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I am a medievalist and an adjunct college instructor in the humanities at Union College. My research includes medieval theologies of history, text/image relationships in visionary and mystical texts, and the writings of the twelfth-century Doctor of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen. I am also a translator of medieval Latin and German texts, especially as relate to my research. I completed a Master's in Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2010, a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany in 2008, and a B.A. in Classics and German at Boston College in 2007.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

O prophetissa teutonica: A Chronogram in Honor of St. Hildegard of Bingen

Portrait of St. Hildegard.
Rupertsberg Scivias, fol. 1r
o prophetIssa teVtonICa
et DoCtrIX beata eCCLesIae,
VIsIones tVae nobIs
VIrtVtes VIrIDItatIs
In VIa Vera ostenDant.

(O prophetissa teutonica et Doctrix beata Ecclesiae, visiones tuae nobis virtutes viriditatis in via vera ostendant.)

(O German prophetess and blessed Teacher of the Church, may your visions reveal to us the virtues of viridity upon the true way.)

In honor of today’s Feast of St. Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church (d. September 17, 1179), I have composed this chronogram and prayer. It reflects the ways in which her visions teach us according to the title imperative of her first major work, Scivias (“Know the Ways”), to be guided by and enact the virtutes—not just “virtues,” but for Hildegard emanations and instantiations of divine power in the world, by which we synthetically cooperate in the act of creating, recreating, sustaining, and perfecting the divine order. Moreover, the hallmark of that divine interaction with the world is Hildegard’s concept of viriditas—the green, verdant fecundity of fresh, vibrant life that exudes from the earth as the vivifying wings of the Holy Spirit sweep across the arc of creation (cf. her antiphon, O virtus Sapientie [at ISHBS], and her sequence, O ignis Spiritus Paracliti).

The chronogram is an epigrammatic prayer (in this case) where, if you take all of the letters that are also Roman numerals (I, V[U], X, L, C, D, and M, which are capitalized in the prayer above) and add their values together, the result is the year you are trying to commemorate. In this case, 3 D’s = 1500, + 4 C’s = 1900, + 1 L = 1950, + 1 X = 1960, + 8 V’s = 2000, + 14 I’s = 2014. I was inspired to write chronograms to honor Hildegard by those composed by Sr. Walburga Storch, O.S.B., a nun of the Abbey of St. Hildegard in Eibingen, Germany, which appeared in Festschriften for the Sibyl of the Rhine in 1979 and 1998.

Here is a list of the previous chronograms I have composed for St. Hildegard:

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