Ljubljana 2023/24

Daily Meditations by Brother Matthew

This page contains the daily meditations given each evening by Brother Matthew in Ljubljana from 28 to 31 December. It is also possible to take part in the prayers live via the links published on this page.

Thursday 28 December

What a joy to be gathered here all together this evening in Ljubljana! You have come from the four corners of Europe and from further afield as well. Many of you have had a long journey and your host parishes are waiting to welcome you, so I promise not speak for too long.

How important it is that our first common activity is to stop, to pray and above all to give thanks to God for the opportunity that we have during these days to meet with each other, to discover the life of Christians in Ljubljana and its surroundings and to journey together. “Journeying Together”….. that is the title of the Letter which we have prepared for this meeting and which will serve as a basis for reflection through the coming year in Taizé and gatherings elsewhere in the world.

During these past months, we have been journeying together with the different Churches of Ljubljana. A team of young volunteers, two of whom you will meet tomorrow evening, have been visiting parishes and Church communities to prepare our meeting with them. The hospitality you will receive and the programme you will take part in is the result of this time of searching together and listening to each other.

It is essential in today’s world that we find ways of putting our faith into practice together, even if we are from different Christian traditions. In the introduction to the Letter 2024, you find the following words:

“As Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel “You have one teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters” (Matthew 23:8). Are not all Christians sisters and brothers, united in a communion that is still imperfect but nevertheless real? Is it not Christ who calls us and opens a way for us to go forward with him as fellow travellers, together with those who live on the margins of our societies? On this journey, in a dialogue that reconciles, we want to remember that we need each other, not so as to impose our opinions, but as a contribution to peace in the human family.”

Let us keep these words in our hearts on this first evening of our meeting in Ljubljana. Our journeying together these days is an expression of our desire to walk with Christ who welcomes all without exception and who asks us to welcome those who cross our path. In that way, wherever we are we make a small but real contribution to peace in our world.

Of course, we cannot be naive when we speak about peace. Situations of war and violence present and past have wounded our European continent as well as other parts of the world. Our hearts are in particular with our brothers and sisters from Ukraine who have been able to join us for these days. A lasting peace always goes together with justice for all, especially those who have suffered.

But when, as in this evening’s reading, we hear Jesus saying “What are you looking for?” how will we reply? He meets us in our deep-down longings and if we respond, he invites us to “Come and see”, to walk with him, to see with his eyes. Are we ready to set out on this adventure of faith, to put our trust in the one who loves us before we love him, to remain with him?

Tomorrow morning in your parishes, you will reflect together on the theme of listening. This is the first section in the “Letter 2024”, because, as you will read, “At the heart of every dialogue is listening”. Be ready these days to listen to each other, to hear what the other is saying first of all, as well as to the Scriptures and the silence of our own hearts. Maybe as we do this we will find God is speaking to us. Are we ready for that?

Friday 29 December

This morning in your groups you spoke about the theme of listening. What were the things that you discovered in that time of sharing? During these days can you hold them in your hearts so that they may grow and take root? Perhaps further thoughts will come to you. Would it be an idea to note these down and thus further your reflection?

When we journey together in such a way, especially when each of us comes with the desire to listen and no-one imposes their views or actions on the other, our meeting can often be so powerful. Our own contribution is important, but what we receive from others, though it may challenge us, often deepens our understanding of who we are and we are enriched by it. Jesus himself also experienced this in his life on earth.

Welcoming a stranger comes straight from the heart of the Gospel. As he journeyed, Jesus excluded no-one who came to him, recognising the presence of God even in those from the margins of society and of a different ethnic or religious background; in the same way, simple hospitality offered in a selfless manner challenges our way of living today.

Are we not often taught to defend our own interests and the interests of similar minded people? When we live in such a manner, our view becomes narrower and we become locked in our own comfort zone. Of course, our fears may be well-founded and need to be listened to, but as we journey with Jesus, he wants to lead us towards a fullness of life that perhaps we had never imagined before.

But he does all this with incredible sensitivity, respecting our freedom and giving us the time that we need in order to take the next step forward.

In the passage we heard from John’s Gospel this evening, the friends of Jesus are afraid. They no longer really understand what is going on. They have grasped that he will not be with them for much longer, that his love for them and all humanity will lead to his death and their hearts are troubled.

Jesus tells them however that he will not abandon them. He will always go before them to prepare a place for them. When Thomas expresses his disbelief with the words, “We do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”, Jesus reassures him.

What Jesus asks, he also gives. He himself is the path, we can trust what he says and he is the source of an abundance of life. Even when he himself is faced with terrible distress, Jesus is ready to listen to the fears of his friends, to walk with them in their anxiety. This is a way of showing his love – a love which will soon come to its deepest expression when he gives his life on the cross. And that love will turn out to be stronger than death.

Is it not this love stronger than death that allows us to face life head on? Yet this love is a humble love, which leaves space for the other, respects their limits and walks with them. We discover in this way fellow pilgrims who are ready to share our journey with us in the community of believers which is the Church, the body of Christ, but also in society.

Tomorrow in your groups you will speak about finding the balance between being alone and being with others. How do these two levels connect? It’s an important theme. As it says in the Letter 2024, “The strings of a guitar lie side by side, but it is when they are played together that they make a beautiful sound…”

Our evening prayer will close with a time of prayer around the icon of the cross. All of you who wish may come and pray at the cross to entrust to Jesus your worries and troubles, as well as situations of suffering in the world. Christ welcomes each one of us, as we are, and as he did in his life on earth walks with us in our questioning and doubt, just as he shares our joy. Nothing can separate us from his love.

Saturday 30 December

We are already over halfway through our 46th European Meeting here in Ljubljana. We are immensely grateful to the families and parishes who have opened their doors to us and welcomed us so warmly.

Six months after I became a brother in Taizé, our community held its first East-West meeting in this city. At that time, Europe was still divided in two parts by the Iron Curtain, but in spite of that it was possible for young people from all the countries of Europe to gather here. Coming from England and having grown up with this division, I wanted so much to go. But I wasn’t among the brothers chosen to take part. I was a little disappointed! So it really is a great joy to be in Ljubljana now. Will our meeting this year have the same prophetic sign of a reconciled Europe as it did in 1987?

Sometimes the desires of our youth can take years to come to fruition, but we should never forget them. They come about later in ways we never expected! As it says in the Letter 2024, “The journey takes time – even a lifetime – (…) Perhaps this is where patient endurance and remaining faithful come into play.”

We live in a world that often demands quick results. If these don’t come along, we sometimes think that we have to change everything.

This evening, we listened to a beautiful passage from John’s Gospel which can perhaps help us to have another outlook at this. It introduces two important themes to us. The first is the notion of “remaining”. Jesus asks us to remain in him as he remains in us. Remaining implies something that lasts, which is not just there for a short time. It speaks to us of commitment.

We can say more simply that because Jesus loves us, we can love him. He establishes a relationship with us, a relationship which lasts. Jesus tells us that because of that relationship we can ask him for what we need. And as we do that, a source is uncovered which enables us to love other people as well. To describe this, he uses the image of the vine and its branches. The branches grow from the vine and receive all that they need from the vine. They are at the same time firmly attached and flexible. The branches can withstand the wind and storms that may come and still abide in the vine.

The second notion is that of bearing fruit. The branch quite naturally produces fruit because it is linked with the vine. It doesn’t produce it on its own. But what is this fruit? A little further on in John’s Gospel, Jesus will go on to say “Love one another as I have loved you. No‐one has greater love than to give their life for those they love”.

In the Letter 2024, we find the following words: “Walking on this path means taking the risk of giving everything to follow Jesus, so that, in all freedom, we can love right to the end. (...) This is the journey of our life through which we move from being servants to friends of Christ. Fruit is borne through lives lived fully.”

So, the invitation to us all is to abide in Christ, as Christ abides in us. Through that our lives can be transformed and we learn what it means to live not just for ourselves, but for others.
The journey takes time. It is as if our whole life becomes a pilgrimage. And you know that since many years our Taizé Community has been leading a “Pilgrimage of Trust on Earth.”

This is a way of encouraging you who take part in the meetings in Taizé to continue living from what you have experienced back in the context of your everyday lives. What are the responsibilities you are called to take on in your countries, in the society and in the Church? This is not easy. Are we ready to give time both for prayer and to seek paths of building trust and understanding? In which ways can we take part in the communities, Church or in society at large, that exist already?

From time to time, this Pilgrimage takes on a more concrete form, like here in Ljubljana for our 46th European Meeting of Young Adults. During this year in Taizé, there will be meetings every week, to which you are all invited. But where will the 47th European Meeting take place?

- It will be in a country where the meeting has never been held before, in its beautiful medieval capital…

- A country with 2,355 islands and 1,560 lakes…

- A country with a rich cultural history, but where it has often been at the mercy of its larger neighbours…

- A country where peaceful change was brought about in the 1990s by a singing revolution.
The next European Meeting will take place in Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia.

Tomorrow we will speak more about the Pilgrimage of Trust on Earth with some new ideas of how we can continue to journey together over the next time. Now we will pray around the cross as yesterday evening.

Sunday 31 December

This is our last evening gathering in Ljubljana. It is time to think about how to put into action what each one of us has discovered during these days. What does it mean for us to journey together in today’s world?

Yesterday, in speaking about our Pilgrimage of Trust on Earth, I asked you what are the responsibilities you are called to take on in your countries, in the society and in the Church? Are we ready to give time both for prayer and to seek paths of building trust and understanding? In which ways can we take part in our communities, in the Church or in society at large, that exist already?

When we look at the different situations of violence in our societies, of war and conflict near at hand or further afield, when we hear the cry of the Earth, God’s wounded Creation of which our wounded human family is a part, we so often feel at a loss. Everything is linked. Our longing for peace is intimately connected with the call to safeguard Creation. Sometimes, we no longer know where to turn and we even ask ourselves “Where is God in all this?”

But was this not also the experience of Jesus’ friends when he died on the cross? They had put all their hope in him, but at the end very few of them stayed with him. The moment came however when they understood that not even death could separate them from that love that they had experienced. Some of them even claimed to have seen Jesus risen from the dead.

The passage from John’s Gospel that we have just heard tells us about one of Jesus’ friends who had not been there when the others had seen him. Thomas is honest, but also sets his own conditions. Was he wounded because he could not see what the others had seen?

Thomas is a man who questions everything. On Friday evening, we heard him ask Jesus how he and his friends could know the way ahead. We never need to be afraid of our questions or even our doubts. In this evening’s passage, the doubt of Thomas becomes the meeting point with Jesus. As Thomas wanted, Jesus comes to him. His first words are not a rebuke, but “Peace be with you”. He invites Thomas to touch his wounds and to trust. Seeing Jesus, Thomas exclaims “My Lord and my God!” He no longer needs to touch Jesus, for this meeting has healed the wounds of Thomas.

Once again Thomas can believe. Once again he can feel part of the group of Jesus’ friends. He is no longer isolated in his doubt, but part of a community. In the Letter 2024, you will find a proverb that comes from the Kikuyu people of East Africa: “What makes a long journey seem short is when we walk together”.

Are we ready to walk together with others? Jesus promises a joy to those who put their trust in him, even though they have not seen him. Through this trust, joy is offered to each one of us and reinforced when we journey together. We share the same path with many others – you have discovered that these days.

I cannot forget the ecumenical prayer vigil called “Together” that we experienced in St Peter’s Square in Rome on 30 September. On the invitation of Pope Francis, we gathered as the People of God from different Christian traditions, from very diverse backgrounds, from every section of society. In prayer, intercession and silence we entrusted to the Holy Spirit, the work of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church. Together with Pope Francis, twenty leaders and representatives of different Churches gave a common blessing. Together they stood and prayed in front of the Cross.

The Synod in the Catholic Church is an ongoing process leading up to a second session in October 2024. As young adults, how can you take part in this journey? The invitation of Pope Francis makes it clear that the contribution of Christians from all traditions is welcome. Are we ready to walk on the same path?

If we can do that, then as Christians together, like the yeast in the dough, we can make a difference. Would peace among ourselves not give a greater hope for peace in the world? Are we ready to set out as Pilgrims of Peace in the time between now and the Tallinn European Meeting continuing our Pilgrimage of Trust on Earth?

For the Together vigil, over 200 different initiatives took place throughout the world linked with the prayer in Rome. Could we give ourselves until Easter 2024 as a time of reflection to see which initiatives we can undertake as Pilgrims of Peace in our different countries today? How can we pray, meet and even walk from place to place, from church to church and seek paths of peace?

Our new brothers spend a year outside of Taizé as part of their preparation to commit their lives in our community. I would like to ask our Brother Matthias to share an experience he had in Brazil earlier this year.

Last year, with our brother Hendrik, we joined a pilgrimage animated by a small community called ’Trindade’. It was a walking week, about 100 kilometers, under a warm Brazilian sun, with a group of 15 people. Most of us were not very great walkers. We all traveled with a minimum of things, with a tiny bag like this. We just used our everyday shoes. Some of us made all the way just with flips-flops !
We were all from very different backgrounds. Some of us had lived very poorly on the streets for many years. But we walked together, we sweated together, we contemplated the same countryside, we shared the same breaks along the way, we asked for water together when we needed it, we prayed together, and every evening we experienced together a warm and surprising welcome. All of this simply and deeply united us. This unity in our very mixed group was for me a humble sign of peace.

So, I would like to invite you all to set out as Pilgrims of Peace beginning with this evening’s prayer for peace in your host parishes. Write to us about the initiatives you will take via the address in the meetings app. And then come to Taizé at Easter, when we will give more news. Will we dare to set out again not alone but with others, mutually enriched, as we journey together?

Last updated: 31 December 2023