My experience with Taizé
As I prepared for this month’s Taizé service, “Prayer for healing the wounds of war: A time of war and a time of peace,” (Ecclesiastes 3:8), I considered my month and the glimpses of this theme in my life. That is my routine.
The Taizé services offered by the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, lovingly force me to stop and “waste time” with God. So, before each service, sometimes a whole week leading up to the Tuesday evening or sometimes just an hour before the service, I make sure to look to the divine within myself for ways in which I have experienced the different “times” from Ecclesiastes.
Using Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 as the “schedule” for this year’s Taizé services, I am reminded that my own spirituality goes through seasons and changes, just as this Scripture passage suggests. What’s unique about this chapter, however, is how the phrases are situated in juxtaposition.
In my experience, no season is ever “pure.” Consider this summer: Indiana summers are known for their hot, humid days, and mosquito-filled muggy evenings. And yet, as I sit in my office, my windows are open allowing a very cool breeze to chill the room. It is the same with my spiritual seasons.
That is where my reflection for Taizé begins: How have I experienced both war and peace this month? I won’t share all of my reflections here, as many are personal, but it is a question that is worth “pondering in my heart,” as Mary did (Luke 2:19).
With these reflections in my heart, I attended the Taizé service knowing that this prayer will do what it has done oh-so-many times before: Take me outside of myself. Even when we pray by ourselves, we never pray alone.
Our prayer joins with the many other prayers within the communion of saints. Paraphrasing Michael Casey, prayer isn’t something that enters our hearts so much as our hearts enter into prayer. Taizé prayer in the community setting at the Woods makes this a visual reality for me. The people, the songs, the candles, and the communal silence point toward our union in prayer, our voices and hearts combining into one voice and heart, rising to God.
United with voices all around the world, we prayed for an end to all war, remembered those who were victims of the Rwandan genocide and many other acts of violence, pleaded for forgiveness for our complacent by-standing at times, and clung to hope for a better future.
With such a grim topic, I was most surprised by how much hope filled the church. Instead of somber guilt, those gathered were filled with a sense of a brighter future because of our trust in a good God who is always working on our behalf. The reading that followed in this theme of forgiveness and the words that were most impactful to me were the words of an unknown prisoner at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp.
“O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted on us; remember the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering – our comradeship, our loyalty, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all of this, and when they come to judgment, let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness.” These words were left next to the body of a dead child at the camp. In the midst of war, peace. In this midst of death, forgiveness. In the midst of despair, hope. A powerful statement from someone who didn’t think it was worth a name. Or maybe the unknown author meant for it to be the community’s statement rather than one individual’s simple musings?
Looking around at the community gathered in the church, I wondered what wars they were contemplating and offering up and how they were finding peace and forgiveness in the midst of them. Each person was dealing with struggles unique to him/her, embracing the inevitable loneliness of this burden, and then finding the peace that can only come from solitary contemplation. I prayed for them, knowing they were also praying for me.
Here, laid out before my very eyes, was the Christian life of prayer: A movement from loneliness to solitude to solidarity.
1.) A feeling of being totally alone to,
2.) Embracing the aloneness with a deep awareness of God’s presence in it to, and
3.) Transforming within a community into something greater than what one alone can do.
Taizé prayer moves the prayer from within ourselves to beyond ourselves.
A reflection that calls forth, and a prayer that promotes action.