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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

WOMEN MAKE A SPECIAL CONTRIBUTION TO THEOLOGY

VATICAN CITY, 8 SEP 2010 (VIS) - In his general audience, held this morning in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, the Pope dedicated his catechesis to a subject he began last week, that of St. Hildegard of Bingen, a twelfth-century German Benedictine religious "who distinguished herself for her spiritual wisdom and the sanctity of her life".

  Referring to the mystical visions the saint received throughout her life, the Holy Father highlighted how "they were rich in theological content. They referred to the main events of the history of salvation and use a Mainly poetic and symbolic language. For example, in her best known work entitled 'Scivias' ('Know the Ways') she summarised the events of the history of salvation in thirty-five visions, from the creation of the world to the end of time. ... In the central part of her work she develops the theme of the mystical marriage between God and humankind which came about in the Incarnation".

  "Even in this brief outline", Benedict XVI went on, "we see how theology can receive a special contribution from women, because they are capable of speaking of God and of the mysteries of the faith with their specific intelligence and sensitivity". In this context he encouraged all women "who undertake this service to do so with a profound ecclesial spirit, nourishing their reflections with prayer and looking to the great riches - still partly unexplored - of the mediaeval mystical tradition, especially as represented by such shining examples as Hildegard of Bingen".

  Turning his attention to other writings by the saint, the Pope recalled how "two are particularly important because, like 'Scivias', they contain her mystical visions. They are the 'Liber vitae meritorum' (Book of Life's Merits) and the 'Liber divinorum operum' (Book of Divine Works) which is also known by the name of 'De operatione Dei'. The former ... underscores the profound relationship between man and God and reminds us that all creation, of which man is the apex, receives life from the Trinity. ... In the second work, considered by many to be her masterpiece, she again describes creation in its relationship with God and the centrality of man, revealing a powerful biblical-patristic kind of Christocentrism".

  Hildegard was also interested in "medicine and the natural sciences, as well as music", said the Holy Father. "For her, all of creation was a symphony of the Holy Spirit, Who is in Himself joy and contentment".

  "Hildegard's popularity led many people to consult her. ... Monastic communities, both male and female, as well as bishops and abbots all sought her guidance. And many of her answers remain valid, even for us", said the Pope.

  "With the spiritual authority she possessed, in the last years of her life Hildegard began to travel. ... She was considered to be a messenger sent by God, in particular calling monastic communities and clergy to a life in conformity with their vocation. Hildegard especially opposed the German Cathar movement. The Cathars - their name literally means 'pure' - supported radical reform of the Church, principally to combat clerical abuses. She reprimanded them fiercely, accusing them of wanting to subvert the very nature of the Church and reminding them that the true renewal of the ecclesial community is not obtained by changing structures so much as by a sincere spirit of penance and a fruitful journey of conversion. This is a message we must never forget".

  The Pope concluded: "Let us always invoke the Holy Spirit that He may bring saintly and courageous women to the Church, like St. Hildegard of Bingen, who using the gifts received from God, may make their precious and specific contribution to the spiritual growth of our communities".
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