Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Secret World of Hildegard

Secret World Of HildegardSecret World Of Hildegardby Jonah Winter, illustrated by Jeanette Winter, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007

What a blessing that there are so many writers out there who want to share the lives of amazing people with children, and who do it in such a beautiful way. As I was reading this book, it struck me again that we don’t often fit into the world in the way we think we should, or in the way others think we should. And while it’s all very nice to tell our children to be themselves, where are they going to look for examples of how to do that except to other people? It seems to me that the more children hear of people learning to live out their own stories, the more encouraged they will be to discover and live out their own. Maybe the more you know of the wide varieties of lives already lived the easier it becomes to ignore somebody else’s preconceived notion of what a life should look like and forge ahead with what your life is.

I was familiar with Hildegard von Bingen primarily as a composer, although I knew that she was also important as a Christian mystic. I didn’t know she was also a scientist. This book focuses primarily on her mystical life, although as author Jonah Winter points out in his note at the end of the book, “Were it not for her mystical visions…and her courage to reveal them to the world, neither her musical nor scientific creations would have had the chance to blossom.”

From before the time she could speak, Hildegard had visions—“a world inside her head so bright it made her tremble.” Keeping the visions to herself caused severe headaches, but she was afraid to share them with others. Not knowing what to do with her, her parents sent her to a monastery, where she was raised and educated in solitude by a nun named Jutta. I don’t want to give the whole book away, because it’s a beautiful story, and needs to be discovered with the book in hand. But Hildegard finally learned that her visions were from God and needed to be shared, and once she started doing that everything changed. Her life became a powerful testament to the God she served.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:16

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