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, October 15, 2012

Doctor Ecclesiae: A Chronogram in Honor of St. Hildegard of Bingen

Portrait of Hildegard of Bingen.
From the Rupertsberg Scivias, fol. 1r.
o hILDegarDIs prophetIssa
DoCtor eCCLesIae:
Vera VIsIo XrIstI
sIt nobIs LVX opVsqVe
In VIa.

(O Hildegardis prophetissa, Doctor Ecclesiae: Vera visio Xristi sit nobis lux opusque in via.)

(O Hildegard, prophetess and Doctor of the Church: May the true vision of Christ be for us light and task upon the way.)

In formulating this chronogram, I wanted to honor both St. Hildegard’s declaration as a Doctor of the Church this year and some features of her theological insight that made her particularly worthy of that honor: her experience of God in vera visione (“in true vision”); the title of her first major work, Scivias (“Know the ways”); and the importance of the “divine work” (opus) as the key theme of her last and greatest work, Liber Divinorum Operum.

It is based on the chronograms of Sr. Walburga Storch, O.S.B., a nun of the Abbey of St. Hildegard in Eibingen, Germany, who composed several to honor important anniversaries of St. Hildegard in the twentieth century.[1]  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, + 3 C’s = 1800, + 3 L’s = 1950, + 2 X’s = 1970, + 6 V’s = 2000, + 12 I’s = 2012.  I had to make the substitution of X (as the Greek letter chi) for “Ch” at the beginning of “Christi”—a common medieval practice.

The impetus for composing this chronogram was for a new friend and reader of this blog, Br. Francis Therese Krautter, who will be ordained to the diaconate in November.  Br. Francis is a devoted student of St. Hildegard and has begun a study of Liber Divinorum Operum over at his blog.

[1] Sr. Walburga composed one for the 800th anniversary of Hildegard’s death in 1979, published as the dedication to Hildegard von Bingen 1179-1979: Festschrift zum 800. Todestag der Heiligen, ed. Anton Philipp Brück (Gesellschaft f. Mittelrhein. Kirchengesch., 1979): “hILDegarDIs prophetIssa / DeCVs eCCLesIae / sIt nobIs LVX / In ItInere.”  She also composed a chronogram for the 900th anniversary of Hildegard’s birth in 1998, which appeared as the dedication to Hildegard von Bingen: Prophetin durch die Zeiten: zum 900. Geburtstag, ed. Edeltraud Forster (Freiburg: Herder, 1997): “paX / hILDegarDIs prophetIssa, / VIas VItae DoCens, / In hoC saeCVLo / nobIs sIt LVX.” 


Br. Francis Therese Krautter said...

Thank you so much for this! It is very special and means a great deal to me!

May God bless you, and may St. Hildegard continue to help us unfold the mystery of God's Divine Works!

Ryan said...

Thank you, Nathan. This is beautiful!