John Philip Newell is an Edinburgh poet, scholar, and teacher. Formerly Warden of Iona Abbey in the Western Isles of Scotland, he is now Companion Theologian for the American Spirituality Center of Casa del Sol at Ghost Ranch in the high desert of New Mexico.

Reflections on ‘A Celtic Mass for Peace’ by J. Philip Newell & Sam Guarnaccia

-J. Philip Newell (upon hearing the music for the first time).

“The 6th-century Celtic Abbot Columba used to say to his brothers on Iona in the Western Isles of Scotland, ‘Pray until the tears come’. Tears flow when the heart is deeply moved. They came immediately for me on Sunday the 6th of November. They flowed with the opening notes of the Mass and continued throughout the service. And they came for others as well. Why? ”

“Those of us who have been involved in the details of this creativity were of course feeling a great delight at the Celtic Mass for Peace being celebrated in Vermont where both the words and the music were forged over the last six months. But it was more than that. It was as if many of us were hearing something that we have been longing for without necessarily knowing what it is we have been longing for. Certainly it expressed the yearnings for peace that are within us. But in the Mass these longings seemed as vast as the universe and as personal as the most intimate of relationships. It was this combination that struck me most and it is this combination that I believe so many of us are looking for. The desire is for a new birthing of Christ for today that is as limitless as the cosmos and as immediate as the most passionate of loves.”

“The Mass for Peace of course is only a little expression of this great longing. But it is an offering that has been born among us. So what do we do with it now? How do we go about sharing it with others, including those well beyond the bounds of our own religious tradition? It is an offering for the peace of the world and one of my convictions is that if we are to have peace as nations and as religious communities we need to find ways of sharing what is most precious to us without expecting others to become like us. We need to find ways of humbly opening our Christ treasure. My hope is that our ‘Celtic Mass for Peace, Songs for the Earth’  might be part of this opening.”

In love,