Behüte mich got, ich vertraue dir, du zeigst mirden weg zum leven.
Bei dir ist freude, freude in fülle. Song No. 137
Keep me, O God, for I trust in you. You show me the path of life. With you there is fullness of joy.
Before I left for France a friend asked me what I was looking forward to most about Taizé. I did not have to think long. I love the hour before morning worship begins. I know from previous visits that there is a moment as the sun rises when light pours through certain
stained glass windows in the chapel. I love that moment. In particular, one window casts a long thin streak across the floor that seems all mine to witness and enjoy.
I am a true morning person. Getting up is the same as waking up for me – no caffeine is necessary. I get up 29 days out of 30 without an alarm. In Taizé this means I do not have to wait in any lines for showers. I have time for reading, study, or writing letters as I think of friends.
So when the doors to the chapel are unlocked I go in to cherish the alone time/space which will eventually be overcome by the masses. They maintain a strict silence in the chapel for those in particular who come early or stay late. It is the icing on the cake for a place that is already a world away from business as usual.
A few individuals have the same desire. We scatter ourselves out across a very big room. I find my seat – a certain spot close to the front on the left side. Like many, I take off my shoes – let this be holy ground as we prepare to meet with God. I usually grab one of the few small, low wooden benches. Sitting on them instead of the floor is a comfort, but they really serve the purpose of mirroring a kneeling position. I set all my things for the day aside (literally, and figuratively as well). People choose to read, journal, pray.
A few brothers finish preparations for worship. They quietly light the many candles that bring eyes and focus forward. Even the microphones are interspersed amongst the benches reserved for the brothers to sit. All the readings and song leading is done in place. No one reads from the front lest they become the focal point. Reverently the Eucharist (bread and wine prepared for Holy Communion) is set out for celebrating the sacrament during the service.
The chapel is accented with stained glass – small windows with painted Bible scenes or long narrow strips of colored glass. My favorite thing is to see the sun begin to pour through one particular tall vertical window. The color from the window streams across the floor like an un-shadow of oranges and yellow.
The actual window is only about 20 inches wide but is over 20 feet tall. The colored light is attached to the window at the base and streams out 60 feet or more. At just the right moment, in accordance with God’s laws of nature, the sun shines through. I’ve been here before - I came to experience it again. Except that the color stream isn’t in the right place. It is a curious thing to me. I came 6,243 miles, Dexter to Taizé, found my favorite seat in the chapel, how could I really be disappointed that it takes a slightly different trajectory across the floor. It is strange that I even know this.
I’ve noticed several other subtle but distinct changes in Taizé as well. The countryside of patch worked green fields are now intermittently checkered with entire fields of yellow.
All very deliberate. No green or yellow over flow the hedges or stonewalls. They are everywhere but we had never seen it before. Even the birds are louder this year. There are more bugs and wild life. There are a zillion more kinds of flowers blooming. They are already cutting grass in some fields.
I didn’t consciously think that all would be as I left it a few years ago, but I didn’t prepare for change either. All these thoughts bunch up in my mind when I realize some of the brothers have come in and taken their places already. One in particular is kneeling with head and hands to the floor – humble prostration. My out of sync ray of color has moved across the floor and is draped across him. The color dyes his white linen robe.
This certain brother had quietly slipped in, arranged his robe for simplicity and comfort, then bowed before the Creator Almighty in morning prayer. Did he know that warm light would bathe him like that? He was alone before God, bowed before God’s heavenly throne.
I want that. It’s what I hoped to find at Taizé. Like a seal, a blessing. Son shine?! Did he know that beam of light would materialize and stretch across that very place or did God find him in this moment? It passed in front, over, and beyond him. I imagine it went through him.
The bells finally ring (for 5-10 minutes at 8:15 every morning) and everyone arrives and find their places on the floor. We all face the candles and tapestries up front. We all sing the songs and the morning progresses.
The songs are mostly ascriptions of praise – about the length and difficulty of the Doxology we sing. The Gloria Patri we sing by heart is not unlike other short praises also sung in Latin. A scripture is read followed by a prayer and 10 minutes of silence. 10 minutes is an eternity at the beginning of the week but too short at the end of the week. This particular week all the morning scriptures are from Isaiah – passages about the suffering servant who will take away the sins of the world.
They start a new song and it brings us out of our silence. I open my eyes and I can’t see. I am looking directly into the light from that tall window. It too was silent though not still as it swept across the floor and now lasers through me.
It is not a small thing to me. I soak it in. All of Heaven and Earth had to position itself for this to happen.
It occurs to me that all the subtle differences I have noticed are simply because we have come at a much later time in the spring. April is a long ways away from March in terms of how fast spring progresses. For that light to be cast through the chapel window as it was, on this spot, at this moment, on this day, of this month, at this latitude and longitude – the earth had to be tilted just so in its orbit and the light of the sun 92,960,000 miles away findsits mark. I am a needle in the haystack the size of the universe but it does not feel random or like fortune. All things are set in accordance with God’s purposes and design.
Everyone stands. We pray the communion liturgy. From north, south, east and west we have come. The light from the window has caused most everything else in the room to fade and disappear. It all pales and seems so dim in comparison. As we move into lines to receive Communion, the sacrament also eclipses nationalities and languages. They are too dim to capture our attention and we are one coming forth to receive what God has bequeathed to us.
It is what I wanted, and hoped for. It was for sure what I needed. I am blessed and give thanks!