“Whom else indeed would it befit to deliver humankind, but that fiery Son of God, who sprinkled heavenly grace upon his people with the dew of divinity like a drop of honey”

When, near the northeastern facing corner, I saw an image whose face and feet beamed with such brilliance that it turned back my gaze. She was wearing a robe as of white silk, and over that had a green-colored tunic adorned all about with various pearls. And she wore earrings in her ears, necklaces upon her breast, and bracelets upon her arms, all crafted as from the purest gold, set with precious stones.

But as if in the middle of that northern stretch, I saw another image, standing up straight, wondrous in form. At its top, where its head ought to have been, there shone such brilliant radiance that it beat back my gaze, while in the midst of its belly appeared a human head with white hair and a beard, and its feet were like a lion’s paws. But it also had six wings: two rose up from its shoulders and curved around to join together and touch the radiance above; two meanwhile extended down from the shoulders to the top of the aforementioned head; while two descended from the image’s loins all the way to the ankles of its feet, spread a bit as if to fly. The rest of the body was covered throughout with little wings like the fins of fish and not of birds.

And on the two wings that stretched down to the top of the aforementioned head there appeared five mirrors. One was at the top of the right wing, and in it appeared the inscription, “The way and the truth.” The one in its middle had within it the inscription, “I am the door of all the secrets of God.” The one at its tip held the inscription, “I am the showing of all good things.” And at the top of the left wing, there was one that held the inscription, “I am the mirror in which the intention of the elect is considered.” The one at the tip of that wing had the inscription, “Tell us if you are the one who is to reign among the people of Israel.” And this image had its back turned to the north. But all along the western stretch, I spied as if the foulest smoking darkness, while near its north-facing corner, the blackest fire roiled forth with sulfur and the densest dark, stretching almost all the way to the middle of the northern part before curving back on itself. . . .

For as soon as Adam ate the poisonous fruit, he conceived the appetite for sin and so also the ability to sin. Wherefore too the glory of paradise withdrew from him, and he was sent into exile. Immediately the devil put forward the lust that opposes God and overturned human birth with shameless chaos. Within his own deceit he assumed that humankind, now wallowing in such filth, could not enter the kingdom of heaven, for the children of fornication could not be God’s people, nor could he be their God. The devil indeed takes great pleasure in the smut of the flesh’s gyrations and says to himself, “I’ve yanked humankind from their glorious place and thrust them into the deepest filth! There’s no place left in them for God, for his utter cleanliness neither wants nor accepts any filth. That’s also why humankind will remain in my quarters.”

But God concealed from the ancient serpent how he wanted to free humankind: the dirtiness that bubbled up at the serpent’s trick he washed away through his Son, and through him blotted out the wounds that lust had inflicted upon humankind. This God did amid his power, in which he was before all beginnings, and amid the night of the hellish pit, as too he had prefigured through the angel that struck at midnight. That is, amid his power, because he had the power to do whatever he willed; and amid the night, when the ancient enemy reckoned in his proud presumption that he had captured humans as he wanted and would possess so great a throng of humans as if he kept them in the very middle of his heart. But then, as already said, the Son of God came secretly, without the devil’s knowledge, and with his humanity broke the devil’s hook with which he kept humans captive. After defeating his enemies, he hung this hook upon the banner of the Cross as a sign of triumph and displayed it before his Father, together with all the company of the heavenly host. Then too that host raised up a song of new praise, rejoicing that so great a throng of blessed souls had been freed from so cruel a captivity, for the Son of God had gathered them together into the place of blessedness.

And how could almighty God allow his only Son, who owed no debt of sin, to endure such suffering? So that the ancient deceiver would never again have opportunity against God—for humankind had freely consented to that deceiver and followed his bidding in all things. For if a human sinner had died on behalf of other humans, the wicked spirit would declare that he could free no one, a fact proven by that person’s own sins, in which he had consented to him. For that reason, too, such a person would not have the ability to withdraw either from him- self or from others the chain of captivity. And so the living God gave his Son, whose physical form was like that of Adam, to redeem humankind through the garment of his humanity. . . .

For the Son of God came forth, as described above, upon a different road: fair beyond others, he was the offspring of virginal nature. For the first virgin was corrupted by the serpentine counsel, but the Virgin Mary was entirely holy: she conceived her son by the Holy Spirit, gave birth as a virgin, and continued a virgin. This birth had been predestined by the ancient counsel and lay hidden within the divinity, concealed entirely of the spirit, and it winged not into the knowledge of humankind. For the moment in which that Son of God was born of the Father, before the oldest of days, was not manifold, but singular within the divinity, because the Father held it forever in his will that he would become Man.

Coming in the different nature of humanity, he overturned Leviathan’s left side when with the works of chastity he drew away a thousand sinful vices from its gullet. For abstinence and contrition for sins are the wings of chastity, on which virgins and penitents fly to the betrothal of the Lamb, because they have put away the sins of carnal desires. For the Son of God, the son of a Virgin and crowned with virginity, has received those who run to him in repentance. Indeed, from the very beginning of the garment of his humanity, he has enacted all things spiritual in humankind, and this he will continue to accomplish until the Last Day. All things are in the midst of his power, not because of the number of his days, but because of the power of his work; and he holds them within the right balance, so that it cannot be overcome by any trick.

For in his humanity he flew upon the wings of the winds and gazed into the face of his Father like an eagle into the sun. For as Abraham had received the circumcision of the flesh— by which is understood the spiritual life that water also signifies, as fish live in water—so too a person’s soul is circumcised by baptism and born again in the water spiritually to life. In that life he will live forever upon the throne of blessedness, as it is also said of the throne of God’s majesty:

The Lord has prepared his throne in heaven, and his kingdom shall rule over all.

The meaning of this passage is to be taken in this sense: The Son of God, who is Lord of humans, Lord of angels, and Lord of all virtues, has prepared his throne in the heaven of blessedness, just as a person’s thinking enacts the means of its action according to his desire and accomplishes every action according to his will. Yet in nothing did the Son withdraw from his Father as Adam did when he fell into the pit of death. So too his kingdom shall rule over all in heaven and on earth when he crushes his enemies underfoot like a footstool. For his flesh was never touched upon earth by the taste of sin, and so no pain overcame him; rather, through his harsh and difficult suffering, he conquered all earthly things.

Whom else indeed would it befit to deliver humankind, but that fiery Son of God, who came down from heaven to earth and ascended from earth to the heavens, and who sprinkled heavenly grace upon his people with the dew of divinity like a drop of honey, so that the faithful could never be divided from each other? For the Father has enacted all good works in his Son, and this he could not do with anyone else, because, as said above, he never withdrew from the Father, as the sun’s splendor is never divided from the sun. Indeed, he came to earth for humankind’s deliverance, and he redeemed humankind, whom no one else could redeem. For the Father appointed him to come in this way, as the prophet David says, inspired by the Holy Spirit:

He shall come down like rain upon the fleece, and as showers sprinkling upon the earth.

The meaning of this passage is to be taken in this sense: With the devil’s counsel, Adam became mortal by his transgression of God’s commands; and so the Son of God came down like sweet dew into the womb of a Virgin who was sweet, gentle, and humble, in character like a sheep. This he did to awaken humankind from death, as fruit is roused by the rains after the earth has been turned over by the plow. Indeed, the plow is the law’s precept that the Son of God gave to humans in his humanity, so that in recognizing this precept they would be brought back to life, and following his example, overturn the carnal desires within themselves as with a plow; so too through the examples of holy works they would become fruitful as they advance from day to day, as he had gone before them. And in this way he casts showers upon them and makes from them a field full of virtues, which he blesses and fills up with the fruits of all good things—chastity, continence, and patience, and other beatitudes.

St Hildegard of Bingen

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