St. Hildegard of Bingen: Doctor of the Church by Carmen Acevedo Burcher
In this the life of St. Hildegard, Carmen helps us get into the songs, theology, and letters of this amazing woman. Finally, we get a chronology of her life at the end of the book with an excellent appendix on further revised spiritual reader on St. Hildegard of Bingen, Carmen Burcher (Professor of Medieval Studies) examines the life of this poet, mystic, artist, preacher, and composer. After a 21 page chapter on reading for those interested in future study. Overall, I think the book was very well organized and brought out the immense creativity of St. Hildegard while displaying the cultural situation in which she lived.
Carmen brings out the real emotion of St. Hildegard that she constantly battled with. Writing about the Scivias, Hildegard’s visionary work, Carmen writes, “But Hildegard did not begin immediately. She hesitated, doubting her ability to serve as God’s prophet. Medieval society judged women unworthy to write. Writing was manly….Finally she began a ten-year writing effort that would bring her much contemporary recognition.” (10) Eventually, Pope Eugenius would laud praise upon the work of Hildegard. She met with much opposition in founding her first abbey, but this didn’t stop Hildegard from advancing her desire to serve. She wrote music and even a work on herbal medicine. Although she was met with opposition at every point, Hildegard was tenacious about leaving her mark in service to God.
The visions in her Scivias range from apocalyptic visions to denouncements upon the weakness of the church. We even find an early apology for the changing of the elements in the Eucharist. “When the priest humbly speaks the genuine words of salvation over the Eucharist, its elements are metamorphosed into the body and blood of our Savior….In the Eucharistic offering, the bread and wine undergo a transformation – into My Son’s body and blood,” writes Hildegard (63). Much like a butterfly climbs out of a cocoon, the transformation of the elements occurs through metamorphosis. It is interesting to see how Hildegard understands the Eucharist by taking what is in nature and applying it to the sacred. There is virtually no area of study in which Hildegard didn’t want to leave footprint. She was a whirl of energy in the body of follower.
This was a fascinating book indeed, one that makes you wonder how such a woman could be so creative in a world with so much opposition strewn her way.
Thanks to Paraclete Press for the copy of this book in exchange for review.