A Letter from Wendell Berry

Feast of St Agathangelus the Martyr

Berry_Square_3.jpegI'VE WRITTEN Wendell Berry on a number of occasions. He has always responded. He has even graciously conveyed kind words about our publications: "I've been reading in the publications you sent me and improving my mind. Thank you."

The last time I wrote him, I invited him to speak at our sixth annual symposium. Here's an insightful snapshot of the explanation he gave for his inability to join us: "I'm a man short of time with perhaps a lot of work still to do here at home."

I don't take no very easily. So I wrote him again this Theophany, January 6 and asked him three questions related to this year's symposium theme: "Soil and Sacrament: The World as Gift."

Here are the questions with his responses:

1. How would you define a sacrament?

There are formal sacraments, and the definition of them should be left t people more formally religious than I am. I hope the word might refer also to any conscious and grateful participation in the sanctity of creation.

2. How is the world a gift?

The world is a gift because it's given. We did not make it and don't even "understand," but we can destroy it.

3. If you had three minutes to say anything you wanted about our symposium theme, what would you say?

I believe strongly in the power and necessity of discourse and conversation. so I would say nothing. I couldn't say anything in 3 minutes that would be worth 3 minutes of your time or mine.

I think I'll respond and ask what he would say if I gave him 30 minutes to respond to the third question.

If you were at the symposium, you know from Vigen Guroian that the Orthodox theologian Philip Sherrard is one of the most important influences on Berry's sacramental thinking. Maybe I'll ask him about Sherrard also.

If there is anything else you'd like me to ask him, please let me know in the comment section below.

Erin Doom is the founder and director of Eighth Day Institute. He lives in Wichita, KS with his wife Christiane and their four children, Caleb Michael, Hannah Elizabeth, Elijah Blaise, and Esther Ruth.


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