Welcome to #ATLT, At the Lord's Table: A Conversation, a series of over 50 posts from varying authors about the beautiful, mangled Church. Look for at least two new posts every Monday through Saturday between January 25th and February 22nd. Join us in the conversation? See you in the comments. I stepped inside Ascension Catholic Church unsure of what to expect. Not because it was a Catholic church. Thanks to my extended family, I've been to my fair share of Masses. But we weren't there for Mass that night. This was a Taizé service, my first.
We stumbled over the word Taizé. No one seemed to know the correct pronunciation, which added to the mystery. Its purpose, however, was clear: to foster peace and reconciliation among all people.
My friend and I filed in to a pew toward the back. I spied my former coworkers a few rows up and waved when they saw me. They had told me about this service that restored and refreshed them each month. I figured it was a good excuse to catch up with them, at the very least.
Minutes later, the ecumenical service began. I turned to my program, scanning the song titles and prayers. I found my body relaxing as the first song began. A few short, repetitive lines. We were lulled out of our frenetic day and in to meditation. One song blended in to the next, interspersed with prayers and times of silence.
Worlds different from my Evangelical upbringing, Taizé opened my eyes to the beauty of liturgy. I used to equate those things with boredom or legalism. I'd swung the pendulum toward an outside-the-box faith that often forsook its roots. I could not go to such a service and deny the Holy Spirit's presence in the room or the way my soul breathed in relief. I finally saw a richness and depth in celebrating tradition.
My eyes wandered throughout the church as we continued to sing. I wondered about the young and old faces before me. The participants represented different cultures, faiths, marital status, and even sexual orientation. And none of that mattered. Denominational divisions and markers of “real” Christians didn't apply. We were there to worship and worship we did.
The lights above reflected off the stained glass windows featuring saints and Bible scenes alike. I sang, “with you, o Lord, is life in its fullness and in your light, we shall see true light.”
Toward the end of the service, individual candles were lit flame by flame. We said prayers for peace and presented our requests to God. Then the pews emptied as we walked toward the center of the church and placed our candles in the sand pooled for such a purpose. I guarded my candlelight as I waited in line, briefly closing my eyes before adding my candle to the others resting in the terra cotta pot.
Does praying for peace matter? The prayers that night made a difference in me. Taize stretched me in a way that I hadn't known I needed. I began going to the monthly service until life interfered and the practice ebbed away.
But in its place, I've incorporated Common Prayer and let a sacred rhythm infuse my day. I've reconsidered what I need from a church community, especially since moving to another state. These last few months, the need to gather with others for peace and reconciliation won't leave me. It's time for me to seek out Taizé once more.
The Church and I have had an uneasy relationship but I can't throw those tired stones anymore. Taizé reminded me that the Church has walked along side me, at times imperfectly, but there nonetheless. If that wasn't enough, it reminded me that I've loved the Church imperfectly as well.
To know and be known. I remember the words echoing through the church sanctuary and the peace that descended on all of us. God present in His glory and drawing each person closer to Him. The holy stillness permeated then and now, calling us to what could be.
That is my heaven on earth.