OREMUS: 17 September 2005

Steve Benner steve.benner at oremus.org
Fri Sep 16 20:26:18 GMT 2005

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OREMUS for Saturday, September 17, 2005 
Hildegard, Abbess of Bingen, Visionary, 1179

O Lord, open our lips.
And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Blessed are you, Shepherding God,
undaunted you seek the lost,
exultant you bring home the found.
You touch our hearts with grateful wonder
at the tenderness of your forbearing love,
revealed in your Son, Jesus Christ. 
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
Blessed be God for ever.

An opening canticle may be sung. 


Psalm 119:65-88

O Lord, you have dealt graciously with your servant,*
 according to your word.
Teach me discernment and knowledge,*
 for I have believed in your commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray,*
 but now I keep your word.
You are good and you bring forth good;*
 instruct me in your statutes.
The proud have smeared me with lies,*
 but I will keep your commandments
   with my whole heart.
Their heart is gross and fat,*
 but my delight is in your law.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted,*
 that I might learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is dearer to me*
 than thousands in gold and silver.

Your hands have made me and fashioned me;*
 give me understanding,
   that I may learn your commandments.
Those who fear you will be glad when they see me,*
 because I trust in your word.

I know, O Lord, that your judgements are right*
 and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
Let your loving-kindness be my comfort*
 as you have promised to your servant.
Let your compassion come to me, that I may live,*
 for your law is my delight.
Let the arrogant be put to shame,
   for they wrong me with lies;*
 but I will meditate on your commandments.
Let those who fear you turn to me,*
 and also those who know your decrees.
Let my heart be sound in your statutes,*
 that I may not be put to shame.

My soul has longed for your salvation;*
 I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes have failed from watching for your promise,*
 and I say, 'When will you comfort me?'
I have become like a leather flask in the smoke,*
 but I have not forgotten your statutes.
How much longer must I wait?*
 when will you give judgement
   against those who persecute me?
The proud have dug pits for me;*
 they do not keep your law.
All your commandments are true;*
 help me, for they persecute me with lies.
They had almost made an end of me on earth,*
 but I have not forsaken your commandments.
In your loving-kindness, revive me,*
 that I may keep the decrees of your mouth.

A Song of Pilgrimage (from Ecclesiasticus 51)

While I was still young,
I sought Wisdom openly in my prayer.

Before the temple I asked for her,
and I will search for her until the end.

>From the first blossom to the ripening grape,
my heart delighted in her.

My foot walked on the straight path,
from my youth I followed her steps.

I inclined my ear a little and received her,
I found for myself much instruction.

I made progress in Wisdom;
to the One who sent her,
I will give glory.

I directed my soul to Wisdom,
and in purity have I found her.

With her, I gained understanding from the first,
therefore will I never be forsaken.

My heart was stirred to seek her,
with my tongue will I sing God's praise.

Psalm 149

   Sing to the Lord a new song;*
 sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.
Let Israel rejoice in his maker;*
 let the children of Zion be joyful in their king.
Let them praise his name in the dance;*
 let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes pleasure in his people*
 and adorns the poor with victory.
Let the faithful rejoice in triumph;*
 let them be joyful on their beds.
Let the praises of God be in their throat*
 and a two-edged sword in their hand;
To wreak vengeance on the nations*
 and punishment on the peoples;
To bind their kings in chains*
 and their nobles with links of iron;
To inflict on them the judgement decreed;*
 this is glory for all his faithful people.

READING [Acts 26:1,9-25]:

Agrippa said to Paul, 'You have permission to speak for
yourself.' Then Paul stretched out his hand and began to
defend himself:
'Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many
things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is
what I did in Jerusalem; with authority received from the
chief priests, I not only locked up many of the saints in
prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they
were being condemned to death. By punishing them often in
all the synagogues I tried to force them to blaspheme;
and since I was so furiously enraged at them, I pursued
them even to foreign cities.
'With this in mind, I was travelling to Damascus with the
authority and commission of the chief priests, when at
midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light
from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and
my companions. When we had all fallen to the ground, I
heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, "Saul,
Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick
against the goads." I asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The
Lord answered, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But
get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you
for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to
the things in which you have seen me and to those in
which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your
people and from the Gentiles to whom I am sending you to
open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to
light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they
may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those
who are sanctified by faith in me."
'After that, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the
heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus,
then in Jerusalem and throughout the countryside of
Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent
and turn to God and do deeds consistent with repentance.
For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and
tried to kill me. To this day I have had help from God,
and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great,
saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would
take place: that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by
being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim
light both to our people and to the Gentiles.'
While he was making this defence, Festus exclaimed, 'You
are out of your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving
you insane!' But Paul said, 'I am not out of my mind,
most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. 

For another Biblical reading,
Ezekiel 33:23,30-34:10

Words: Frederick William Faber, 1862;
Tune: Beecher
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There's a wideness in God's mercy
like the wideness of the sea;
there's a kindness in his justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is welcome for the sinner,
and more graces for the good;
there is mercy with the Savior;
there is healing in his blood.

There is no place where earth's sorrows
are more felt than in heaven;
there is no place where earth's failings
have such kind judgment given.
There is plentiful redemption
in the blood that has been shed;
there is joy for all the members
in the sorrows of the Head.

For the love of God is broader
than the measure of man's mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we should take him at his word;
and our life would be thanksgiving
for the goodness of the Lord.

The Benedictus (Morning), the 
Magnificat (Evening), or 
Nunc dimittis (Night) may follow.

God of glory, we praise you for your presence in our
lives, and for all goodness that you shower upon your
children in Jesus Christ. Especially we thank you for
     promises kept and hope for tomorrow...
                         (We thank you, Lord.)
     the enjoyment of friends...
     the wonders of your creation...
     love from our parents, our sisters and brothers,
     our spouses, lovers, and children...
     pleasures of living...

God of grace, we are one with all your children, for we
are sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ, and we offer
our prayers for all whom we love. Especially we pray for
     those we too often forget...
                (Lord, hear our prayer.)
     people who have lost hope...
     victims of tragedy and disaster...
     those who suffer mental anguish...
     ecumenical councils and church agencies...
     the Diocese of Sheffield, England, The Rt Revd John Nicholls, Bishop...

Your kingdom come, O Lord,
with deliverance for the needy,
with peace for the righteous,
with overflowing blessing for all nations,
with glory, honour and praise
   for the only Saviour,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Most glorious and holy God,
whose servant Hildegard, strong in the faith,
was caught up in the vision of your heavenly courts:
by the breath of your Spirit
open our eyes to glimpse your glory
and our lips to sing your praises with all the angels;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Gathering our prayers and praises into one,
let us pray as our Savior has taught us.

- The Lord's Prayer

Grant us delight in the mercy that has found us
and bring all to rejoice at the feast of forgiveness. Amen.

The psalms, first collect and the invitation to the Lord's Prayer are from
_Celebrating Common Prayer_ (Mowbray), (c) The Society of
Saint Francis 1992, which is used with permission.

The canticle is from _Common Worship: Daily Prayer, Preliminary
Edition_, copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council, 2002.

The biblical passage is from The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized
Edition), copyright (c) 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education
of  the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by
permission. All rights reserved.

The opening prayer of thanksgiving and the closing prayer use phrases from a
prayer in _Opening Prayers: Collects in Contemporary Language_.
Canterbury Press, Norwich, 1999.

The intercession is from _Book of Common Worship_, (c)
1993 Westminster / John Knox Press. 

The second collect is from _Common Worship: Services and Prayers for
the Church of England_, material from which is included in this service is
copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council, 2000.

"Listen: there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around him stood great
and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners
of the king with great honor. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather
from the ground, and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of
anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I, a feather on the
breath of God."
Hildegard of Bingen has been called by her admirers "one of the most
important figures in the history of the Middle Ages," and "the greatest woman
of her time." Her time was the 1100's (she was born in 1098), the century of
Eleanor of Aquitaine, of Peter Abelard and Bernard of Clairvaux, of the rise of
the great universities and the building of Chartres cathedral. She was the
daughter of a knight, and when she was eight years old she went to the
Benedictine monastery at Mount St Disibode to be educated. The monastery
was in the Celtic tradition, and housed both men and women (in separate
quarters). When Hildegard was eighteen, she became a nun. Twenty years
later, she was made the head of the female community at the monastery. Within
the next four years, she had a series of visions, and devoted the ten years from
1140 to 1150 to writing them down, describing them (this included drawing
pictures of what she had seen), and commenting on their interpretation and
significance. During this period, Pope Eugenius III sent a commission to
inquire into her work. The commission found her teaching orthodox and her
insights authentic, and reported so to the Pope, who sent her a letter of
approval. (He was probably encouraged to do so by his friend and former
teacher, Bernard of Clairvaux.) She wrote back urging the Pope to work
harder for reform of the Church.
The community of nuns at Mount St. Disibode was growing rapidly, and they
did not have adequate room. Hildegard accordingly moved her nuns to a
location near Bingen, and founded a monastery for them completely
independent of the double monastery they had left. She oversaw its
construction, which included such features (not routine in her day) as water
pumped in through pipes. The abbot they had left opposed their departure, and
the resulting tensions took a long time to heal.
Hildegard travelled throughout southern Germany and into Switzerland and as
far as Paris, preaching. Her sermons deeply moved the hearers, and she was
asked to provide written copies. In the last year of her life, she was briefly in
trouble because she provided Christian burial for a young man who had been
excommunicated. Her defense was that he had repented on his deathbed, and
received the sacraments. Her convent was subjected to an interdict, but she
protested eloquently, and the interdict was revoked. She died on 17 September
1179. Her surviving works include more than a hundred letters to emperors
and popes, bishops, nuns, and nobility. She wrote 72 songs including a play set
to music. Musical notation had only shortly before developed to the point
where her music was recorded in a way that we can read today. Accordingly,
some of her work is now available on compact disk, and presumably sounds
the way she intended. My former room-mate, a non-Christian and a
professional musician, is an enthusiastic admirer of her work and considers her
a musical genius. Certainly her compositional style is like nothing else we have
from the twelfth century. The play set to music is called the Ordo Virtutum and
show us a human soul who listens to the Virtues, turns aside to follow the
Devil, and finally returns to the Virtues, having found that following the Devil
does not make one happy.
She left us about seventy poems and nine books. Two of them are books of
medical and pharmaceutical advice, dealing with the workings of the human
body and the properties of various herbs. (These books are based on her
observations and those of others, not on her visions.) I am told that some
modern researchers are now checking her statements in the hope of finding
some medicinal properties of some plant that has been overlooked till now by
modern medicine. She also wrote a commentary on the Gospels and another on
the Athanasian Creed. Much of her work has recently been translated into
English, part in series like Classics of Western Spirituality, and part in other
collections or separately. 
But her major works are three books on theology: Scivias ("Know the
Liber Vitae Meritorum (on ethics), and De Operatione Dei. They deal (or at
least the first and third do) with the material of her visions. The visions, as she
describes them, are often enigmatic but deeply moving, and many who have
studied them believe that they have learned something from the visions that is
not easily put into words.
Her use of parable and metaphor, of symbols, visual imagery, and non-verbal
means to communicate makes her work reach out to many who are totally deaf
to more standard approaches. In particular, non-Western peoples are often
accustomed to expressing their views of the world in visionary language, and
find that Hildegard's use of similar language to express a Christian view of
reality produces instant rapport, if not necessarily instant agreement.
Hildegard wrote and spoke extensively about social justice, about freeing the
downtrodden, about the duty of seeing to it that every human being, made in
the image of God, has the opportunity to develop and use the talents that God
has given him, and to realize his God-given potential. This strikes a chord
Hildegard wrote explicitly about the natural world as God's creation, charged
through and through with His beauty and His energy; entrusted to our care, to
be used by us for our benefit, but not to be mangled or destroyed. [James
Kiefer, abridged]

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