Every newspaper I pick up is awful. The whole world, it seems, is in an uproar. Fear of war stalks families and countries around the globe; Ebola is throwing whole governments into panic; ISIS continues its brutal campaign across the Middle East; politicians stateside and abroad fling insults and petty accusations at each other. Rarely do I ever let myself look away from what’s going on in the world at any given moment, but the temptation to do so can be overwhelming.
Perhaps it is because of that worldwide turmoil that the compositions of German nun and healer Hildegard von Bingen have been such a solace. Her chants are my go-to for nights I cannot sleep and, though I don’t speak a word of Latin, the songs have quickly become my favorite nighttime soundtrack. Out of curiosity, I looked up the lyrics to my favorite of her chants, Caritas Habundat. It runs:
Caritas habundat in omnia, de imis excellentissima super sidera,
Loving tenderness abounds for all from the darkest to the most exalted one beyond the stars.
atque amantissima in omnia, quia summo Regi osculum pacis dedit.
Exquisitely loving all she bequeaths the kiss of peace upon the ultimate King.
Translations differ, but von Bingen’s message stays the same — love abides in even the depths and in the voids beyond the stars. Her chant is a beautiful reminder that, no matter the darkness of the world, that love abides … even when it doesn’t seem so.
The world is in shambles. Bad news flows from every corner of the globe. It’s been like that, though to varying degrees, for as far back as history can recount. My own life is less dark, but it is still full of work and obligations, family illnesses, young friends who die too soon, and other stressors that come with a normal life. Everyone’s life is like that, and has always been that way. But when the world’s problems seem overwhelming, when we learn of bad news and illness and death, may we always be able to hum to ourselves,
“Caritas abundat in omnia…”