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All of Creation

by Norma Gentile

reprinted by permission from PhenomeNEWS

"The word stands for the body, but the symphony stands for the spirit. All of Creation is a symphony....which is joy and jubilation."  

-Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)

As we approach the 900th year anniversary of the birth of this remarkable woman, Hildegard of Bingen, we also reexamine the role of women in that time period. Matthew Fox has called the 12th and 13th centuries the time of the "Feminine Renaissance." Others have noted the extraordinary power, influence and control exerted by women of the period within the Catholic Church. A power never equaled since.

Why is this important?

Because we are again at a similar point in time. I consider history as a sequence of events unfolding along a spiral course, rather than a straight line. This metaphor allows me to consider events not as concluded, but simply as moving along in their natural unfoldment. Many of the numerous intangible factors that were coinciding with Hildegard's lifetime 900 years ago are present today also. Not that they are translated into the same physical forms, but the underlying principles which were at work then are again being actively engaged.

Hildegard left behind a legacy of writings on theological topics, health and healing, herbology, and two biographies of saints. She wrote the text and music for a play and seventy-seven songs, all in Latin, and all set to her own music. She watched over the production of a number of colorful illuminations based on her visions, corresponded with politicians and church men who sought her consul, and oversaw the daily running the two monasteries which she founded, which included more than fifty nuns and numerous visitors. She traveled throughout northern Europe, and is commonly acknowledged as one of the most influential people of her age.

When I first began to sing her music six years ago few had heard of her name. Nowadays she is everywhere - with three recordings of her music being released last month alone. Hildegard's music has a mystical and unusual quality to it. While it falls into the category of 'Gregorian Chant, it is more than that. Hildegard was not trained in music theory or notation. She lived in a monastery from the age of eight, and heard the eight offices being sung night and day by the Benedictine monks who surrounded her. Her own music is based upon the modes of the time, yet she uses the notes to form small motifs, bringing out the meaning of the words in melodies which often span an octave and a half.

More than most chant, Hildegard's music has a melodic character to it which captures the ear of the modern listener. Whether it is accompanied with instruments or sung alone, her music is a bridge which allows us to access those same invisible energies with which she was in touch with long ago.

I believe that the experience of union with the Divine which Hildegard sought to convey through her music and writings is even more deeply possible today, as we travel along the spiral path of life.

"The body is the garment of the soul and it is the soul which gives life to the voice. That is why the body must raise its voice in harmony with the soul for the praise of God...All of Creation is a song of praise to God."

Norma Gentile is a professional singer and trained auric healer based in Ann Arbor. She has recorded two CDs of Hildegard's music, and offers concerts and workshops based on Hildegard's work in addition to private voice and healing sessions.


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