20 May 2013

our trip to taizé, france.

For Josh's 23rd birthday we planned a trip to France to visit Taizé, a monastery in the countryside of France where anyone can come for a week or so to spend time in prayer.  Josh went to Taizé two years ago with Dan Overholt, his cousin.  Their experience at Taizé made a big impact on Josh and he really wanted to go back with me.  So we went!  (We also spent 2 full days in Paris, but more about that later.)
Our experience was very different from Josh's first time at Taizé, which is understandable.  Josh is at a different point in his life now, his reason for being at Taizé is quite different this second time around and there was a different group of people at Taizé this past week. We actually heard a couple people say that each stay at Taizé has been completely different for them.  I wasn't totally sure what to expect, but  I had an idea that our visit to Taizé might be quiet, reflective, slow and that we maybe we'd meet some new friends. My expectations were partly true; we prayed a lot, had some quiet time and met some nice Dutch friends, but to be honest some of the time we felt distracted, frustrated and uncomfortable. There were 5, 000 people at Taizé, which is an unsually large mass of people; plus, most of those people were teenagers coming with there youth group. There was a lot of noise and a lot of cigarette smoke. I'm apparently allergic to French trees or flowers, so I was sneezing a lot and had some asthma trouble. And our tent was a little leaky. Yeah, these things are kind of bad, but I am regretful that these factors distracted me more than they should have. I really enjoyed praying and walking through the countryside, but I didn't feel at peace during our stay in Taizé. Josh and I were talking about the experience while we were in Paris and he responded to my thoughts by saying, "so maybe your time at Taizé is not over yet?" I think maybe that's true.  The songs we sang while at Taizé were running through my as we wandered the streets of Paris. I hope to continue singing them with Josh now that we're back in Oslo.
While at Taizé we prayed three times a day before breakfast & lunch and after dinner.  Prayer was what ordered our days and I loved that.  The prayer service was mostly singing chants and songs, along with some scripture reading, a time of silence and eucharist in the morning. The church can be expanded to accommodate 5,000 people and we generally had to get to church 30 minutes early if we wanted to sit near the front or on the stairs. The brothers all sat in the center of the church. I loved the songs. Some moments were really powerful- like when we were singing "Bless the Lord my Soul" and taking communion.  After that I was really hoping we'd sing that song again, but we never did. The church itself is really cool to be in, with stained glass and icons decorating the walls.
The other highlight of our visit to Taizé was wakling around the countryside.  On Josh's first visit to Taizé he actually stayed two weeks; the first week was normal, but the second week he spent in silence.  During his silence week he took long walks through farm country and to the tiny villages scattered throughout the countryside. We set aside two afternoons for really long walks.  Each day we walked for about 5 hours, resting occasionally in small villages or on a conveniently placed bench. We passed through fields, saw lots of cows, made wildflower bouquets, sang, made grass art, talked and walked some more. On Josh's birthday walk we came across a goat farm where we stopped to buy cheese.  That was the best goat cheese I've ever had! These walks were fun (exhausting by the end) and gave us time to talk and think.  
A prayer from Taizé in Spanish:
Dios de consolació 
aunque no sitiéramos nada te presencia
tú estás ahi.  
Tu presencia es invisible
pero tu esperitu santo está siempre en nosotros.

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