CACINA

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on September 17, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 8:4-15

When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable. “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled, and the birds of the sky ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew, it withered for lack of moisture. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold.” After saying this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

Then his disciples asked him what the meaning of this parable might be. He answered, “Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.

“This is the meaning of the parable. The seed is the word of God. Those on the path are the ones who have heard, but the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts that they may not believe and be saved. Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear, receive the word with joy, but they have no root; they believe only for a time and fall away in time of temptation. As for the seed that fell among thorns, they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they fail to produce mature fruit. But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: This passage comes in Luke’s gospel immediately after Luke’s observation, which was in the gospel passage we read yesterday, that Jesus went about with his companions preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. When Luke presents the parable of the sower, he provides an example of the kind of teaching that Jesus gave to illustrate the nature of the kingdom.

Luke records the parable of the sower of the seed in much the same way that Mark and Matthew relate it, but there is a difference in nuance. While Matthew emphasizes understanding, Luke emphasizes faith and perseverance. In Luke’s account of the parable, everyone hears the word, but Luke is aware that it is possible to lose what one has received. For Luke, our faith in Jesus and the kingdom must not disappear when the Devil comes to test us or when it is choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life; instead, Luke encourages us to nurture our faith and let it bear fruit through perseverance. Membership in God’s kingdom, then, according to Luke’s rendition of the parable, consists of faith and perseverance in faith. The Church ever has taught that we should always pray to persevere to the end, so let us pray for one another.

Saint of the day: Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a remarkable woman, a “first” in many fields. At a time when few women wrote, Hildegard, known as “Sybil of the Rhine,” produced major works of theology and visionary writings. When few women were accorded respect, she was consulted by and advised bishops, popes, and kings. She used the curative powers of natural objects for healing, and wrote treatises about natural history and medicinal uses of plants, animals, trees and stones. She is the first composer whose biography is known. She founded a vibrant convent, where her musical plays were performed. Although not yet canonized, Hildegard has been beatified, and is frequently referred to as St. Hildegard. Revival of interest in this extraordinary woman of the middle ages was initiated by musicologists and historians of science and religion.

Hildegard was born the tenth child to a noble family. As was customary with the tenth child, which the family could not count on feeding, she was dedicated at birth to the church. The girl started to have visions of luminous objects at the age of tree, but soon realized she was unique in this ability and hid this gift for many years.

At age 8, the family sent this strange girl to an anchoress named Jutta to receive a religious education. Jutta was born into a wealthy and prominent family, and by all accounts was a young woman of great beauty. She spurned all worldly temptations and decided to dedicate her life to God. Instead of entering a convent, Jutta followed a harsher route and became an anchoress. Anchors of both sexes, though from most accounts they seem to be largely women, led an ascetic life, shut off from the world inside a small room, usually built adjacent to a church so that they could follow the services, with only a small window acting as their link to the rest of humanity. Food would be passed through this window and refuse taken out. Most of the time would be spent in prayer, contemplation, or solitary handworking activities, like stitching and embroidering. Because they would become essentially dead to the world, anchors would receive their last rights from the bishop before their confinement in the anchorage. This macabre ceremony was a complete burial ceremony with the anchor laid out on a bier.

Jutta’s cell was such an anchorage, except that there was a door through which Hildegard entered, as well as about a dozen of girls from noble families who were attracted there by Jutta’s fame in later years. What kind of education did Hildegard receive from Jutta? It was of the most rudimentary form, and Hildegard could never escape the feelings of inadequacy and lack of education. She learned to read the Psalter in Latin. Though her grasp of the grammatical intricacies of the language was never complete – she always had secretaries to help her write down her visions – she had a good intuitive feel for the intrintricacies of the language itself, constructing complicated sentences fraught with meanings on many levels, that are still a challenge to students of her writings. The proximity of the anchorage to the church of the Benedictine monastery at Disibodenberg (it was attached physically to the church) undoubtedly exposed young Hildegard to musical religious services and were the basis for her own musical compositions. After Jutta’s death, when Hildegard was 38 years of age, she was elected the head of the budding convent living within cramped walls of the anchorage.

During all these years Hildegard confided of her visions only to Jutta and another monk, named Volmar, who was to become her lifelong secretary. However, in 1141, Hildegard had a vision that changed the course of her life. A vision of God gave her instant understanding of the meaning of the religious texts and commanded her to write down everything she would observe in her visions.

And it came to pass … when I was 42 years and 7 months old, that the heavens were opened and a blinding light of exceptional brilliance flowed through my entire brain. And so it kindled my whole heart and breast like a flame, not burning but warming… and suddenly I understood of the meaning of expositions of the books…

Yet Hildegard was also overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and hesitated to act.

But although I heard and saw these things, because of doubt and low opinion of myself and because of diverse sayings of men, I refused for a long time a call to write, not out of stubbornness but out of humility, until weighed down by a scourge of god, I fell onto a bed of sickness.

The 12th century was a time of religious foment, when someone preaching any outlandish doctrine could instantly attract a large following. Hildegard was critical of such perspectives. She wanted her visions to be sanctioned, approved by the Catholic Church, though she herself never doubted the divine origins to her luminous visions. She wrote to St. Bernard, seeking his blessings. Though his answer to her was rather perfunctory, he did bring it to the attention of Pope Eugenius (1145-53), a rather enlightened individual who exhorted Hildegard to finish her writings. With papal imprimatur, Hildegard was able to finish her first visionary work Scivias (“Know the Ways of the Lord”) and her fame began to spread through Germany and beyond.

Around 1150 Hildegard moved her growing convent from Disibodenberg, where the nuns lived alongside the monks, to Bingen about 30 km north, on the banks of the Rhine. She later founded another convent, Eibingen, across the river from Bingen. Her remaining years were very productive. She wrote music and texts to her songs, mostly liturgical plainchant honoring saints and Virgin Mary for the holidays and feast days, and antiphons. There is some evidence that her music and moral play Ordo Virtutum (“Play of Virtues”) were performed in her own convent. In addition to Scivias she wrote two other major works of visionary writing Liber vitae meritorum (1150-63) (Book of Life’s Merits) and Liber divinorum operum (1163) (“Book of Divine Works”), in which she further expounded on her theology of microcosm and macrocosm-man being the peak of God’s creation, man as a mirror through which the splendor of the macrocosm was reflected. Hildegard also authored Physica and Causae et Curae (1150), both works on natural history and curative powers of various natural objects, which are together known as Liber subtilatum (“The book of subtleties of the Diverse Nature of Things”). These works were uncharacteristic of Hildegard’s writings, including her correspondences, in that they were not presented in a visionary form and don’t contain any references to divine source or revelation. However, like her religious writings they reflected her religious philosophy: that humanity is the peak of God’s creation and everything was put in the world for human beings to use. Her scientific views were derived from the ancient Greek cosmology of the four elements (fire, air, water, and earth) with their complementary qualities of heat, dryness, moisture, and cold, and the corresponding four humors in the body-choler (yellow bile), blood, phlegm, and melancholy (black bile).

Music was extremely important to Hildegard. She describes it as the means of recapturing the original joy and beauty of paradise. Hildegard wrote hymns and sequences in honor of saints, virgins, and Mary. She wrote in the plainchant tradition of a single vocal melodic line, a tradition common in liturgical singing of her time. Her music is undergoing a revival and enjoying huge public success.

It is now generally agreed that Hildegard suffered from migraine, and that her visions were a result of this condition. The way she describes her visions, the precursors, to visions, to debilitating aftereffects, point to classic symptoms of migraine sufferers. Although a number of visual hallucinations may occur, the more common ones described are the “scotomata” which often follow perceptions of phosphenes in the visual field. Scintillating scotomata are also associated with areas of total blindness in the visual field, something Hildegard might have been describing when she spoke of points of intense light, and also the “extinguished stars.” Migraine attacks are usually followed by sickness, paralysis, blindness-all reported by Hildegard, and when they pass, by a period of rebound and feeling better than before, a euphoria also described by her. It is a tribute to the remarkable spirit and the intellectual powers of this woman that she was able to turn a debilitating illness into the word of God, and create so much with it.

feather on the breath of GodSpiritual reading: Underneath all the texts, all the sacred psalms and canticles, these watery varieties of sounds and silences, terrifying, mysterious, whirling and sometimes gestating and gentle must somehow be felt in the pulse, ebb, and flow of the music that sings in me. My new song must float like a feather on the breath of God. (Hildegard of Bingen)

3 Responses

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  1. conniewalden said, on September 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    The message of the cross it soooooo simple. Man tends to make the simple complicated. Connie
    http://7thandvine.wordpress.com/

  2. elizabeth said, on June 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Can you please tell me who the artist is for the painting ‘Feather on breath of God’ is. I want to give credit, but cannot find the painting anywhere but here.

    • Fr. Mike said, on June 11, 2012 at 6:21 pm

      Elizabeth, I am so sorry, but I don’t recall where I got the painting or even if that was its title. Sometime I save pictures on my hard drive with names that will be easily remembered when I am putting together a blog post. Peace and good!


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