Benjamin Williams

The Incarnate Word (2011)

Wendell Berry has an incredible ability to bring together the divine and the mundane in a comfortable way that makes it apparent that he experiences one as an extension of the other. I was thankful for the opportunity that came about to interact with Berry's poetry in a musical setting when asked by my colleague Jamie Meaders to compose a piece for the Mississippi College Singers. Little did I how much I myself would come to better appreciate the continuum of the sacred and the everyday as I meditated on the truths of The Incarnate Word.

The text of this piece comes from one of Berry's "Sabbaths" collections written on his solitary Sunday walks around his farm in northern Kentucky. The reality of the incarnation of the Word—just as the apostle John also described this miraculous event in his gospel—is incredible in light of the magnificent holiness of God in comparison with the fallen world in which we live. And yet, God lives and dwells among us; still speaking; ever present. The world around us testifies to Him in our every day experience.

Without words, this piece begins with a simple melody played on a solo violin. As the melody continues to unfurl, the choir also enters without words. Berry's simple yet profound text is finally made manifest as it retraces the pastoral harmonies and melodies of the opening phrases. Whether in word or in the beauty of music, God and his truth continues to speak on.

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