European meeting 2022 in Rostock

Daily meditations by Brother Alois

On this page are published the daily meditations of Brother Alois, from December 28 to 31.

Wednesday 28 December 2022

It is a great joy to meet you here in Rostock! Thank you to all those who have been preparing this meeting for many months, especially the leaders of the local churches and the civil authorities. And thank you to all those who have opened their doors to welcome us.

Among those who are welcoming us, there are some who do not share the Christian faith. I would like to tell them that their generosity in showing hospitality touches us in a special way.

Our community’s ties with this region of northeastern Germany go back to the 1960s. Brothers came here when the European continent was divided by the “iron curtain.” The churches here played a decisive role in bringing this division in Europe to an end and, as soon as it became possible, young people from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern came to Taizé in large numbers.

Here, Christians are a minority in society as a whole. And this does not lead believers to close themselves off in a small world of their own, but on the contrary encourages them to enter into dialogue with everyone. Together, we can face the challenges that are common to us and work towards a society where trust can grow.

Just before arriving in Rostock I went to Ukraine for five days, until the feast of Christmas. Some young people from Ukraine have been able to come here to Rostock for the European meeting and I greet them warmly.

In Kyiv and Lviv, we were able to share the daily life of this courageous people for a few days. In the evening, entire neighborhoods are plunged into darkness due to power outages. This does not prevent the young people from gathering for prayers, just by the light of a few candles.

And the message was so clear: this light in the night, even flickering like that of a few candles, is stronger than the evil and violence of war. And is this not also the heart of the Christmas message? Christ comes into the world; he is the light of the world, threatened, often hidden, but which will never go out. [1]

Guided by the light of a star, the Wise Men found the newborn babe in his humble home. It is this story that we will hear tomorrow at noon during the prayer, and that we see illustrated on this large fresco in front of which we are praying these days: it represents the altarpiece of a church in Rostock and was painted in Taizé by our volunteers over the last few weeks.

In Ukraine, there is a great tradition of Christmas carols. One of them says: “Holy night, sweet night! Wipe the tears from your eyes, for the Son of God comes to save the world with love, light shines in the heavens!” [2]

Yes, Christ comes into the world, even in the night and in the darkness; in the heart of darkness his light is already shining.. Let us thank the young people of Ukraine for their courage in adversity and also for their perseverance in faith.

We heard this tonight in the reading of the psalm: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.”

There are so many brokenhearted people in the world today. I remember the migrants I met just a year ago, last Christmas, on the island of Lampedusa, most of them on makeshift boats, sometimes rescued in distress.

Let us also not forget the people of Haiti who have suffered so much. And let us pray for the people of the Middle East. Recently, I was speaking with a nun who is in Latakia, Syria. Sister Rima and her sisters continue to care for the children in their neighborhood, and this is an essential contribution to the future of that country.
These women and men, these young people and sometimes even these children, are making a choice: even in adversity they are opting for hope. Let us keep them tonight in our prayers, in gratitude for the courageous witness they communicate.

Thursday 29 December 2022

Last night I told you about the message of courage and hope that I received while spending, with another brother, the days of Christmas in Ukraine. The sufferings linked to the cruel war that has fallen on that country are very present, but at the same time life goes on and people organize themselves to cope as best they can.

In the capital Kyiv, entire neighborhoods sometimes remain without electricity for two or three days in a row and, more often than not, without heat or hot water. One evening, after a prayer we had with young people, a young woman asked: "How long will this go on?

And yet, undeterred, many are working to help those in need. In Lviv, we shared two Christmas meals with young volunteers, some of whom have come here to Rostock to take part in the European meeting. With amazing energy, they are rebuilding destroyed houses and engaging in various creative projects of solidarity.

We were amazed by the Christmas celebration. Everyone participated with great fervor. At one point two babies were presented to the congregation, bringing joy to all. One of the babies had just been born to a displaced family from the East of the country, welcomed in this parish.

One impression remains strong in me, and this is what I would like to share with you: in the face of the absurdity of evil, many Ukrainians keep on hoping. That is an encouragement for us all.

Other witnesses stimulate us to go forward in hope. In Germany and far beyond, the memory of Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer remains alive. He was part of the Confessing Church that opposed the Nazi regime. He joined the resistance against Hitler and was executed a month before the end of the war in 1945.

He was acutely aware of the absolute evil at work in his time, and yet an inner drive allowed him to opt for hope. He wrote one of his last prayers from prison in the form of a poem:

"Wonderfully protected by benevolent forces, we await with confidence what may come. God is with us in the evening and in the morning, and certainly in every new day."

Opting for hope is not an easy choice, nor is it the fruit of a naive trust. This option requires us to be rooted in prayer. And prayer calls us to be ever more aware of the suffering of others; it invites us to be responsible for ourselves and for others.

The message for 2023, which you may have read in the meeting booklet, is entitled "Inner Life and Solidarity". The introduction to this message mentions that these two attitudes were proposed by Bonhoeffer in his own words—and they seemed to him to be inseparable: "Prayer and righteous action among human beings."

They are just as inseparable today. Without prayer, we are in danger of being exposed to discouragement, but without working for justice, our prayer risks becoming an escape from the world. So each of us could ask ourselves: how can we translate these two realities, inner life and solidarity, into our daily lives?

To put it another way, we could say: let us welcome God’s comfort in prayer and love more and more those who are entrusted to us.

In Germany as in other countries, prayers with the songs of Taizé support many young people— and the not-so-young—in their faith. They also create bonds of friendship. But let us not only sing the songs of Taizé, let us also pray with the hymns of the local churches. This year in Rostock, the chorale "Nun danket all und bringet Ehr" links us to a long tradition of prayer.

When those who pray together open themselves up to the urgent questions of the moment, they dispose themselves inwardly to reach out to women and men from a great diversity of backgrounds: believers and seekers of God, and non-believers as well. And all together they try to live in a concrete solidarity with those who are on the margins of society.

In this way, they are part of the many Christians who are seeking a new face of the Church: a people who gather around Christ in great diversity and who are in solidarity with the most disadvantaged. I will come back to this tomorrow evening when I ask the question: is a new face of the Church already apparent in our meeting here in Rostock?

Friday 30 December 2022

We are very grateful for the warm welcome we are receiving these days in Rostock. Thank you to all those who have chosen to open their hearts and doors to welcome us! At a time when our societies are so marked by fear, especially fear of the stranger, this generous hospitality is a sign of hope.

We also say once again how grateful we are to the civil authorities. They supported the project of the European meeting and sustained its preparation in a beautiful collaboration with the Churches.

In this region where they are a minority, Christians are aware, perhaps more than elsewhere, that they are called to dialogue and to concrete solidarity with the joys and trials of all.

What will be the place and contribution of Christians in our societies in the future? The words of the prophet Micah that we have heard tonight point the way: "The Lord asks only this: that you respect the rights of others, that you love to act with kindness, and that you follow with humility the path your God shows you."

As is customary in the churches of this region, small boats hang here in this room transformed into a temporary place of prayer. They are like an image of the future of the Church. She is no longer a big, proud ship, but rather like the little boat in which Jesus sat with his friends. It was there, in the midst of the storm, that he gave them the gift of trust in God.

More than in the past, we see clearly today the inadequacies of the churches in their institutional forms. And we must even recognize, and face, the evil that has sometimes been done within our Christian communities.

In this sense, in Taizé too, with my brothers, we continue the work of truth begun in 2019, and we are aware that people have been abused in their integrity. I would like to renew our commitment to do everything we can to make Taizé a safe place for everyone, as well as each of the international meetings we organize. And I would like to invite you to help us in this.

As churches, we are called today to a profound conversion. This implies in particular that all those who love Christ do not remain separate but come together. The Church certainly needs institutions to ensure continuity in history, but it is also the "people of God" that goes beyond institutional frameworks.

Let us be guided by this call to be together the "people of God". Let us begin by seeking, with great inventiveness, how to act more and more in common with believers of all confessions, and also with those who do not belong to a Church.

In order to be the "people of God", we must listen to those on the margins of our societies, to the victims of abuse and all forms of violence. Jesus had a preferential love for those who were wounded by life.

Basically, it is a question of inventing a new face of the Church. It become a community inhabited by the fire of love of the Holy Spirit, a community that follows the Christ who conquered evil, that comes close to those who suffer, that brings to light the hidden presence of God in the world. This Church with a new face will be devoid of signs of prestige and power; it will live with simple means.

In nine months, we will have an opportunity to make this process of unity a reality—a "gathering of the people of God" called "Together". All together. I can’t tell you much more about it yet, because the announcement will be made at the end of January during the week of prayer for unity. But I invite you already to remember the date of September 30, 2023.

And then, a year from now, there will be the 46th European meeting. It will take place in a country where ties of friendship with Taizé have existed for a long time. And yet, this European capital has never before hosted such a meeting.

From December 28, 2023 to January 1, 2024, we will be welcomed in a city whose young people and archbishop are with us this evening—the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana.

Saturday 31 December 2022

Tonight is already the final time of prayer that brings us together here in the HanseMesse in Rostock. Tomorrow it will be time to say goodbye to those who have welcomed us during these days. I would like to say to the young people from Ukraine who will return to their country: we do not forget you in our prayer and in our friendship.

The European meeting is coming to an end, but in a certain sense now everything is beginning: God is calling us and waiting for us. So let us ask ourselves: how can we continue? It is certainly not a question of looking back with nostalgia, but rather of an invitation to go towards others, to widen our friendships.

Let us be sure to let the joy that comes from God rise up in us, for God never tires of putting his trust in us again and again. Welcoming this joy does not mean closing our eyes to the trials of the present; on the contrary, it allows us to face them better.

This morning, in the small sharing groups, you reflected, among other things, on this question: "We share spaces: planet, country, church, etc... What new forms of collaboration and co-responsibility can we invent in these common spaces?"

This is a beautiful question that we could take home with us. Keeping hope alive in the face of evil does not make us passive, but commits us to persevere. This is especially true of the hope for peace. It sometimes seems an unattainable ideal, and yet it requires the efforts of each and every one of us.

Praying for peace can be difficult when aggression must be resisted. The prayer in Luke’s gospel just before the Christmas story helps to find the right words. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, awaits the "salvation that frees us from the enemy, from the hands of all our oppressors.” His desire is to serve God "without fear.” And he is certain that God "shines on those who are in the darkness and in the shadow of death," and that he "leads our steps on the way of peace."

Such a prayer makes us responsible for one another. It makes peace begin in ourselves and around us. Prayer gives us the ability to keep the doors of dialogue open, even with those who think differently from us.

There is in us a deep thirst for communion and unity that comes from God, and we can express it in prayer. Even with very few words, remaining in the silence of a one-on-one relationship with God is essential for us to take part, very humbly, in his work of peace on earth.

In prayer, it is also God who turns to us and offers us to walk with him. Does God not come to meet us in the most intimate part of ourselves? There, more than anywhere else, God wishes to soothe and heal the heart of the person who looks to him with confident trust.

Praying for peace does not mean resigning oneself to the victory of the aggressor, but seeking a peace based on justice and truth.

Another urgent call to which you, the young people, make us ever more attentive is that of our responsibility in the face of ecological perils. Three years ago, at our European meeting in Wrocław, I asked for forgiveness on behalf of my generation, which has undoubtedly neglected this care for Creation.

Tonight I would like to say to you again, in a region and in a country where many young people are committed to the climate cause: your commitment has repercussions that you do not always see, but which are very real. In Taizé too, we need your perseverance to move forward on this path of ecological conversion.

Opting for simplification and sobriety can give life a boost! Taking care of Creation also means loving the beauty of nature, and being creative with simple means. Mutual aid and solidarity are thus extended to life in all its diversity.

Finally, I would like to tell you how much your presence in Rostock these days is in itself a sign of hope that has touched many hearts. During these days you have shown the face of a youth that is joyful and serious at the same time, happy to come together and open and attentive to the challenges of the moment.

Trust in God can give us a hope that is stronger than fear of the future. It comes from the conviction, that needs to be rooted in our hearts, that God is at work, and that God calls us to be at work in our turn, taking on our responsibility for ourselves... and for the next generation.

In an interior life, even a poor one, through solidarity with our neighbor and with all of creation, the risen Christ comes to meet us. He changes our outlook, he leads us out into uncharted seas, and he invites us to unexpected challenges. Will we know how to welcome him?

And now we will listen, as we do every evening, to what the children have to say (...)

Finally, I would like us all to listen to a Ukrainian Christmas song, which reminds us that the light of hope, stronger than violence and evil, guides our steps along the road to peace.

Last updated: 30 December 2022


[1In the Byzantine liturgical tradition, the Tropary prayer for Christmas Day reads: "Your Nativity, Christ our God, has made the light of knowledge shine in the world; for by it the worshipers of the stars have learned from a star to worship you, Sun of Justice!"

[2«Свята ніч, тиха ніч!»