I just finished reading a collection of writings from Brother Roger of Taizé. I started this book a few weeks before my trip to France and the Taizé community. I didn’t read it during my time there, and I just finished it last night–perfect timing.
Some of you that know me have heard that I take a while to process things. Usually during the trip, or at the end, I simply want to get back to ‘normal’ life before processing the experience. While I was at Taizé I understood that this would be a transformative experience; I just didn’t quite know how or why. Yesterday, after a weekend at Disney World with 27 others from my church, I better understood Brother Roger’s voice in his writings. One of his essays has played over and over in my heart the last 24 hours. It goes like this:
When I was young, at a time when Europe was torn apart by so many conflicts, I kept on asking myself: Why all these confrontations? Why do so many people, even Christians, condemn one another out of hand? And I wondered: is there, on this earth, a way of reaching complete understanding of others? Then came a day—I can still remember the date, and I could describe the place: the subdued light of a late summer evening, darkness settling over the countryside—a day when I made a decision. I said to myself, if this way does exist, begin with yourself and resolve to understand every person fully. That day, I was certain the vow I had made was for life. It involved nothing less than returning again and again, my whole life long, to this irrevocable decision: seek to understand all, rather than to be understood. (Brother Roger, The Wonder of Love)
I miss Taizé. I miss its pace of life. I miss the simplicity of life. There are many times where I find myself telling people that I would love to be at a monastery…all except that celibacy thing:). I think what these words capture for me is Brother Roger’s continuous acceptance of the sacred in this life. The part that Christians may argue over follows: does that acceptance realize itself in a commonality with all of God’s creation? Maybe that’s a different discussion for a different time…
The hypocritical part of this, of course, is that I am blogging about my own experience of seeking Christ in the ‘other.’ In a world lusting with individualism, Taizé remains a place where one arrives as an individual, only to quickly realize that it’s not about them. Taizé is about what God is doing in the world. Once we strip our lives of the sex, money, politics, and self interests of the world, we find ourselves walking along a quiet road in the French countryside as the sun shines upon the rolling hills. We breathe fresh air for the first time in a long time. We smile at faces that smile back with a peace that is not evident back home. And we hear, in the distance, the soft song of prayer that reminds us of this simple fact: it’s not about us.