Yesterday was one of our twice monthly Taize prayer services at the Law School. Organized by one of our first-year law students, the service incoporates some traditional Taize chants, a scripture reading, and silence.
The purpose behind the repetition in Taize changes was expressed well by Brother Roger of Taize, who wrote
Nothing is more conducive to a communion with the living God than a meditative common prayer with, as its high point, singing that never ends and that continues in the silence of one’s heart when one is alone again. When the mystery of God becomes tangible through the simple beauty of symbols, when it is not smothered by too many words, then prayer with others, far from exuding monotony and boredom, awakens us to heaven’s joy on earth. For many Christians, down through the ages, a few words repeated endlessly have been a road to contemplation. When these words are sung, then perhaps they have even more of an impact on the whole personality, penetrating its very depths.
So one reason for the repetition is simply to allow our minds to sink into a contemplative state.
As I listened to one of the songs, however, I realized that sometimes the repetition is what we need for the simple reason that we need to hear some things over and over again to really internalize them.
My peace I leave you; My peace I give you; Trouble not your hearts;
My peace I give you; My peace I leave you; Be not afraid.
Over and over again, Jesus tells us: “Be not afraid; trouble not your hearts.” And as I hear these lines chanted over and over again yesterday, it is as though I could hear Jesus saying: “Do you get it yet? No? Then I’ll keep repeating it until you do. Trouble not your hearts.” And I could feel myself sink into the security of those words.
Trouble not your hearts. Do not be afraid.
Thanks to the efforts of one of our first year law students, we now have Taize prayer twice a month during our common worship period (noon to 12:30 every day). This past week was one of those gatherings.
I love Taize. I used to occasionaly attend Taize worship services in New York and the parish I used to attend here in the Twin Cities offers Taize a number of times during the year.
Before this experience at the law school, the Taize services I have attended have always been in the evening, a time when you expect things to slow down, as the daylight fades into night.
It is a very different experience to walk into a darkened classroom in the middle of the day – only a soft small light making visable the icons on the prayer table in front of the room – and experience this deeply contemplative prayer. I sit and sink into the chants, even as I know that things are bustling all around us.
It is a reminder that even in the frantic activity of our daily lives, we can find time to stop. Time to simply sit. Time to absorb God’s peace.
This week we held a Taize prayer service at Summerwood Assisted Living facility in Chanhassen. I always enjoy these gatherings; the residents are grateful for our presence and really seem to enjoy the time spent in communal worship.
As we always do at these services, we intersperse the chants and periods of silence with several readings and then a reflection. I offered the reflection at this service, on the theme of God dwelling within us.
I began by talking about how important it is for us to get deeply in touch with the reality of God’s indwelling. Without confidence that God desires to dwell within us, we can’t take seriously and engage wholeheartedly in the task of preparing ourselves for ultimate and complete union with God. Henri Nouwen wrote, “We can only wait if what we are waiting for has already begun for us.” Thomas Merton says we turn to God where God is already present. I then talked about the Incarnation as that which gives us confidence that we always carry God with us.
You can listen to a podcast of my reflection here. (The podcast runs for 9:39.) A copy of the three readings we used for the service the is here.
Last night was one of our monthly Taize prayer services at St. Hubert’s. I always love these services. Particularly during busy times, they are a wonderful way to come rest with God for a while.
In addition to song, periods of silence and readings, one of us offers a reflection at each service. Last night, the reflection was delivered by Lynn Arnal, our faith formation supervisor. Her theme was hope and she spoke in her reflection both of the importance of hope in our lives and or our role in spreading hope to others.
Lynn selected some wonderful readings for our service. I include two of them here you may wish to reflect on today.
“To that hope we now turn. Faith stories that provide a “home” for people of Christian traditions offer stunning and startling promises. They are the ingredients of hope. God’s gracious and mysterious love for the world and for each of us cannot be extinguished. So speaks the resurrection. That love assumes bodily form. So speaks the incarnation. God’s power and presence, seeking the healing and liberation of all, is breathed into us. We are empowered to be body of Christ on Earth, to move toward living as we are called to live.” (Cynthia D. Moe-Lobeda)
“The hope offered in the Gospel is “an anchor for the soul,” the source of one’s innermost cohesion regardless of tempestuous life circumstances. It is worth some reflection, then, to ponder how hope does its work. In a profound sense, a hope fulfilled retroactively charges the past with a significance it could not otherwise have and the anticipation of fulfilled hope is an ongoing participation in that significance.” (David P. Hoover)
Today is the fifth anniversary of the death of Brother Roger of Taize, who founded the Taize Community seventy years ago. Believing that community life could be a sign of God’s love, Brother Roger determined “that that it was essential to create a community with men determined to give their whole life and who would always try to understand one another and be reconciled, a community where kindness of heart and simplicity would be at the centre of everything.” From the single community he founded in the village of Taize, France in 1940, communities of Taize brothers now exist in many places around the world.
For Brother Roger, giving oneself to God means living a life of love, choosing God means choosing to love. Talking about what it means to love, he wrote
All who choose to love and to say it with their life are led to ask themselves one of the most compelling questions of all: how can we ease the pain and torment of others, whether they are close at hand or far away?
But what does it mean to love? Could it be to share the suffering of the most ill-treated? Yes, that’s it.
Could it mean having infinite kind-heartedness and forgetting oneself for others, selflessly? Yes, certainly.
And again: what does it mean to love? Loving means forgiving, living as people who are reconciled. And reconciliation always brings a springtime to the soul.
You may express what it means to live a life of love rooted in God somewhat differently than does Brother Roger. But I think we could all valuably ask ourselves how we can ease the pain of others, how we can share their suffering, how we can give ourselves more selflessly and what it means to live as people who are reconciled.