When desertions, doubts, discouragements and the silences of God seem to cover everything, will you discern the desert flower?
Frere Roger, And Your Deserts Shall Flower, 1982
I am returned again from a week Taize, changed, refreshed, restored vis-a-vis the person who left London over two weeks ago.
That person was full to overflowing with myriad responsibility, anxiety, mindful of being let down, excluded, hated by those with-out – and by those within the church. Mindful of failure; of months of unanswered prayer; the irony of travelling to the Church of Reconciliation, when reconciliation was impossible; I might be despairing, yet still deemed too evil for – beyond – its grace. Hurting, physically and emotionally.
Even then, there was strength for the journey, for the challenges of carrying the week’s accommodation, bedding, clothing, on France’s trains, coaches, buses. Grit, on arrival, for camping solo, and one-handed. But stubborn determination to reach Taize, and cope with living there, cursing the daily difficulties, is not calm. Breathing takes time. And patience. Patience to be where I was, as I was. I was not calm. I was in coping-mode.
Realizing this, I resolved to pray each song. Hungarian, Polish, Latvian, made familiar music fresh. And there were moving new chants. I enjoyed the musical battle between soprano and lower voices as ‘Jubilate Coeli’ was sung in canon, at full force, by over 3 000 people. The celebration of the Feast of St. Mary. The Magnificat.
The burnt amber and honeycomb of the church. The icon of Christ and His Friend. The Icon of Mercy. The former, said to be Fr. Roger’s favourite, as we remembered 11 years since his death. The latter commissioned to celebrate 100 years since his birth. Both icons inviting reliance on – trust in – others. The call to trust others was palpable.
The witness was palpable. A group from L’Arche had come to visit; were staying in our quarters, eating with us, asking us to ‘Oser La Recontre’ – To dare to meet them’; those who are unafraid to rely on each other. I did, and was blessed by them, even laughed with them. The challenge was made stark – as Jean Vanier visited – gave an uplifting workshop – dared us all to ‘cross the line’ to bring down the walls of fear and prejudice. My research work – my standpoint – validated. But this was not where my prejudice lay. My prejudice was towards myself, my emotional frailty.
Thus, my mind was not calm. I didn’t need help to cope physically, so much as to cope emotionally. I sat evening after evening in church, after the end of the prayer, alone in spite of so many pilgrims: crying, , rocking, but without the courage to do as invited – speak to a Brother – be heard. Until much later in the week. The fear was – unnecessary. I spoke to him, was heard, was validated. I was calm. Heureux sont ceux qui s’abandonne en toi. I abandoned myself and my past to God – again.
That calm – calm of being heard – the calm of Taize is beyond words, beyond silence and stillness. Trusting others is hard. Sometimes harder than trusting God. But it is also the freedom to be who I am, to start time and again, in spite of difficulties, in spite of the way that I am treated. That promise – of being able to start again – to trust again – is the desert flower when all else seems lost.