Archive for December, 2013

I’d heard of Taize prayer before, but Tuesday night I went to my first ever event, celebrating the start of Advent.  For Catholics, Advent is a big deal.  It’s a time to prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas, to reflect on your own life, and to move forward with positivity.  The session started at 7pm, but I got to my church, Holy Redeemer Parish, about twenty minutes beforehand.  (I like to sit in the pews and just say a little prayer, in silence.  I love that my church is quiet and calm.  When things get too hectic in my own life, especially at work, having a place to pray means a lot to me. I also like to thank God for the gift of words. . .I’m blessed that words come so easily to comfort me.)

I knew only that Taize was a community-based, meditative form of prayer, based on the work of a priest who had begun the movement in Taize, France, back in the 1940s.  Of course, I needed to research it to find out more.  I knew it was mostly meditative in origin, and I’m a big fan of meditation.  As someone who’s suffered with depression and, more recently, with weird bouts of anxiety, I have found a lot of peace in meditation.  I do it every night before I fall asleep and it helps to quiet my mind.  I figured, based on what little I knew about Taize prayer, that some aspect of the meditative approach would be beneficial.  Taize is about repeating small snatches of song, over and over, in a group of people.  It’s almost like a Gregorian chant, but in English.  (Well, I’m sure it’s in French in France, but for us, it was in English.)

One proponent of Taize prayer, Olivier Clement, says:  “Something very interesting at Taizé is that this formula of calming repetition has been taken up in the liturgy; that is, it is not used only in personal prayer, but also in prayer together or common prayer.”  You are part of a greater group, a community, but you find yourself in that community.  The repetition, I found, was something that centred and calmed me.  It felt sacred.  The lights of the church were dimmed and the echoed singing made me lose myself a bit.  There was something calming in that, though, which surprised me a great deal.  Lose yourself, your ego maybe, and you find yourself in a bigger, more spiritual way.  That’s what I’m guessing, anyway.

Some of the loveliest parts of the service, though, were the spaces where silence lived.  Between the songs, between the intercessions and spoken prayers, there were spaces. . .where you could just focus on breathing, really.  I like my mind a lot.  I depend on it.  We get along, my mind and me.  🙂  Still, it also torments me because I think things through excessively.  It might be a creative thing, having a brain that is constantly questioning and thinking interesting thoughts, but it’s also pretty exhausting.  You never get a break.  You need to find ways to slow your mind down, and that, for me, is found in prayer, singing and writing, along with long walks with dogs.  🙂

Silence isn’t always easy, just as yoga or meditation isn’t always easy.  You need to quiet the mind to get into those spaces.  Getting to the silent spot means that you need to cast off your worries, just trust in the moment, live mindfully and, for me, live prayerfully.  It’s about putting things into God’s hands, not thinking that you have any control over the big things beyond your human frame.  The ego, of course, fights that with a passion.  Anything that stops it from chattering is threatening to it.  Taize quieted the chatter, giving me forty-five minutes of calm inside.

One of my favourite parts of the night was when we were invited to go up to the altar and light a candle, to offer our own silent intercessions up to God.  I love candles because the flames always transfix me.  (No, I’m not a pyromaniac!)  I’ve learned about candle meditation, too, where you stare at the candle flame and breathe.  We do that naturally, as humans, gathering around our Northern Ontario fire pits and camp fires, transfixed by the beauty of the flame, by the crackle and hiss of wood burning.  I pray for strength, calm and grace from God, and from angels.  I also pray for others because I find comfort in sharing my faith through prayer.

If you haven’t tried Taize yet, and you hear of a session near your home, you should go….even just for the experience.  I don’t think it really matters if you’re religious, to be honest…the music, the lights, the silence….it will all find its way into your heart and mind.  Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find some respite from the daily grind…but you might even find more than you bargained for.  🙂





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