Fr. Terry’s Taizé Reflections, part three
The country road that meanders out of Cluny passes through Massilly and then on to Taizé. Really I should say on through Taizé because this country road appears to see no reason to stop in Taizé, but merely to pass through Taizé on its way to wherever. It slows a bit as it passes through the village but only very briefly. But in the minute it passes through the medieval village, if you look to the right you see the village church surrounded by a churchyard. If you turn down the alley to the church and stop, you will find an earthen grave immediately left of the door to the ancient church, a grave bearing the name “Fr Roger.” There you may find mementos of candles or stones placed there by pilgrims visiting his grave every day. It’s a simple resting place for such an important leader and founder of the Community of Taizé. If you enter the church, you enter a place largely untouched by the thousand years or more since its construction in the old Romanesque manner. There are small slits for light to enter with only a few larger spaces with light passing through onyx or alabaster, giving the space enough light for one to situate oneself on a bench for prayer although it’s more a feeling of being within the womb than in any church one would typically find nowadays. I personally loved being within this small ancient church. The silence within such a thick-walled stone structure was like nothing I recall. It was truly where you could hear the sound of silence — impenetrable, pervasive, gentle and with the remarkable ability to set one back on oneself; to invite reflection, quiet and something like thanksgiving for what is. Perhaps like the experience of Centering Prayer itself.
The impact of Brother Roger is still very present, ten years since his having been slain in the church while praying with hundreds of people at the age of ninety. This summer the Community of brothers is celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth. Various pictures taken of Brother Roger during his long life have been hung all around the outside walls of the Community’s church. However, it typical modest, understated Taizé style, they are only 12 X 15 inch which remember him warmly but without overstatement. He was our founder, our mentor, our dear friend and leader, they seem to say, and we remember his contribution to our community even after these ten years. But we don’t want to make him into a great saint or someone other than a wise human being who followed the path of Jesus and reminded everyone to love one another.
And I think I agree: that is probably enough said.
I’ve encountered wonderful people from all over the world here. This week there are supposedly 860 people here on pilgrimage plus the more than one hundred brothers and other “permanents,” people who have been here before and who want to be here for a period of months or maybe a year, who work as organizers in various positions and receive free board and room in exchange.
I also have found new friends in Alessandro and Angelo from the mountains high above Bergamo in the north of Italy — conversations with these two totally enjoyable characters is rich and filled with lots of laughter. They’ve been coming to Taizé for twenty or twenty-five years but are suspicious of the “love” program they divine here, wondering why there isn’t talk about God’s judgment on sinners. I don’t have much to say about that, but I do love our conversations about anything and everything whatever. Sometimes it’s about the quality of the food. Sandro suggests that what is served as pasta shouldn’t be called that; it is indeed food in that it is starchy and has some tomato sauce spread over it, but it should never be called pasta which is truly an Italian art form altogether (Michael Cooley might agree). I’ve also enjoyed meeting Karl, a Swiss pastor very learned and calm, someone steady but also concerned about the future of the church in his care. Then there’s Rory, an Irishman from London, wonderfully kind and a lover of things Taizé who is constantly and overtly skeptical about the institutional church. And there’s Rachel, a Swiss mother and grandmother, the daughter of a pastor, not sure what she believes about God at all and not comfortable affiliating with any religious tradition, but a lover of Taizé prayer and singing. I’ve met two young college students from North Carolina–they along with Barb Treen and myself, may be the only people here from the United States during this week, at least that I’ve found. There is a young woman from South Korea who is open and revealing about her re-conversion to Christianity as an adult, and a young woman from Hong Kong who speaks of having become Christian as an adult and who loves Jesus. Then there’s my roommate Oover from Germany who comes here to hike, to pray and to maintain days of total silence — I don’t know too much about him, actually. All of these people sound like the people who come to our Sunday evening Taizé prayer at St. Andrew’s — people all over the board in what they believe, people from many different places, but all of whom love the invitational simple and prayerful singing of the scriptures in the Taizé way. People as varied as the members of St. Andrew’s, really.
Many blessings for all of you who may read this.