Hildegard’s life

Daily Reading for September 17 • Hildegard of Bingen, 1179

At Rupertsberg Convent you can observe all the virtues marvelously competing to outdo one another. The mother [Hildegard] receives her daughters with such great love, and the daughters submit to their mother with such immense respect, that it is scarcely possible to decide whether the mother exceeds the daughters, or the daughters the mother in enthusiasm. These holy servants care for one another and in this way honour and respect one another, so that with Christ’s help, though they are members of the weaker sex, they make glad display of their triumph over themselves, the world and the devil. On feast days they sit becomingly in their seclusion, and consecrate themselves zealously to reading and to learning the skills of holy singing. And they heed the words of the Apostle: “If you do not labour you shall not eat.” . . .

On working days they are busy in their respective workshops or writing books, making liturgical vestments, and carrying out other handiwork. Their assiduous reading affords them divine illumination and the grace of contrition, whereas the accomplishment of their outward labours wards off indolence, the enemy of the soul, and suppresses talkativeness, an inclination that in idle and frivolous company only too easily forces far too many words from human mouths. . . .

The mother and leader of this great company devotes herself to them all in the spirit of love. With the vast weight of her modesty she overwhelms the threat of arrogance that generally springs from outward renown. In this way, through sheer love and devotion she has become the servant of all. She is always responsive to whatever demands the moment makes upon her, to everyday needs and requirements. She gives advice, solves difficult problems, writes books, instructs her sisters, and encourages sinners in their struggles when they approach her with their worries. However age and sickness afflict her, she remains strong in the exercise of all the virtues and has made many apostolic recommendations her very own watchwords; for example: “I have become all for all in order to win all”; or: “I may be inexperienced in speaking but not in knowledge.”

From a letter from Guibert of Gembloux to his friend Bodo (1177), quoted in The World of Hildegard of Bingen: Her Life, Times and Visionsby Heinrich Schipperges, translated by John Cumming (Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1998).

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