Thursday, October 20, 2016

A day in Taizé

It couldn't have been any better, I don't think. A full week in Taizé was not something I ever thought I would be able to experience, but when my best friend visited me in August and talked about her plans to visit Taizé in October, my wonderful husband said, "Why don't you go, too?" He knew how much it would mean to me, and I'm so grateful to him.

For those of you who follow my moodlings, you'll know that I've had a longstanding love for Taizé. In the summer of 1985 I attended a Lutheran-Catholic Student's conference in Ontario, where I was first introduced to the music of Taizé. It took a while before I found out about the ecumenical community of brothers connected to the music, several years after I had started participating in a music group that held prayers in a few Christian churches in my city.

It wasn't until our family travelled to Europe in 2014 that I had an opportunity to actually visit the small French village of Taizé and really understand what the community was all about. My two young adult daughters went with me, and we stayed for three wonderful days that left me wishing I could experience an entire week of life there.

Now I have, and it was definitely worth the effort and the jetlag! Here are some images from the week, with a bit of explanation to give you a an idea of a typical day at Taizé:

An autumn sunrise over the hills of Burgundy, 
from the top of the hill at Taizé. 
Three hours earlier, the stars were incredible, too -- 
every night that week we had a clear view of them...

On the walk to the church for morning prayer...

Early morning, before the bells call everyone to pray. 
The Church of Reconciliation is always a peaceful place, 
with many people quietly praying at all hours.
Prayer with the entire assembly takes place three times a day,
with incredibly beautiful music, scripture and silence.
There is also a silent prayer for peace 
at the beginning of every week...

After morning prayer, a typical breakfast -- bread, butter, 
and coffee/cocoa (but I already ate the two little chocolate sticks, I think.)
Meals are ample, but very simple. Other meals include a spoon, a beverage bowl,
some pasta or lentils with rice, maybe some cheese or a sausage link
with fruit and cookies for dessert -- and seconds after everyone has had firsts...

Passing out the handouts and singing a chant 
 before the English Bible Introduction with Brother Matthew (left),
who was translated into German by Christof, the man beside him
(though Matthew often corrected Christof's translation -- with hilarious results). 
The brothers offered the best lessons on mercy that I've ever heard...

Reflecting on the questions from the Bible Introduction near the little pond in the park
known as St. Stephen's source before lunch...

The brothers leave the Church of Reconciliation
 at the end of the noon prayer...

Waiting for lunch. Why does prayer make me so hungry?
Grace is always a Taizé chant led by our "angels" (young volunteers)
Betka, from the Czech Republic, and Helena, from Germany.

The conversations during our meals out in the sunshine are multilingual -- or
sometimes in sign language if we don't share a common tongue...

 Two p.m. choir practice with Gregor,
a Hungarian with a strong sense of music...

Group sharing about the questions from the Bible Introduction
 in the afternoon, in Margo's "living room"
(she was staying in a tent for the week).
Our adult group consisted of two Dutch, two Germans, two Swiss, 
two Canadians, and one from the US, all of whom spoke English, 
and all of whom enjoyed one another's company. 
The depth of sharing in the group was incredible from the start...

Another walk to St. Stephen's source, where
two storks were having their supper...

and I walked the 18 stations of the Way of the Gospel
(the raising of Lazarus below)...

After supper, our sharing group washes pots and pans
and sings in multi languages as we work... fun! 
"We are washing in the light of God, 
we are washing in the light of God!"
Everyone knows how to sing Allouette (who knew?)...

A meeting with Brother Alois (left), Taizé's community leader,
 who tells us about the young brother from Bangladesh being welcomed
into the community at that evening's prayer 
and the brothers' work with L'Arche in Bangladesh...

The end of evening prayer.
Many young people are already 
over at Oyak, the community's concession area, 
for snacks and friendship, 
but many also stay longer in the church to pray and sing...

This is the basic structure of a day in the Taizé Community, but there is so much more to it, of course. Words and pictures can't really convey the peace and joy of the place, the prayer that flows like breathing, the beauty of the countryside, or the warmth of the pilgrims who spend a week in the community. It was a perfect place for my soul to settle... the music, prayer and friendships touched me more deeply than I can say,,, and the happy tears that frequently flowed down my cheeks signaled many "God moments" that will stay with me forever.

If you ever have the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to Taizé, the little village on the hilltop in Burgundy, I can't recommend it enough!

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