March 08, 2020 - #4721 Music & the Spoken Word

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Conductor: Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy
Organist: Joseph Peeples
Narrator: Lloyd Newell

“My God Is So High”
Music: African-American Spiritual
Arrangement: Ryan Murphy

“Deep River”
Music: African-American Spiritual
Arrangement: Mack Wilberg

“Toccata” (organ solo)
Music: Théodore Dubois

“The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare”1
Music: Dmitri Bortniansky
Lyrics: Joseph Addison

“One Person” from Dear World
Music and lyrics: Jerry Herman
Arrangement: Ryan Murphy

“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”2
Music: American folk hymn
Lyrics: Robert Robinson
Arrangement: Mack Wilberg

  1. On the CD This is the Christ.
  2. On the CDs Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, America's Choir, and in the CD set Anniversary Collection.

The Spoken Word

Winged Victory

In what is perhaps the most famous museum in the world, the Louvre in Paris, France, there stands an 18-foot-tall statue estimated to be over 2,000 years old. It was discovered by an amateur archeologist in 1863, lying in pieces in the sand on the Greek island of Samothrace. Now it stands, steadfast and strong, among the Louvre’s most celebrated works of art and quite possibly one of the world’s most recognizable sculptures.

We call it the Winged Victory of Samothrace, though no one knows what its creator would have called it. In fact, we don’t know who created it, and we can only guess at its original purpose or meaning. The fact that the winged figure appears to be stepping “toward the front of a ship” leads some “historians to conclude that it was created to commemorate a successful sea battle.”1 But that’s just our best guess. We don’t even know exactly what the Winged Victory originally looked like, because the head and both arms are missing.

And yet, despite everything we don’t know about this remarkable sculpture, we do know how we feel when we look it at. The majestic Winged Victory inspires feelings of awe, courage, confidence, and triumph.

But why is a statue that is so obviously damaged and incomplete so universally loved and admired? Some point to the artistry and skill evident in what remains of Winged Victory. It is beautiful, they say, despite its incompleteness. After all, one doesn’t need to be perfect to be beautiful. On the other hand, there’s something captivating, too, in the statue’s imperfections. Could it be that Winged Victory is beautiful because of its imperfections, its incompleteness?

The fact is, we spend our days surrounded by imperfect, incomplete people and situations. We too are imperfect and incomplete. We may at times feel that life has left us lying in pieces in the sand. Yet each of us is worthy of reclamation, not condemnation; each of us deserves recovery, not rejection.

When we look at Winged Victory, we are reminded what victory looks like—beautiful, but never flawless. She seems to be telling us that damage and flaws should never stop us from standing tall and confident, steadfast and strong.

  1. Kelly Richman-Abou, “This Armless Sculpture Is One of the Louvre’s Most Treasured Masterpieces,” My Modern Met, Nov. 23, 2018.