Saturday, October 03, 2009

What is Taize?

Taize is a tiny village in the Bourgogne region of France. This village has an incredible story to tell. In 1940, a young protestant monk by the name of Roger rode his bike through the French countryside with the aim of finding a house to start an intentional community. This community would be composed of other monks seeking God through word, silence and meditation. This region of France was not occupied by German forces and saw a number of refugees. Brother Roger never turned away any person in need and gradually the community began to define itself as a place to serve the poor and act for peace and justice. In 1949 a group of seven brothers took their vows and formed the world's first order of Protestant monks. This order continues to grow, and is particularly interesting because each brother retains his denomination. The brother that led my time of study was Han Yol from the Philippines.

Taize is known as "a pilgrimage of trust on earth". Its particular style of worship has spawned a worldwide movement of ecumenism characterized not only by tolerance but by reconciliation. By sharing joy, and music and hope. This is most evident in the tragic death of Brother Roger. In August 2005, at 90 years old, Brother Roger was murdered during evening prayers by a mentally ill woman. The community immediately responded with compassion and forgiveness for this troubled person, who knew not what she was doing.

The rhythm of the day is set with three worship services, morning prayer with communion before breakfast, afternoon prayer before lunch and evening prayer at the end of the day. Each service has a different tone, with the evening services being the most contemplative. Worship at Taize is characterized by repetitive, simple chants in many languages. Silence is kept with only brief readings of text. One of the closest things I have felt to the peace of heaven on earth is the singing of many voices in many languages into the night. Eventually the organist will take his leave, and the chants continue and fade into waves in the echoing space.

There is so much more to say about the richness of Taize. My history is from the book,
A Community Called Taize: A Story of Prayer, Worship and Reconciliation by Jason Brian Santos, one of the few people ever invited to write a history of this remarkable place.

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