Week Two: Hope for the Church
Yesterday (Sept. 17) was the Feast Day of Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), the Benedictine nun, abbess, and writer. All this month, we’re looking at a selection of her written works — Hildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader (collected and translated by Carmen Acevedo Butcher).
In her theological text, the Scivias, Hildegard records a series of visions she received. I find her apocalyptic visions especially striking. They seem incredibly relevant for our time, when many people voice concerns about the future of Christianity and the Church. Listen to Hildegard’s diagnosis:
Today, the Catholic faith dithers, on a global scale. The Gospel limps its way around the world. The early Church Fathers (who wrote so well) are ignored. People are apathetic. They refuse to read and taste the nourishment in the Scriptures . . .
Does this diagnosis sound familiar? If so, take hope! Despite the dire state of affairs of the Church, its future is assured. In Hildegard’s vision, the voice of heaven says:
Everything on earth is hurrying to its end. The world’s troubles and its many disasters tell you this. But my Son’s bride, the Church, will never ever be destroyed, no matter how many times she’s assaulted. At the end of time she’ll be stronger, more beautiful, more magnificent than ever before. She’ll enjoy the sweet embraces of her Beloved. That’s what the vision you just saw means.
Hildegard ends this vision in her own words:
Then I looked to the East and saw the One-who-shines-so-bright-that-I-can-never-see-Him-clearly, but I was able to see that up close to His breast, He was holding something that looked like a dirty lump, the size of a human heart, decorated around the edge with gems and pearls. This is our gentle Father hugging humanity to Himself. That’s why no one can reject anyone—because the Son of the Father is God incarnate who Himself accepted the human form.