceeds the size of his heart, so the powers of the soul with their strength surpass man’s body. And just as man’s heart is hidden within his body, so his body is enveloped by the powers of the soul, because they span the whole earth. Hildegard, Liber Divinorum Operum

The Sage Man and his life are the focus of Hildegard’s thought and action. Out of pure love God created man in his image, a free being. Man’s response to this love consists of becoming ever better adjusted to the wise and moderate order of the cosmos in all of his actions and relationships. For Hildegard, life can only succeed if we responsibly structure the world out of reverence for God and respect for ourselves, each other and creation. But when God looked at man, he was well pleased, because he had created him after His own image and similitude so that he would proclaim all the wonderful works of God audibly with his sensible voice. That is to say, man is God’s most perfect work, because through him God is known and because God made all creatures for his sake. To him He granted with the kiss of true love that by his faculty of reason he glorifies and praises Him. Hildegard, Liber Divinorum Operum Hildegard is a larger-than-life personality, who impresses and encourages me. Although a visionary, she went her own way, keeping her feet firmly on the ground. Hildegard of Bingen’s example shows how strength of character, directness and openness to the new inspire faith in God and service to people. Her work is a source of inspiration of timeless vitality. Just as I, wisdom, ordered everything, when I walked around the circle of the heavens, so have I spoken through Solomon about the love of the creator for his creation and the creation for its creator: how the creator adorned creation when he created it because he loved it so much; and how creation received the creator’s kiss when it obeyed him, because it was obedient in everything. Creation had already received the creator’s kiss, in that God gave creation everything it needed. But I compare the love of the creator for creation and of creation for the creator with the love and faithfulness by which God joins man and woman so that offspring emanate from them just as all creation emanates from God. Hildegard, Liber Vitae Meritorum Malu Dreyer Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate

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