Some time back I began reading Hildegard of Bingen's visions recorded in the Scivias. I must admit that this has been slow going, with me reading a portion here and there. Today I completed Part One and have some observations to make.
Much of the difficulty is with reading medieval, mystical visions. The style can be alien and off-putting. That said, there are some beautiful turns of phrase in this translation by Bruce Hozeski. Here are some examples: "the brightness of blessedness," "the beauty of the rationality that is inside themselves," "the grace of pleasantness," "the soul breathes the senses forth," "a very great and peaceful brightness."
Here is a more extended example, when she is discussing the separation of the soul from the body--"The soul extracts itself from the body with a groan. Grieving, it shatters its seat. By removing itself from the body with distress, it allows the place of its dwelling to fall away with much trembling."
But there are awful, offensive passages such as, "God burns everywhere through the fire of divine punishment those people who are outside the true faith." Or "Why are they evil? Because they wish to know those things which should not be known by them, thereby imitating the devil who desired to be like the Highest."
Despite that last phrase which condemns intellectual curiosity, there is much emphasis on thinking and reason as manifesting our human beauty, the divine image. I really enjoyed this phrase, "a person flies swiftly with his or her own thinking." Our soul should "investigate things in the same way that wheat is separated from the chaff."
In the second vision of this first part, she asks, "How can you abide without trying out your image and likeness?" "How could the very great glory and honor that was given to you go unused as if they were nothing and not motivate you at all?" After all "I am the living breath which God sent into dry dust." She writes that those who "cast aside all the uselessness of their evil ways . . . have been made brighty by these virtues."
When we use our reason, we do "works of light" and radiate with a "brightness similar to the dawn."