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Peacemakers Series – Hildegard of Bingen

Koinonia Farm’s vision statement is “love through service to others, joy through generous hospitality, peace through reconciliation.” All of our guest rooms are named after people who have come before us and embodied these ideas. These peacemakers are from all over the world and from all different periods of history. This “great cloud of witnesses” and their stories encourage us to keep pursuing love, joy, and peace in our life and work.

Hildegard of Bingen color icon

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a gifted woman and one of only four women declared to be a Doctor of the Universal Church. She received visions from God and wrote them down as well as writing extensively about science, nature, and medicine, and composing music. Hildegard was born the 10th child of a noble family and was therefore given to the church at age 8 as a tithe. She began to have visions as early as age 3, but she kept silent about them for much of her life. Once given to the church, she studied under Jutta von Sponheim, an anchoress who lived an isolated life devoted to God. At the age of 18, Hildegard became a nun. When Jutta died in 1136, Hildegard took her place as the religious teacher.

All living creatures are sparks from the radiation of God’s brilliance, and these sparks emerge from God like the rays of the sun. If God did not give off these sparks, how would the divine flame become fully visible?

In 1141, Hildegard heard God tell her to talk about her visions and to record them. Shortly after this vision, Pope Eugenius III sanctioned her visions as from the Holy Spirit. During the rest of her life, she wrote down her visions from God. She wrote three major works of theology based on her visions: Scivias (Know the Ways), Liber Vitae Meritorum (Book of Life’s Merits), and Liber Divinorum Operum (Book of Divine Works). In 1150, she moved from Disibodenburg to Bingen and founded the Rupurtesburg convent there. She also founded another convent, Eibingen, in 1163. Hildegard traveled through Europe teaching about her visions and what the Holy Spirit had shown her. She was able to do this because the Church had declared her visions from God.

The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. This Word manifests itself in every creature.

Hildegard also wrote many works of science, nature, and medicine. She wrote about the concept of viriditas or green-ness. She used this term in much of her writing to talk about spiritual health and the intersection of the divine and the natural world. Hildegard composed many pieces of music to be used in her convent. She wrote at least 69 pieces of music, including Ordo Virtutum (Play of the Virtues), a morality play. Her body of work places her among the most prolific medieval composers.

Listen: there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around Him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honor. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground, and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I, a feather on the breath of God.

Hildegard of Bingen was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in May 2012. She was declared a Doctor of the University Church in October 2012. She is one of four women to hold this title, which is given to those who have had a significant affect on the church and its theology.

Illustration from Scivias

Illumination accompanying the third vision of Part I of Scivias

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