The works of Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan were celebrated at the annual Festival Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on Sunday.

In his homily, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, highlighted the gifts of the Holy Spirit on those who “create beauty in our world”.

He said: “We thank God for the gifts he gives, particularly the talent and gifts of musicians and composers, not least those of Sir James MacMillan who with graciousness and skill helps us raise our minds, hearts and voices to the glory of God.”

The Sixteen Choir (Image: Paul McSherry)

The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Leo Cushley with music performed by world-renowned choir The Sixteen. Sir MacMillan attended along with friends and family while dignitaries included Frank Ross, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and philanthropist John Studzinski, founder of the Genesis Foundation, a UK-based arts charity.

The Mass took place the day after the world premiere of Sir MacMillan’s Fifth Symphony, performed by The Sixteen and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra at the Usher Hall.

Cardinal Nichols said: “Last night’s symphony struggled with this mystery of the Holy Spirit, exploring the third person of the Holy Trinity in words and images which gave rise and shape to the music of the symphony.

“Those images include the great image of fire, presented to us in today’s passage from the gospel of St Luke. Jesus said: ‘I have come to bring Fire to the earth and how I wish it were blazing already’. It’s the fire of the Holy Spirit of which he is speaking. A fire that gives energy, new life, that purifies and enlightens.

“We know that fire can also be terrifying - so too is the Holy Spirit. If, more than anything else, we want to cling to our home comforts and avoid every fresh challenge of this journey following Jesus, the fire of the Holy Spirit will not go away, it will disturb us and seek us out until we are ready to turn to him again in our hearts and are cleansed and recreated.

“We thank God for the work of the Holy Spirit, especially in those who create beauty in our world.”

Speaking at the end of Mass, Archbishop Cushley added: “When we hear singing like we have heard today in the context of Holy Mass, it makes it special indeed to raise our minds and hearts to God.”

(From left) Archbishop Leo Cushley with the Lord Provost of Edinburgh Frank Ross and Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
Sir James MacMillan (second from right)
Archbishop Leo Cushley greets the congregation after Mass.