Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Keith's Week of Silence

The heartbeat of the Taizé Community is: 
seeking reconciliation with God through Christ. 

The theme of God's love and forgiveness washed over me through the songs and themes chosen each day.  A week in silence while participating in this community was unlike anything I've experienced before.

A polite, discreet way to inform others that I won't speak
Eight of us men sat around a large, wooden dining table.
Altogether that week we shared 20 meals from start to finish... in silence... 
save for the sung prayer to begin the meals and the elegant background music featuring Baroque and early Classical music eras.

You learn a lot about people especially when you can't talk to them:Who goes for the food first?
Who notices that someone else still needs or desires food?
Who is comfortable with eye contact from complete strangers around the table?
Who is not?
Who eats slowly and doesn't mind the group waiting for him to finish?
Who is a bit unsure or annoyed by this experience?
Who waits politely?
Who delights in this new experience?

I am privileged to have shared this unique experience with my wife.  She stayed in the women's quarters on the other side of the village.  Nevertheless, we saw one another at least three times a day and communicated mostly through written notes to one another.  It reminded me of our season of dating (and how I should continue to write her notes!)  Some of the services we sat together, and thankfully, it wasn't actually complete silence the whole week.  We could sing during the three worship services each day.  The most common themes found within the Taizé songs include God's guidance, love and forgiveness.  I enjoyed singing these with my wife, though I couldn't speak to her.  

3 (services) x 30 (mins of singing) = 90 (mins of singing per day)
Taizé church in the center of the large campus
Here are the lyrics to my favorite Taizé song, which we sang in German and English:
"God is forgiveness.  Dare to forgive and God will be with you.
God is forgiveness.  Love and do not fear."

Saturday candlelight service with over 2,000 people,
symbolic of the resurrection life of Christ

A song we sang several times in Latin:
"Christe, lux mundi, qui sequitur te habebit lumen vitae, lumen vitae
Christ, light of the world, whoever follows You will have the light of life."

Also, I was assigned to meet daily with one of the brothers (basically a monk).  So I met with Brother Thomas at 16:00 for 20-30 minutes to discuss what I'm wrestling with and learning during the silence.  He was very helpful in providing scripture passages to read and asked good questions to learn how God was speaking to me.  Brother Thomas is a very wise man of God who has been in the Taizé Community for over 40 years.

90 (mins of singing) + 30 (mins of communication) = 2 hours total of non-silence/day

My cozy room consisted of a sink, bed, large window and this desk with:
the "Friend of Jesus" icon, a picture of my wife, water bottle, journal, Bible, and Taizé song book.
Each day was filled with hours of free time.  I spent a lot of time going on long walks through the woods, along the rivers, and through the open country side.  On my walk this afternoon, I decided to walk toward the train tracks.  Beautiful farmland surrounded me on the meandering one-lane road.  Large tractors passed from time to time as corn harvest is well under way in France. Small white clouds dotting the sky and probably 74° again - I can't believe how warm and dry it has been overall this week.  

As I walked back to the Taizé village, I noticed a school of minnows in the creek. My loud steps approaching the creek and quick movement looking into the water caused all the minnows to scatter, taking refuge in the shadows of a large pipe that fed the stream below the road. I was curious to see what might happen should I be completely still.  I decided to sit on the edge and simply wait; no commotion. After only a minute or two, the minnows began peaking their heads out from the shadows and delighted once again in the sunny waters.  But it was only in the absence of commotion when they could trust and be free. 

I wonder how many skittish and fearful parts of my life are hiding like the minnows in the shadows because I hardly take even a few minutes to be still - free from commotion.

Waiting for the minnows to come out from hiding

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