High on the ‘Bucket List’, Taizé is a place that has called me most of my adult life. I haven’t been able, for a variety of reasons, to answer that call. Until now. God’s timing, however is always best, and this has been a timely visit. At the end of a long, busy summer that has been high on the ‘demand’ factor. Placements, essays, exams and overseas trips calling much from me and stretching me in many dimensions. Growing stuff, I wouldn’t be without, ( except the exam bit, perhaps) but God’s rhythms require balance. Retreat and rest, as well as service and growth.
Taizé is like a long hot soak in a scented bath. A gentle place. Gentle in pace and approach. Room to unwind and relax in a restful, spiritual environment. A truly ecumenical centre, where the sharp boundaries and denominational divisions are deliberately blurred. A confluence of nations, people come week after week, from all over the world, predominately large numbers of young people. Language barriers are overcome with careful listening, love and laughter as lives are shared within the context of small groups.
The accent is on simplicity. In everything. Worship is both simple and profound. The pattern follows the rhythm of the Community, with morning, noon and evening prayer. Firmly God focused, the liturgy and music flows naturally and easily. Led by various of the monks, who occupy the central aisle of the church, disembodied voices, in a variety of languages, guide the prayer and song. There is little to get in the way, in this very ‘thin’ place. It is a very moving experience to worship with thousands of others from all over the globe- all sitting or kneeling together on the gently sloping floor. All pretensions, roles and higherarchies are left at the door. Child or bishop, are as one before God. When you are already on your knees, the only step to bow the spirit, is on your face. Lighting is soft, with the dancing flames of a hundred or so candles gracing the chancel. You are bathed in God, in a wash of Love.
We were told the story of a young German atheist who came to Taizé out of curiosity. She could give you a thousand reasons why God simply could not exist. At the end of the week, however, she confessed to one of the brothers, ” I am beginning to have my doubts about that.”
Presence. Gentle and unassuming, and yet inescapable. Brother Roger started the Community in the tiny village of Taizé, in France, during the Second World War, as a ‘mustard seed’ of Peace. An alternative to the craziness of war. Bringing people and nationalities together in reconciliation and understanding. His faithfully planted seed has become a spreading tree under whose branches the nations have gathered to find rest and discover God.
Spoons. All you need to eat with, at Taizé. Food is simple too, but wholesome and nourishing and a miracle of provision. Feeding thousands a day, in a well practised organisation of willing volunteers that has to be seen to be believed. Within minutes all are eating, from trays on their laps, spread out across the site. More than once I had a picture of a hillside in Galilee, and a carpenter from Nazareth, a couple of thousand years ago. Shortly after, it is all cleared away and washed up, by yet more volunteers, often singing, with their arms in buckets of suds.
Taizé is somewhere to bring others to. Young people in particular. Those of faith and none. It is a place you can take at many levels. Forget any ‘Taizé’ services you may have attended. Good or bad, they are very different from the real thing. One of the brothers described Taizé as ” a place to re-discover the joy of living, the joy and the love of God” . I couldn’t agree more.
To find out more go to: http://www.taize.fr/en