Ellen Oak

artistic excellence | intellectual acuity | spiritual imagination | cultural courage

Hildegard of Bingen: The Harmony of Heaven

Hildegard (1098-1176) founded two Benedictine communities of women in the German Rhineland. A remarkable woman of diverse gifts, she was a mystic, composer, healer, judge, prophet, and preacher. Of her songs Hildegard said, "I also composed songs with their melodies in praise of God and the saints, and I sang them, too, even though I had never learned either musical notation or any kind of singing . . ." She called the collection of her compositions the "Symphony of the Harmony of Heavenly Revelations." The sung prayer in her abbey would most likely have combined her own compositions with pieces from the traditional monastic repertoire of Gregorian chant. Both bodies of music consist of single, unaccompanied lines of melody with Latin text, and both draw deeply from the well of Scripture. But anyone familiar with Gregorian chant will quickly recognize that Hildegard's songs are something quite different. In both text and tune she pushes the boundaries of classical forms and styles, expressing her vision of the Living light with spectacular range, raw intensity, and mind-bending complexity.

Hildegard's singular genius so captured Ellen's heart and imagination that she wanted to share Hildegard's spirit and her work in a way which highlights its solitary female genesis. She created and has performed across the country a one-woman show about Hildegard weaving together her songs with excerpts from her letters, sermons, and other writings. The songs on this CD were recorded in the chapel of the community of which Ellen is an oblate: the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, MO. 

Please find below three of the 16 tracks on the CD.

O tu illustrata

Antiphon for the Virgin

O tu illustrata de divina claritate, clara Virgo Maria, Verbo Dei infusa, unde venter tuus floruit de introitu Spiritus Dei, qui in te sufflavit et in te exsuxit quod Eva abstulit in abscisione puritatis, per contractam contagionem de suggestione diaboli.  Tu mirabiliter abscondisti in te immaculatam carnem per divinam racionem, cum Flilius Dei in ventre tuo floruit, sancta divinitate eum educente contra carnis iura que construxit Eva, integritati copulatum in divinis visceribus.

O you, light filled with divine brightness, bright Virgin Mary, suffused with the Word of God whence your womb bloomed from the incoming of the Spirit of God who breathed on you and sucked out from within you that which Eve planted in you, breaching purity, contracting disease from deals with the devil.  You have wonderfully hid within you faultless flesh, when the Son of God bloomed in your womb through divine imagination, holy divinity leading him out, contrary to the laws of the flesh that Eve constructed, coupled to integrity in the heart of the divine.

Antiphon for the Holy Spirit
Spiritus sanctus vivificans vita, movens omnia, et radix est in omni creatura, ac omnia de immunditia abulit, tergens crimina, ac ungit vulnera, et sic est fulgens ac laudabilis vita, suscitans et resuscitans omnia.
The holy spirit is a life-giving life, moving everything, the root of all creation, washing everything clean, scrubbing away guilt, rubbing oil into wounds, and so she is life radiant and praiseworthy, waking up and bringing new life to all.

Antiphon for the dedication of a church
O choruscans lux stellarum, o splendidissima specialis forma regalium nuptiarum, o fulgens gemma: tu es ornata in alta persona que non habet maculatam rugam. Tu es etiam socia angelorum et civis sanctorum. Fuge, fuge, speluncam antiqui perditoris, et veniens, veni in palladium regis.
O dancing starlight, O most splendid, precious revelation of divine love, O glowing gem: You are clothed in a nobility that has neither stain nor wrinkle. You were born to be a companion of angels and a citizen with the saints. Flee, flee the den of your ancient misery and coming, coming into the palace of God's reign.