"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to contemplation of the truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know Himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves."
--Blessed Pope John Paul II
There are many who would be surprised to find faith and reason united in the life of an abbess living in the middle ages. Such people cannot be familiar with the life of Hildegard of Bingen. She wrote books, music, and mystery plays, and also taught and practiced medicine. For an introduction to her, I highly recommend the recent film Vision.
After seeing a highly favorable review over at Tea at Trianon, I discovered that Vision was available for instant play on Netflix, so I naturally had to add it to my queue.
Elena Maria Vidal writes:
Resisting the temptation to make the film into a piece of feminist propaganda, Vision portrays Hildegard as an obedient daughter of the Church. Her obedience is by no means mere childish acquiescence, as the vow of obedience is too often misconstrued, but an expression of a vibrant faith. St. Hildegard is not afraid to take a firm but charitable stand against injustice. She will brook no infractions of the Rule which protects the serene and disciplined life of her nuns. She is a true mother ready to fight to the death for her spiritual children. (Read the rest.)
That sounded good to me!
I was never terribly familiar with her work before I saw this film, but I have to say that it has sparked my interest, particularly in her morality plays, one of which is shown in the film, and her hauntingly beautiful music, which is used extensively in the soundtrack. Here is an example of one of her compositions:
The film as a whole manages to show the beauty of monastic life alongside the inevitable human realities of internal politics. It allows the story to tell itself, without excessive glorification of the heroine, or unnecessary demonization of the Church. Barbara Sukowa's performance portrays a strong woman dedicated to the truth and beauty of her faith with a kind of radical orthodoxy that challenges those around her. She takes delight in the created world, and passes that on to the nuns in her care. At the same time, she is still a human being with human weakness who has to struggle to reach high ideals. She is, like the rest of us, completely dependent on God for whatever abilities, strengths, or successes she has.
This film was, in short, a breath of fresh air.