Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Friday Night Reflections in Taizé

With the French half term holidays upon us, Taizé has sprung into life again. The last time so many people have been on the hill, was the half-term holiday in November. In these two half-terms they have special short weeks for the younger school children attending, to give them their first taste of what Taizé has to offer.

It has taken me back in my thoughts, to the very first service I attended at Taizé, way back in 2006. One of the campers wanted to go to a service, but didn’t dare go alone (her husband wasn’t interested) and I also wanted to go, just to see what it was, but also didn’t dare. So the two of us went one Friday evening. I had no idea what was going to happen and of course I didn’t know at the time the significance of this service, it was all so new and strange.

So what is Friday evening about? The service is a normal Taizé evening service, with a little extra at the end. After the service is over, the iconic cross is laid flat on the floor in the brothers’ “garden”, the brothers gather around the cross to pray, then exit as usual. At that moment, gaps are made in the hedge surrounding this area and anyone who wants to, can go up and pray at the cross, next to the cross or laying their head on the cross. For my first Taizé service, I had dressed in a smart skirt, well I was going to church wasn’t I? I hadn’t realised that church wear in Taizé is rather casual and I regretted my decision when this point of the service arrived. Basically you queue up on your knees and effectively crawl towards the cross. I must say it was rather painful on the rough carpet, so for anyone planning to do it, my advice is to wear trousers.

But where does this idea come from? Apparently on Good Friday in Russia, it is a common practice to hold a prayer vigil in front of a cross. At Taizé when there were Russian youngsters present, the brothers noticed that on every Friday night these Russians would gather and pray around the iconic cross. On questioning them, the young people invited the brothers to join them, saying that they were praying for their friends in prison. The practice of praying around the cross was officially adopted into the end of the Friday night service in the mid to late 70s. The cross was originally vertical and people used to walk to the cross. The young people started crawling to the cross in the early 90s, why I am not sure and why the cross is now horizontal is also a mystery, but it certainly makes the whole thing a unique experience.

So with the introduction of Prayers Around the Cross, a Good Friday had been introduced into every week. What was more logical then, than to introduce an Easter into every week? Hence the birth of the Saturday night candle service. Both of these services are special in their own way and I can well imagine that they give a very special and reflective ending to a week in Taizé.

La Tuilerie Website

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