Michael Chen

Revisit Taizé prayer

By  Michael Chen, Youth Speak News
  • September 13, 2013

One evening this past summer, I walked down a set of dark stairs into a candlelit basement. I was with a group of 20 young adults. Eastern icons of Jesus on the cross were placed around the room, representing for me the sacred history of God’s interactions with His people.

This was the first of two Taizé prayer sessions I attended just before school started. A few days later, I would do the same prayers with 175 other participants on a four-day retreat in Haliburton, Ont. In both experiences, the rooms were completely silent; you could hear a pin drop. That first night, the atmosphere was quiet and calming, and then the reflective, choral-sounding music started playing.

I had heard about Taizé from my campus youth minister and a friend. From what I heard, a religious order started this prayer in the eponymously named village in France. I soon found how interesting and enriching this form of prayer would be.

During Taizé prayers, a reading and Gospel passage are read aloud. I found that it was easy to reflect on the passages because the room was so quiet. Short meditative chants were sung throughout the rest of the session and helped me reflect on the passage and on God. For example, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” was repeated rhythmically many times.

Then there were Latin chants sung aloud repeatedly. The priest reassured those of us new to Taizé that even if we could not understand or sing the Latin chants, that we could immerse ourselves into the reflective and meditative atmosphere. One chant “Laudate omnes gentes, laudate Dominum” meant “Praise the Lord, all nations.” And during the silent parts of the prayer session, I could reflect and better communicate with God.

Taizé is an ecumenical monastic Christian community founded by Brother Roger Louis Schütz- Marsauche in 1940. He left his hometown in Switzerland for the village of Taizé, France, and offered shelter to Jewish and agnostic refugees and escaped prisoners of war during the Second World War.

Taizé, the village, started as a community of refugees and continues today as a place of reconciliation and a pilgrimage site receiving and uniting young Christian adults.

When Blessed Pope John Paul II visited Taizé, he described it best by saying, “One passes through Taizé as one passes close to a spring of water. The traveller stops, quenches his thirst and continues on his way. The brothers... want, in prayer and silence, to enable you to drink the living water promised by Christ, to know His joy, to discern His presence, to respond to His call, then to set out again to witness to His love and to serve your brothers and sisters…”

Through Taizé worship, the Word comes alive to our ears through the chants, music and reflection and to our eyes visually through the Eastern icons. And because it is simple, meditative and incorporates passages from the Bible, Christians of all denominations can participate. We can take time to reflect and be with God, be it for one hour or a few.

(Chen, 20, is a third-year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto.)

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