Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Taizé, Gratitude and Peace

Sirens and flashing lights interrupted the calm of my evening walk. A fire truck and two ambulances whizzed past me, too close for comfort. What is going on? Is there a fire or some other emergency in my neighborhood? My nerves were set on edge. They shattered my pensive mood and seemed to underscore a day of frustration and disillusionment.

Facebook shouldn’t determine my mood, nor should I spend so much time following all the latest news on scandals and rebuttals currently afoot in our political scene. I thought I moved to Switzerland for a year to get away from all that commotion. Unlike the last year I spent here, where my only US news was through a 10-page printed newspaper, the Internet brings everything, both good and bad, right into my face. Trying to scroll through my news feed to only look at the pictures and engagement announcements only lasts so long. Avoidance is easier than carefully-planned moderation.

I was on my way to a Taizé service at the local church when my reverie was interrupted by the sirens. Along the way there were also festivities taking place in local restaurants, with raucous laughter and revelry. As we approached the church, bells began to toll to announce the service to the surrounding villagers. A cacophony of sounds was echoing through my head as I entered the church. I had gone to still my soul, but my mind was racing far ahead.

The altar centerpiece at our feet 
Upon stepping into the church I was immediately confronted with a quiet dimness. Although it was already dark outside before entering the church, this dimness was different. The only light visible was street lights filtering through the stained glass window at the front of the church, and candle lights illuminating the altar.

We gathered in a circle in complete silence, while the rest of the dozen or so people filtered in. On the floor in front of the semi-circle of worshipers was a circle formed by red and orange cloth. Inside the circle were two rows of tea candles which formed a cross. They formed the four cardinal points, fashioning a mandala symbol—a symbol of wholeness.

We sang, “Jesus remember me, as you come into your kingdom.” Suddenly the day was put into perspective. Then the leader read a poem by German Detlef Kranzmann Ich bin dankbar für die Steuern (I am thankful for taxes).

I am thankful:
. . . for the taxes I pay, because they mean I have a job and an income.
            . . . for the pants that are too tight, because it means I have enough to eat.
. . . for the mess that I have to clean up after a party, because it means I’ve been surrounded by loving people.
. . . for the grass that has to be mowed and the windows that have to be washed, because it means I have a place to call home.

He continues on, listing seven more mundane and ordinary things that normally get us worked up, when in fact they should make us grateful for how blessed we are.

We sang a few more contemplative songs and sat in silence for five minutes. The service ended with Moses’ benediction: “The Lord bless you and keep you. . . and give you peace.”

I left the church a changed man. The hubbub of whatever was ricocheting through my head was stilled. I had been given peace. On the walk home we ran into a neighbor. We asked her what all the commotion was about with the fire engine and the ambulances. “It was only a drill,” she said. “They do this near the beginning of every month to be prepared for a real emergency.” More peace. My soul had caught up with the rest of me.