Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Advent and Taize

Earlier this year I had the honour of visiting Beaumont Hamel in France, a memorial and reminder of humanity’s need to “wake up” to a deeper love that is needed to heal and reconcile our broken world. Also while in France, I got to visit two very important communities who are doing foundational work for peace and reconciliation within the human family: the Buddhist community of Plum Village and the Christian community of Taize. 

Plum Village was founded by a Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thick Nhat Hanh. Thick was a victim of the Vietnamese war, and is now one the world’s leaders in the practice of mindfulness, inner peace, and compassion for all. Thousands of people visit Plum Village every year from all over the world to learn and deepen their practice of mindfulness and compassion, and thereby having a significant impact on lives, families, communities and the world. 

I also was able to visit and experience Taize. Taize was founded by Brother Roger after the Second World War. The Church of the Reconciliation at Taize was built by German youth as the process of healing and reconciliation began between the two countries. Taize attracts thousands of youth each year from different countries, cultures and languages. These are youth (and others) want to “wake up” to a larger life. The spiritual tools used at Taize to help “wake” people up, among others, are: chant, meditation, and praying with icons. 

One of the many icons in the Church of the Reconciliation is the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration has its rightful place within the liturgical year, but this particular icon also has advent written all over it. Praying with this icon is a call to wake up to Christ’s life. 

Notice that the disciples at the bottom of the icon are sleepy, just barely awake. They have halos (loving consciousness), but they are hardly visible. As you move up the icon, symbolic of the journey of spiritually “waking up,” there are trees and obstacles in the way. Inherent in a meditation practice is to learn to recognise the obstacles within us that prevent the flow of Divine love that we are. At the top and on either side of the icon, there are Elijah and Moses. Their halos (conscious love) are brighter than the disciples. And they are also within two spheres - heaven and earth, spiritual and material. In this icon, Elijah and Moses are “awake” and connected with divine life. And, of course, Jesus is at the centre of it all. His halo is the brightest. As fully human and fully divine, Jesus is fully conscious of the Divine Love that he is. In Jesus exists both heaven and earth. In you and I exists heaven and earth. All is one in Christ. This Advent, the world needs us to “wake up” to the reconciling love that is within every human being, of every language, gender, sexuality, colour, culture, and religion. God is all in all. Love is all in all. Wake up!

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