Thursday, June 27, 2013

From Texas to Taize: Morning Prayer

For the last few weeks, I've been writing a lot on my recent pilgrimage to the Community of Taizé, a neo-monastic community in the Burgundy region of France.  To read the story from the beginning, check here.

This post is of a much more practical nature, and goes out to my fellow worship and liturgy nerds.

Many of us have had the opportunity to worship in the Taizé style in our local church communities; it's a powerful style of worship with a focus on truly blending elements of scripture, prayer and song into one beautiful service of prayer.  In the community, the services are actually simply known as the 'prayers'.  There are three services each day in the community: morning before breakfast, midday before lunch, and then evening prayer.  I took the opportunity during my stay there to document one of each service in its entirety, songs and all for the purpose of sharing what the truly authentic services looked like.

While there was a lot of nuance in each particular worship service, I found that each morning, noon, and evening service had a flavor that was consistent from day to day.  The thread that connected each morning prayer was the sacrament of Holy Communion.

We should note here before we dig in that in the the community of Taizé, the communion elements are not consecrated in public.  This is done purposefully.  As this is a completely ecumenical community with brothers and pilgrims of many faith communities, to avoid any discomfort between those of the Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox faiths the elements are consecrated behind the scenes before worship so that nobody knows who consecrated the elements.  For instance, while Catholics are given special dispensation to receive the elements in Taizé, in this way it doesn't matter if the Great Thanksgiving was said by a fellow Catholic or a Baptist.  This also keeps with the traditions of the community that really has a lack of ceremony we most commonly associate with our worship.

Worship in Taizé is stripped down to the most basic element of all - building community between the Holy Trinity and we human beings here on earth.

All songs will include page numbers and texts from the 2013-2014 Taizé songbook.  I'll go ahead and include the language we sung it in, as well as the English translation.  A few times we sang in alternate translations (as a way of being inclusive of the pilgrims) but most often we sang the chants in the original (printed) language of the chant.  The chants were repeated often during the week, and if done in an alternate language, it stayed that way.  And also keep in mind - none of this was written down on a worship guide or bulletin, the only way we knew what hymn was coming next was to check the LED screens on the walls.

So, that said, here's a breakdown of Morning Prayer in Taizé!


Taizé Morning Prayers

Prelude - 10 Minutes of Carillon from the bell tower

          During this time, the brothers stroll in in their simple, white robes and take their seats.  Music began around 8:15am.  As the pilgrims also come in for worship, they're each handed a songbook, scripture reading page (with at least 5 languages, the Psalm intonation, and any supplemental chants not in the book (all in the picture above).

Veni Creator Spiritus (canon) 22
Veni, Creator, veni Creator, veni Creator Spiritus.
Come, Creator, Holy Spirit, come, Creator, Holy Spirit, come!

Psalm 103 (sung)

          This psalm was sung in a psalm tone, but a little difficult to sing along with.  So for me, I just focused on taking it in.  There was a chant on the psalm tone to begin and end the psalm that we did sing along with.

Scripture Lesson - 2nd Corinthians 1:18-22

          At this point comes one of the more interesting rituals of the community.  When worship starts everyone, including the brothers faces forward.  But at the reading of the lesson, the scripture is proclaimed from a simple lectern in the center of the church and everyone turns to face the reader.  It is quite beautiful, and a great way to respect the Word.  I've seen this done with Gospel readings in Catholic and Orthodox services, with everyone standing.  But here everyone still sits.  As stated earlier, the reading is on a handout given at the beginning of worship and is printed in at least five languages on the sheet.  It is read in at least two languages, the most common being French, German, and English.

Vien, Saint-Esprit (antiphon) 281 (from a worship handout)
Viens, Saint-Esprit, du ciel fais jaillir l'éclat de ta splendeur
Come, Holy Spirit, and from heaven shine forth with your radiant light.

          I'm choosing to call this one an antiphon, but hymn might be better.  The words translated are the refrain that the pilgrims sang and the brothers sang verses in between.  After this, everyone faced the front again.

Guiding Verse

          Frequently at specific points of the worship service a verse or phrase of the scripture reading was stated, as a point of prayer.  A sort of Lectio Divina occurrence for worship.  I didn't get this one down because it was not in English, but I can tell you it was usually a key phrase from the passage for the service.  It usually signified that the time of silent prayer was on the way.  I took this phrase to be my focus for the silence.

Tui amoris ignem (chant) 14
Veni Sancte Spiritus, tui amoris ignem accende.
Veni Sancte Spiritus, veni Sancte Spiritus.
Holy Spirit, come to us, kind in us the fire of your love.
Holy Spirit, come to us, Holy Spirit, come to us.


          Ten minutes of silent prayer.  During this time some would lean forward on their knees with their face to floor, others would completely prostrate themselves.  It was very personal and very communal at the same time.

Veni lumen cordium 92
Veni lumen cordium ...
Come, Creator Spirit, come!

          This chant was our usual setting for the Prayers of the People.  Concerns related to current events were often sung, and in the languages of the countries the concerns had to do with.  This was amazing to participate in.  It was a time when you could tell that the Brothers were really attuned to what was going on in the world.

Our Father 145

          This an ecumenical setting of the Lord's Prayer, and every time we sang it during the week it was in English.  It is the traditional Taizé setting sung in many churches.

Dominus Spiritus est 132
Dominus Spiritus est.  Spiritus autem vivificat.
Spiritus autem vivificat.
The Lord is the Spirit.  The Spirit gives life.

          At this point the Brothers and pilgrims stand to prepare to receive Communion.  The Brothers spread out in pairs throughout the church as communion was by intinction.  At the close of the song, there was a spoken invitation to partake in the sacrament.  Pilgrims just walked to the station closest to them, no ushers or anything, you stood in line to receive.  It was very natural.  After receiving you went back to your seat to pray and sing.

Communion Hymns:
Seigneur, tu gardes mon âme 134
Seigneur, tu gardes mon âme; Ô Dieu, tu connais mon cœur.
Conduismoi sur le chemin d'éternité, conduismoi sur le chemin d'éternité.
Lord, you watch over my soul; you know my heart.
Lead me on the road to eternity.
Oculi Nostri 11
Oculi nostri ad Dominum Jesum.
Oculi nostri ad Dominum nostrum.
Our eys are turned to the Lord Jesus Christ
Our eyes are turned to the Lord God, our Savior.

Communion Response - El Senyor 17
In the Lord I'll be every thankful, in the Lord I will rejoice!
Look to God, do not be afraid.
Lift up your voices the Lord is near.  
Lift up your voices the Lord is near!

          The text setting for this song was in Portuguese, but we sang it in German, so I thought I should just leave it in English!  I was really struck by the wonderful planning putting this song in as our response to Communion - the Lord is near!

I am sure I shall see 127
I am sure I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Yes, I shall see the goodness of our God, hold firm, trust in the Lord.

          Upon the close of this final song, the Brothers would begin to walk out and this was our signal that worship had come to a close and we were dismissed to breakfast.  This chant was also a frequent closer of worship as in Taizé, functioning as our benediction.  And really, what could be a better statement?  We prayed for most of our services to feel God's presence in the worship, but upon living we prayed to see God's presence out in the world.  And not only do we pray for it, but we expect to see God while we are out in the world.  Epic.

What if we all chose to see God's goodness in the world?  That's a great prayer.