The Hildegarde - Bernard of Clairvaux link

The religious mystic Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 17 September 1179) was a contemporary of the equally mystical Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 20 August 1153). They both lived a life of contemplation and religious service and shared their thoughts by letter. This blog presents one of those letters.

Hildegard was professed in about 1112, at the age of 14. She was elected magistra in 1136. She founded the monasteries of Rupertsberg in 1150 and Eibingen in 1165. She wrote theological, botanical, and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs for women choirs to sing and poems, while supervising miniature illuminations in the Rupertsberg manuscript of her first work, Scivias.

Bernard Bernard entered Citeaux, the Cistercian mother house, in 1113 at the age of 22. In 1115 he founded the monastery of Claire Vallée, which evolved into Clairvaux. He contributed significantly to the growth of the Cistercian Order. He led to the foundation of 163 monasteries in different parts of Europe. At his death they numbered 343. Bernard wrote hundreds of treatises, sermons and letters. Of his letters some 547 survive.

In a letter to Bernard, Hildegarde congratulated him on his preaching of the Crusade and declared that she saw him "as a man in the sun". But in the following reply to one of her letters, the Abbot of Clairvaux seems to word himself with a certain  circumspection.
"To his beloved daughter in Christ, Hildegarde, whatever the prayers of a sinner can avail, from Brother Bernard, styled Abbot of Clairvaux.
That others should believe me a better person than I know myself to be, is due more to human stupidity than any special merits of my own. I hasten to reply to your sweet and kindly letter, although the multitude of my affairs obliges me to do so more briefly than I could wish. I congratulate you on the grace of God that is in you and admonish you to regard it as a gift and respond to it with all humility and devotion in the sure knowledge that 'God floùts the scornful, and gives the humble man his grace'. This is what I beg and implore you to do. How could I presume to reach or advise you who are favoured with hidden knowledge and in whom `the influence of Christ's anointing still lives so that you have no need of teaching', for you are said to be able to search the secrets of heaven and to discern by the light of the Holy Spirit things that are beyond the knowledge of man. It is rather for me to beg that you may not forget me before God. or those who are united to me in spiritual fellowship. I am sure that when your spirit is united to God you could help and benefit us much, for 'when a just man prays fervently, there is great virtue in his prayer'. We pray without ceasing for you that you may 'be strengthened in all good, instructed in interior things, and guided to what endures, so that those who put their trust in God may not fall by losing faith in you, but may rather derive strength, so as to make ever greater progress in good, from the sight of your own progress in the graces which you are known to have received from God."

A vast collection of letters and sermons of Bernard can be found here.

Source text: James, Bruno Scott (1953). The letters of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Burns Oates, London, 530 pp and Wikipedia (2020). Illustration by Unknown author from the Liber Scivias, showing Hildegard receiving a vision and dictating to her scribe and secretary. Miniatur aus dem Rupertsberger Codex des Liber Scivias., Public Domain, Link

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