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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.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

O vox nunc in caelo: A Chronogram for the Feast of St. Hildegard of Bingen

St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
Detail from painting by Cynthia Lange
o VoX nVnC In CaeLo
CantICa sonans sVperna,
sVper qVae anIMae nostrae
VeLVt pennae VoLant:
ora In obtVtV tVo pro nobIs,
Vt VIrtVs ChrIstI
qVasI CantICI noVI
In VIrga fLorentIs
nos VIrentes roboret.

O voice that echoes now
celestial songs in heaven,
on which our souls
as feathers fly,
in your beholding pray for us,
that the power of Christ
as of the New Song
that blooms upon the branch
might strengthen us as we flourish.

(O vox nunc in caelo cantica sonans superna, super quae animae nostrae velut pennae volant: ora in obtutu tuo pro nobis, ut virtus Christi quasi cantici novi in virga florentis nos virentes roboret.)

For today’s Feast of St. Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church (d. September 17, 1179), I have composed this chronogram and prayer. In it, I reflect upon the power of her music to lift up the soul like “a feather on the breath of God” (one of her famous descriptions of her own delicate yet divine mission). Music holds a peculiar redeeming power for Hildegard because it reflects the eternal harmony of the resounding Word that entered into the world as the New Song of Psalm 96(95 in the Vulgate). Drawing on the Symphonic Doctor’s synaesthetic descriptions of that harmony’s illuminating irruption through the Virgin’s fertile womb—imagined as Aaron’s flowering rod (Numbers 17:8) and Jesse’s budding branch (Isaiah 11:1)—this prayer bids the power of that Song to strengthen us as we, too, are called by it to bloom and flourish in virtue.

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, 1 M = 1000, + 7 C’s = 1700, + 4 L’s = 1900, + 1 X = 1920, + 18 V’s = 2000, + 16 I’s = 2016. 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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