About Me

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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. My translation of Hildegard's Book of Divine Works is available from Catholic University of America Press here. 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.

Monday, September 17, 2018

O vas speculativum: A Chronogram for the Feast of St. Hildegard

St. Hildegard of Bingen recording her visions
in the Liber Divinorum Operum (I.1),
from Lucca, MS 1942, fol. 1.
o Vas speCVLatIVVM
praesta nobIs opVs DeI
In VerbIs et sIgnIs tVIs raCIonaLIbVs.

O mirroring vessel
of the Living Light:
set before us the Work of God
with your reasoned words and signs.

(O vas speculativum lucis viventis: praesta nobis opus Dei in verbis et signis tuis racionalibus.)

For today’s Feast of St. Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church, I have composed this chronogram and prayer. The opening calls upon Hildegard to reflect to us the Living Light of God that shone upon and spoke to her in her lifetime, and upon which she gazes now eternally. Its image also recalls her description of Eve in her third great visionary work, the Liber divinorum operum (Book of Divine Works), 1.4.100: “the mirroring form of woman (speculativa forma mulieris), [in whom] lay hid the entire human race, to be brought forth with the force of God’s might” (p. 238).

And what do we want to see in that mirrored light? The Work of God, which for Hildegard was preeminently humankind itself. We are God’s work, made in his image and likeness—the garment of his Incarnate Son, on the one hand; and the Word’s creative rationality, on the other. Thus, the hallmark not of only Hildegard’s work but of God’s and of ours, is that is rational. As I explain in the “Introduction” to my forthcoming translation of The Book of Divine Works (p. 8):

The human likeness to God is the rationality that spurs his creative activity (1.1.2), the reason wherefore he enacts creation by his Word. It is therefore also the foundation and impulse for human activity, for God “established humankind to be able to think, to compose first all their works in their hearts before doing them, because they are the enclosure of God’s wonders” (3.4.14); and “only with full rationality in the Word does the soul discern creation’s powers” (1.4.103).

Finally, it is with great joy that I can announce that that translation will be available next month (October 26) from the Catholic University of America Press—and today’s chronogram appears also as the dedication to that volume. It can be ordered from their supplier here; through Amazon here; or through Cokesbury here.

About the Chronogram

The chronogram is an epigrammatic form 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 commemorating. In this case, 1 M = 1000, + 1 D = 1500, + 3 C’s = 1800, + 3 L’s = 1950, + 11 V’s = 2005, + 13 I’s = 2018. 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 are links to previous chronograms I have composed for St. Hildegard:

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