Meditation by Brother Matthew

A foretaste of spring at Taizé

Thursday 15 February 2024

What a joy to welcome you all this week in such great numbers. Many of you have had a long journey from Portugal. You are waking us up from our winter to bring us the warmth of the south and hasten the arrival of spring in our northern lands! You’re among the first to visit us this year and so you’re preparing us for the Easter and summer meetings to come. Thank you for being here and thank you to all your leaders and teachers who have given up their free time to accompany you. Thank you also to Don Antonio, the bishop of Aveiro, for being with us these days.

I remember the first time I went to Portugal. I was 18 and I’d just been to Santiago de Compostela with a school friend. We arrived in the city of Porto at the end of July, but lo and behold we got lost and didn’t know how to find the youth hostel where we wanted to spend the night. We asked a passer-by to help us, but we couldn’t find a common language, so he called another, who then called out to others. Soon we were surrounded by a dozen people who wanted to help us get to our destination. I can’t forget the kindness and goodwill of these strangers towards two lost English boys. This was my first experience of Portugal and I know that you still have this deep sense of welcome and hospitality.

Many of you took part in or welcomed participants to the World Youth Days that took place in Lisbon last summer. Our brothers were there and we heard nothing but good things about this event, which enabled so many young people from all over the world to deepen their faith in Christ and to support each other. And who can forget Pope Francis’ call that "All, all, all" could find a place in the Church?

When you arrived in Taizé you received the Letter written for this year, entitled “Journeying together”. Living our faith alone in everyday life is not easy: we need each other. This week you had an experience of listening and sharing. Did this help some of you to discover or deepen your understanding of what it means to trust God and trust others?

Some people stay for longer in Taizé than one week. With me this evening is Marjorie, one of our volunteers from Brazil. Marjorie, what does living in Taizé as a volunteer mean to you? What is most important for you in your experience here?

Marjorie: The most important moment for me during this time as a volunteer was discovering, and actually feeling, God’s love for me exactly as I am. In Brazil I grew up in a society where there is a lot of pressure to have things and achieve professional success. So I thought that the way to be someone, for people to like me somehow, was through status, through what I did.
 
When I arrived in Taizé my intention was to spend just a week. I didn’t clearly understand what life was like here in the community. And even though I didn’t understand much, after a few days, I felt the desire to stay here longer and I became a volunteer.
 
I had never lived in a community before, but I felt accepted here. I felt like I didn’t need to meet a standard. I felt free to be. The moments of prayer in the church, of personal prayer, the exchanges during the day were precious. Often the deepest and most unexpected conversations happen when we are doing simple things… Washing dishes, cleaning the bathrooms or selling crepes at Oyak. And it was in these relationships with others, with work and with myself that I recognized my relationship with God and this deep love coming from Him, and that changed something inside me. And it is with this love that today, even with my fears and insecurities, I feel freer to be myself. To try to find the path that really makes sense to me.

Most of you will be leaving Taizé soon. How are you going to continue this journey once you’re back home? During the days you have left in Taizé, can you try to ask yourself the question “What have I discovered during this week?” Then, when you pray ask God very simply to show you how to put this into practice in your daily life. This is not something easy, but can the Holy Spirit give you the strength and courage to continue to nurture this discovery?

In tonight’s reading, Jesus said these astonishing words to us: “Whoever gives their life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9.24). For each of us, it’s not a question of clinging to an experience, to try to keep it, but of letting our experiences turn us towards Christ, so that he can transform our lives. In a certain sense, we need to forget the name of Taizé so that this transformation can take place. Everyday life in our family, in our school, in our studies or at work is not easy, but are we prepared to risk giving our lives to follow Christ? Could you keep this question in your hearts during this season of Lent?

Tomorrow evening, come and join us at 8pm in the church for a silent prayer for peace. There is so much violence in our societies and in the world. Innocent people are suffering the injustices of war. We can think of Ukraine, Gaza, Myanmar, the hostages and their families... Lasting peace is not possible without justice for all, especially for those who are suffering. Faced with these situations, we often don’t know what to do, but being in silence before God can be a sign of solidarity with these people and of our desire to give our lives for them. And who knows, perhaps during this silence we will receive insights that will spur us on to live out this solidarity in practical ways, to become pilgrims of peace.

Now, as we do every evening, we will continue our prayer in song.


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