In Your Midst
Taizé - Festival of Lights and Prayers
April 99

Taize service
The Taizé cross, surrounded by votive candles, leans against the altar during a Friday evening service.
At 6:30 p.m. every Friday the Cathedral chandeliers are dimmed. The Taizé cross, an icon of the crucifixion, leans against the altar illuminated by dozens of votive candles. Hundreds of people, old and young, gather quietly during the simple guitar prelude. The organist and cantors enter without ceremony. A sequence of familiar chants and a short reading from Scripture are followed by six minutes of meditation in profound silence.

After offering petitions for the needs of our community and the world, the assembly is invited forward to the altar to light their tapers, filling the Cathedral with candle light. The candles remain lit during the final chants.

The story of Taizé began in 1940 during World War II with a man now known as Brother Roger, a Protestant. He left Switzerland for his mother's birthplace, Taizé, France, to form this dedicated community. There he purchased a house and sheltered Jewish refugees.

Today there are more than 90 Taizé brothers from all countries and faiths. They support themselves, accepting no gifts and keeping no money in reserve. They worship in the Church of Reconciliation. During the warmer months, so many people come on retreats that tents are erected on the grounds where prayer services are held three times daily. In spite of the large crowds, most of the time is set aside for silence and meditation.

The Taizé brothers see their work as a double vocation. First, to help teach young people to pray, using contemplative silence as away of holding themselves ready for the word of God. Second, to help different cultures work together, bringing reconciliation where there has been only hurt. Taizé's form of prayer (hauntingly beautiful yet simple chants) has spread across the world from France to the United States, Italy, the Sudan, South America, and even Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The brothers also visit cathedrals around the world to share their way of prayer. Brother Pedro, born in Barcelona, Spain, and Brother John, born in Philadelphia, came to St. James on February 27, 1998 where they helped conduct a service at St. James, and led retreats at Seattle University and the Newman Center at the University of Washington.

St. James has been conducting Taizé services in the Cathedral for 10 years, carefully modeling them after the Church of the Reconciliation. Other area churches offer similar services from time to time during the year. At St. James, the services continue weekly, attended by those seeking a peaceful candle-lit hour of quiet meditation each week.

Mary Seling is the receptionist in the Cathedral parish office and a freelance writer.

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