"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. Some young people, who know almost nothing of mystery, are introduced to it here, and they begin to learn how to pray."
Singing is one of the most essential elements of Taizé worship. Short songs, repeated again and again, give it a meditative character. Using just a few words they express a basic reality of faith, quickly grasped by the mind. As the words are sung over many times, this reality gradually penetrates the whole being. Meditative singing thus becomes a way of listening to God. It allows everyone to take part in a time of prayer together, and to remain together in attentive waiting on God, without having to fix the length of time too exactly.
To open the gates of trust in God, nothing can replace the beauty of human voices united in song. This beauty can give us a glimpse of "heaven's joy on earth," as Eastern Christians put it. Inner life begins to blossom within us.
These songs also sustain personal prayer. Through them, little by little, our being finds an inner unity in God.
Reading Scripture is a way of going to "the inexhaustible wellspring by which God gives himself to
thirsting human beings." (Origen, 3rd century) The Bible is a "letter from God to creatures" that enables them "to discover God's heard in God's words." (Gregory the Great, 6th century)
Communities who pray regularly, customarily read the books of the Bible in systematic fashion. But
for our monthly Taizé prayer, more accesible readings are chosen, as well as ones that fit the theme of the prayer or the season.
We pray a prayer composed of short petitions or acclamations, with each petitions followed by a response sung by all, forming a kind of "pillar of fire" at the heart of the prayer. Praying for others widens our prayer to the dimensions of the entire human family; we entrust God the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and the sufferings of all people, particularly those who are forgotten. A prayer of praise enables us to celebrate all that God is for us.
After the written petitions, or acclaimations, are finished, time is provided for people to pray spontaneously in their own words, expressing prayers that rise up from their hearts.
At Sinai, God spoke to Moses and the Israelites. Thunder and lightening, and an even louder sound of a trumpet preceded and accompanied the Word of God. (Exodus 19) Centuries later, the prophet Elijah returned to the same mountain of God. There he experienced storm and earthquake and fire, as his ancestors did. He was ready to listen to God speaking in the thunder, but the Lord was not in any of the familiar mighty phenomena. When all the noise was over, Elijah heard "a sound of sheer silence," and God spoke to him. (1 Kings 19)
When God's word becomes "a sound of sheer silence," it is more efficient than ever to change our hearts. The heavy storm on Mount Sinai was splitting rocks, but God's silent word is able to break open human hearts of stone. For Elijah himself, the sudden silence was probably more fearsome than the storm and thunder. The loud and mighty manifestations of God were somehow familiar to him. God's silence is disconcerting. It was so very different from all Elijah knew before.
Silence makes us ready for a new meeting with God. In silence, God's word can reach the hidden corners of our hearts. In silence, it proves to be "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit." (Hebrews 4:12) In silence, we stop hiding before God, and the light of Christ can reach and heal, and transform even what we are ashamed of.
Although God never stops trying to communicate with us, this is never in order to impose. The voice of God is often heard only in a whisper, in a breath of silence. Remaining in silence in God's presence, open to the Holy Spirit, is already prayer.
The road to contemplation is not one of achieving silence at all costs by following some technique that creates a kind of emptiness within. If, intead, with a childlike trust we let Christ pray silently within us, then one day we shall discover that the depths of our being are inhabited by a Presence.
The first Sunday of each month at 7:00pm, a service of Taizé prayer around the Cross is offered at St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church, Wilsonville. This service offers a moment to lay down at the cross of Christ, our own burdens, and those of others.
Taizé worship consists of four elements: meditative singing, scripture, prayer, and silence.