The Sound of the Universe | John Philip Newell | Prayer

Milky Way and adromeda at SunToMoon utah_lane_1800We pause to listen

for the beat of your Presence in all things

pulsing in the light of distant galaxies

sounding in the depths of our soul

vibrating in each vein of earth’s body.

One Sound as vast as the universe

one universe filled with Presence

one Life within every life.

John Philip Newell, Praying With the Earth (Eerdmans: Michigan) 10. Photo of milky way extending from the Temple of the sun (left) to the Temple of the Moon (right) in Utah by David Lane.

I Am About To Do A New Thing | John Philip Newell | Ghost Ranch

02a-MBy John Philip Newell

Casa del Sol is a little spirituality center in the high desert of New Mexico. It is committed, as our vision statement says, to “seeking the oneness of the human soul and the healing of creation.” At its service of blessing in 2006, we gathered in the courtyard of the old hacienda and sounded a large set of wind chimes in the four directions—south, west, north, and east. From the whole earth we were seeking the Spirit of new beginnings. As the chimes rang out in each of the four cardinal direc- tions, Jim Baird, our director of program, recited words from the prophecy of Isaiah: “I am about to do a new thing. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19). By the time we got to the east, the direction of light and fresh beginnings, Jim’s voice carried powerfully over the desert landscape, “I am about to do a new thing. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?”

He was saying, however, that if we assume that the Holy Wind of new beginnings can only come through our existing religious and cultural traditions, then we will likely miss the new thing.

Paul Tillich, the great German theologian who as early as the 1950s was prophetically announcing God as Ground of being, preached on these words from Isaiah. In his sermon, he said that as long as we think the new thing can only come through the old thing, then we will likely miss the new thing. He was not saying that the new thing cannot come through the old thing. He was not saying, for instance, that the new consciousness of earth’s oneness cannot be born from within the inherited language and thought forms of our religion and culture. He was saying, however, that if we assume that the Holy Wind of new beginnings can only come through our existing religious and cultural traditions, then we will likely miss the new thing. “It is not the old which creates the new,” he said. “All we can do is to be ready for it.” How do we get ready to open to the new Pentecost, to the new thing that the Spirit is doing in the earth and the human soul?

 A New Harmony (Jossey-Bass: San Francisco) 170-171.

Let Our Soul Breath Hope | John Philip Newell | Prayer

Monument Valley totem pole (h) crFor the freshness of this new day

thanks be to you, O God.

For morning’s gift of clarity

its light like the first day’s dawn

thanks be to you.

In this newborn light

let us see afresh.

In this gateway onto what has never been before

let our soul breathe hope

for the earth

for the creatures

for the human family.

Let our soul breathe hope.

John Philip Newell, Praying With the Earth (Eerdmans: Michigan) 15. Photo by Chuck Summers.

Did the World Save Jesus?

By John Philip Newell

Roofless Church, New Harmony, IN

Roofless Church, New Harmony, IN

In one of my last conversations with Jane Owen before she died in the summer of 2010, she said, “New Harmony saved me.” Some would be excused for thinking that I had misheard her. Was it not Jane Owen who had saved New Harmony? Was it not her conviction that had turned around this forgotten little town, transforming it into a place of new vision for the world? History will record what many people have already said, that Jane Owen saved New Harmony. And they are right. That is part of the truth. But a deeper part of the story is that New Harmony saved her. “New Harmony saved me,” she said, “because it taught me how to love.” She was a rich young woman from Texas, but here she found the objects of her love—the people, the place, the vision of a new harmony. It was here that she learned how to sacrifice. And so it was here that she truly found herself.

Because Jesus found in the world the true object of his love, and in giving himself in love, he found himself forever.

This is the deeper part of the story in all great lives. Many will say that Nelson Mandela saved South Africa. But Nelson Mandela would be the first to say that South Africa saved him. In the people of South Africa he found the object of his love, and in giving himself for them he found his true stature of soul. Many would say that Oscar Romero saved El Salvador. And this is part of the story. But the deeper truth is that his love for the people of El Salvador saved Oscar Romero. And in the Christian household, we hear again and again in word and song that Jesus saved the world. But must we not also say that the hidden part of the story is that the world saved Jesus? Because Jesus found in the world the true object of his love, and in giving himself in love, he found himself forever.

What is it that will save us? Who are the people, the creatures, the lands, the nations that will awaken our compassion, and who in awakening our love will awaken our willingness to make whole again? These are the ones who hold the hidden part of the story in our search for wholeness. These are the ones in whom we will find the key to love.

 A New Harmony (Jossey-Bass: San Francisco) 164-165. 

Harmony of Heaven | John Philip Newell | Celtic Spirituality

_CES1338In the rising of the sun and its setting,

in the whiteness of the moon and its seasons,

in the infinity of space and its shining stars

you are God and we bless you.

May we know the harmony of heaven in the relationships of earth

and may we know the expanse of its mystery within us.

John Philip Newell, Celtic Treasure: Daily Scripture and Prayer2005 (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids) 18. Photo by Chuck Summers.

Peace Prayer | John Philip Newell | Praying with the Earth

Mesa Arch close (h) crPeace for the earth and its creatures
peace for the world and its peoples
peace for our fathers
peace for our mothers
peace for our brothers and sisters.
The peace of heaven’s vastness
the peace of ocean depths
the peace of earth’s stillness

John Philip Newell, Praying With the Earth (Eerdmans: Michigan) 15. Photo by Chuck Summers.

The Cross and the Kiss of Choice

JPNewellbyAnnFowlerby John Philip Newell

Last year I gave some talks at a church in Minneapolis. Before the opening session, I was seated in a side chapel close to the main auditorium preparing myself in silence. The talks were going to touch on themes of sacrifice, of making whole again. And I was going to raise specific questions in relation to wholeness. Do we want to be part of transformation? And what are the costs of change, both individually and collectively? As I sat pondering these themes, I noticed on the front wall of the chapel a traditional Ethiopian cross with its large diamond shape at the top and narrow shaft connecting to a smaller square shape at the bottom. And I realized it was like a big key hanging on the wall in front of me.

In the Christian tradition, our key is the cross, or what Jung calls “the Christian totality symbol.” It opens for us the way of love, the truth of love, and the life of love.

In the Christian tradition, our key is the cross, or what Jung calls “the Christian totality symbol.” It opens for us the way of love, the truth of love, and the life of love. It connects for us what has been considered opposite—heaven and earth, the divine and the human, the one and the many, God and all things. It is the key of love. It is the key to transformation.

2002-21-1lgThis may begin to make it all sound simple. And I suppose it is simple. But it is not easy. The difficulty comes in using the key. The challenge ensues in taking it off the wall of our religious symbolism and making use of it in the relationships of our lives and the wider world. The test is in whether we choose to use it again and again and again, resisting the delusion that we will be well by looking after ourselves in isolation, by tending our own nation, our own species, our own tradition, to the neglect of the whole. It is what Teilhard de Chardin calls “the primacy of humility,” the greatness of bowing in love to what is deepest in one another.

The way of sacrifice cannot be imposed, for it is the way of love.

The way of sacrifice cannot be imposed, for it is the way of love. By its very nature it must be chosen. Hildegard says that we are “to act through the kiss of choice.” This is what ANC students did in loving their nation and paying the price of exile. This is what Jon Sobrino and his fellow Jesuits did in speaking out against the political abuses of El Salvador. They kissed the key to love. This is what our Mark did in the Glasgow terrorist attack in his willingness to sacrifice.

What is it that we will choose, and how can we strengthen one another to make this “kiss of choice”?

A New Harmony (Jossey-Bass: San Francisco) 165-168.

The Antithesis of Terrorism

DSCF3960by John Philip Newell

In 2007 there was a terrorist attack at Glasgow International Airport in Scotland. Ali and our younger son, Cameron, were traveling that day.They arrived at the airport just minutes before the Jeep that had been packed with explosives drove through the front window of the terminal and burst into flames. If they had arrived a few minutes later, they would have been checking in at exactly that spot in the airport. As it was, they were inside the terminal getting close to the ticket counter. Then suddenly in front of them hundreds of people were running in the opposite direction. Ahead of them they glimpsed the Jeep and one of the terrorists on fire.

 “I was listening for the moment of explosion. I was trying to decide when to throw myself over Cameron.”

People were desperately running to get away. Our son- in-law Mark was with Ali and Cameron. He had taken them to the airport and was helping with their luggage. He said, “Drop your bags. Run.” As the three of them ran, Mark, in later recounting what was going on in his mind, said, “I was listening for the moment of explosion. I was trying to decide when to throw myself over Cameron.”

This was not Mark boasting. This was a candid, straightforward expression of his heart. He would not put it this way because he does not claim to be religious. But for me this was an expression of the heart of God. It was an expression of the true depths of the human soul. Deep within us is the desire to love.

click to order

click to order

In the end, the explosives did not detonate. Scotland was spared the sort of carnage that many places in our world are subjected to on a regular basis. How can we be part of transformation in our world so that such acts of terror do not pull us further apart? For us as a family, we will always remember Mark’s willingness to risk himself for Cameron. It was the antithesis of the fear and hatred that motivated the bomb plot. How can we nurture the willingness to sacrifice? In other words, how can we nourish the desire to love, a desire that is within us all, although often confined to the smallest circles of relationship and family, yet a desire that can be equally although more challengingly applied to broader spheres of relationship in our world? There are many stages to transformation, including the detailed deci- sions of how to reenvision and restructure the relationships of life, whether between nations and species or between individuals and communities. But unless there is a willingness to be compassionate and to bear the cost of love, we will move nowhere except into further separation and division.

 A New Harmony (Jossey-Bass: San Francisco) 164-165. 

You Are the Sun

Clingman Dome sunset (h) crLight

golden light

fresh from the source.

Colours

creation’s colours

calling our senses.

Life

life in its oneness

life in its manifold oneness

all from You.

 You are the Sun from whom the morning shines

You are the River in whom each life-form flows

each face

each race

each cell within our ever-living soul.

This new day we greet You.

John Philip Newell, Praying With the Earth (Eerdmans: Michigan) 12. Photo by Chuck Summers.

The Glow of the Eternal | John Philip Newell | Celtic Spirituality

CB-3In the temple of my inner being,
in the temple of my body,
in the temple of earth, sea and sky,
in the great temple of the universe
I look for the light that was in the beginning,
the mighty fire that blazes still from the heart of life, glowing in the whiteness of the moon,
glistening in night stars,
hidden in the black earth,
concealed in unknown depths of my soul.
In both the light and the shadows of my being let me glimpse the glow of the eternal.

John Philip Newell, “Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter”, 68. Photo by Chuck Summers.