Saturday, 26 February 2011

Saturday Night

A week in Taizé starts on a Sunday with the huge morning service (Catholic eucharistic with a Taizé twist) and the week ends with the same service the following week. But the last real day of the week is the Saturday and that is the day that prepares people to go home. The final Bible explanation and the final discussion groups are in the morning and the last evening service starts at eight thirty. This service often goes on until very late in the night - as long as there is even just one singer left, some monks will always stay behind to accompany them.

Whilst the Saturday evening services are like all the rest of the evening services in content (songs & silence) they culminate in the lighting of candles, a gesture that has is roots in the lighting of the Paschal candle on Easter Sunday.

For most people who come to spend a week in Taizé, Saturday evening is the last time they will be with their newly found friends, people they have spent a week with, people they have shared their beliefs with and people they come to know and trust. This service is the real end to their week, a parting of the ways - but it is also a new beginning.

At the end of the service the candles of the people at the edge of the central “garden” area are lit and then the light fans out into the whole church as everyone with a lit candle lights the candle of their neighbour thus passing the light on until everyone in the whole church is holding a flickering candle. Whilst as I said, this ceremony has its origins in Easter (the risen Christ as the light of the world) I believe that the act of passing the light on to your neighbour is more about passing the message on, passing the light, that your week has given you, on to your home community when you return to “reality”. For many it is a very moving and emotional end to a week’s stay in Taizé.

It must be said though that the thought of 6 thousand candles burning in such a tightly packed environment put me off attending that service for a long time, what would happen if……….? My factory, engineering and safety background sent chills down my spine at the very thought and when I did pluck up the courage to go to the service, I made sure I was close to an emergency exit. But as ever, the amazing organisation up on top of the hill has come up with a solution - candles that self extinguish. The candles are in fact quite thin (about 6 mm), they are non-drip but more cleverly they can only burn for 6.5 minutes, leaving about 14cm of un-burnt candle, then they go out and they cannot be re-lit. There is enough time for all the candles in the church to be lit and to have a very stilling and stunning effect, but it is not long enough for people to start walking around with lit candles, possibly tripping up or causing some other accident. I did once discuss the safety aspects with one of the brothers and he said that in all the years they have been doing this, there has never been an incident, yet another testimony to the sense of responsibility of the young people that attend.

In any case, it is a very special service to attend, certainly in the darker months when there is no additional light from outside and the church just glows with candle light.

Two of the pictures are from the Taizé website. Copyright © Ateliers et Presses de Taizé, 71250 Taizé, France and the other one is an old postcard also from the Taizé Presse.

Our website describes the accommodation we offer near Taizé. La Tuilerie Website

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