Sunday, 16 December 2012

Mud Huts and Prayer Stools

Taizé nativity scene 2012
It’s that “Taizé Nativity Scene” time of year again. Rather than do a rundown week by week, here’s just two pictures in one. This year the theme is Africa, so Mary and Joseph are black Africans, as are all the rest of the cast and the stable is a mud hut. I’m not sure quite what the deeper meaning is behind it, but it is an interesting twist, particularly as when there were discussions to found a Jewish homeland in the early 1900s, one of the options was Uganda. But I don’t think that that is the link they are thinking of.

Romanesque church Taizé
In any case we were in Taizé and as Cees has been trying to photograph the old church for quite some time now, we popped into the little Romanesque church to see if it would be possible. The problem is that the church is incredibly dark inside, spookily so to be honest. Most of the potential windows have been closed off leaving just one real window in the whole church and a few very small windows in the apse. All the windows, bar one, are in traditional Taizé orange which lets very little light through - a bit like the use of red light in the old fashioned dark rooms. The church also has dark grey walls and poor Cees has nearly broken his neck on a couple of occasions, when we have gone in there, tripping over a payer stool left in the middle of the walkway. The church is normally full of young people praying, which means you can’t leave the doors open to let enough light in to walk around without disturbing them. But now that there are only a few brothers and a handful of permanents in Taizé, the church can be found completely empty on some occasions, as was the case the other day.

My first attempt at a Taizé prayer stool
While Cees was photographing the architectural features that the church has to offer, I spotted a lonely prayer stool at the front and decided it was about time I tried one out. I always sit on the floor during services, but I have closely watched stool users, so I know how, in theory, to use one. Having watched far too many novices end up with their legs flailing in the air after misplacing their bottom or having the stool angle the wrong direction, I have never dared to try in public. So now was my chance.

Here is photographic proof of my attempt - not a very good photo I’ll grant you. I must say I was surprised. It was in fact very comfortable. Having said that, I am not sure I would be confident enough to try during a service, it’s that bit where you have to turn around through 180 degrees, that tends to be the death knell for many a middle aged beginner.

Next time I am at a service I will watch how the experts do the turn, then I may move on to practicing at home and then who knows, I could progress to being a fully qualified Taizé prayer stool user.

La Tuilerie Website showing accommodation with plenty of prayer stool practice space and within walking distance of Taizé itself.

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