Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hildegard of Bingen and the Laborers in the Vineyard (part 2)

Hildegard of Bingen

My last post on Hildegard of Bingen was on November 21, and it talked about her Homily 22 on the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. This post is a short one of Homily 23's treatment of the same parable.

In a move reminiscent of Origen’s exegesis of this parable, Homily 23 interprets the calling of the various groups of laborers with the human body’s five senses and the struggle of the human soul. Like the householder “going out” to hire workers, the “rationality” in humankind goes out “in the knowledge of perception to lead the body’s five senses into faith in the salvation of souls” (104-5). Those standing idle in the marketplace at various times represents deliberating over what they wanted to do, whether good or evil; they need to be occupied with work: Going “into the vineyard” means doing “good deeds into faith in the salvation of souls.” At the end of the day the five senses are given

praise and honor according to what they have merited before God and humankind: from those who repented from their evils, when knowing their sin they refused to sin, whereby they became innocent, up to those who, out of simplicity and innocence, did not know how to sin, or because they completed the righteous and upright deeds they began. Therefore, when they who had arrived at about the eleventh hour came for remuneration, they each received a single denarius. Clearly, those who failed to work and fell away to sin “received” only the hope of a heavenly reward (105-6).

Those who had worked from the beginning were those who had not sinned because “they did not have the appetite for sin.” Yet they received the same denarius as the others, because “to give to the one who knows how to sin, and stops sinning” (i.e., the later workers) is the equivalent to those “who do not know how to sin, due to the simplicity of innocence” (i.e., the first workers; 106).

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