When I fast, then I fast. When I eat partridge, I eat partridge (Rebhuhn)

Over the last 20 years of his life, Brother Klaus about whom we wrote last week didn’t eat anything. Holy communion sustained him until his last days. It’s possible. It’s possible contrary to what we learnt in the biology classes that a man cannot survive without nutrition for more than a few weeks.  However, biology doesn’t take into account what secret wanders God can perform.

During the week we joined the fast evening group. Each member of this get-together abstained from something within this time. There were a few old ladies who just didn’t eat and fed just on water and tea. Surprisingly enough most of them didn’t complain about hunger attacks or hard struggles. But what really impressed me was one of the ladies who did not eat for seven days and nevertheless she cooked for her husband, so she had to “face” all the tantalizing cooking smells. That is love. Isn’t it?

Before our community time we spent some days in Taize and also discussed the idea of fasting. What are the reasons of fasting? Just the biological purification of the body. More healthy diet. Exercising our strong will. Pushing to our limits. Sacrificing your effort for somebody’s sake.  By freeing yourself from some kind of food, some kind of food, some kind of online contents, from too much sleep, from destructive thoughts, from talking too much. from listening to little… We fast to live a simple live, for the same reason you get a bread roll and a piece of chocolate for breakfast in Taize. We fast to make more place for God in our house (soul) that is often cluttered with different kinds of rubbish.

Jan fasted from meat. Sebastian fasted  from cream cheese – he likes it so much! I took only one day of fasting, just on water. Hunger woke me up and was a companion to me for most of they day. Though it was more difficult to pray, I work extremely efficiently and found myself much stronger in struggling with the temptations. It is just good to spent some time being hungry. Hungry for food or hungry for God. It is so rewarding to sometimes allow this hunger to be with you, and just automatically grasp a sandwich or a spiritual “happy-maker”.

When we take fasting seriously, we feel more joy when it comes to celebrating. St. Theresa of Avila summarized it accurately:

When I fast I fast. When I eat partridge, I eat partridge!

Is faith in Zurich dead?

We are living 20 km away from the most expansive city of Europe and third most expensive one worldwide. Budget travellers: beware of Zurich. Germans themselves are sometimes shocked by the prices here. 7 EUR for the smallest item in Subway. 15 EUR for throat lozenge, 35 EUR  for a simple haircut. Some churches too charge an entrance fee.

Although the bishop of Kur who is in charge of the Swiss diocese where we live stated recently that the Switzerland has become a mission country, there are many highlights that faith in this city is not dead – and I don’t mean just many church towers that rise high above the city.

wieże

One of those towers crowns the church of St. James.

jakub

It is the most Taize-like church in Zurich with an atmosphere around just like in the Burgundy.

piknik

Tehre are no chairs inside. On our city tour we chose it for our midday prayer.

IMG_20170328_130110017

The faith is not dead here, even though the special church service we joined in the evening with the whole 1. Letter of John being read was attended but just 10 people  For youth there is a special church here. For travellers there is a chapel in the railway station. For the musicians there is a fie-storey music shop with one a separate floor devoted to sacral pianos! (They had 8 floors, but had to reduce only because of exorbitant rental charges).

Is faith dead? Tasting the Swiss Fondue in one of the open street restaurants we discussed whether it is better to have a full church with many people coming because of tradition, fear, reputation etc. or a small community of enthusiastic and committed followers of Christ.

Faith dies and is born at the sime time. Faith is like a diverse green garden, maybe the one belonging to the Jesuit convent where we strolled for a while.

Jezuici

Maciek

Music connects

Car trips without music – monotonous.

Bonfires without music – unemotional.

Concerts without music – senseless.

Taizé prayers without music – impossible.

A world without music – unimaginable!

 

Music is a mighty force. It has the power to make people happy, sad, reflexive, anxious, confident and so much more – in a way that no one else can. It has the power to touch your heart.

Over the last weeks, music has been a loyal companion to the three of us in many different ways. To hold a Taizé-prayer three times a day means to sing several Taizé-songs three times a day too. Thereby we don’t restrict ourselves to the popular chants, but every now and then we like to “experiment” with some new ones. An utterly different kind of music leads us through Swiss countryside when we are in the car. It is usually chart music from the radio. What is more, we perform many modern and traditional church songs in the services we arrange. The last ingredient to this cocktail are our favourite pieces that we are happy to play to each other. All in all, music plays a huge role in our small provisional community. It is very exciting for me as a musician to get in touch with all those different kinds of music that enrich our stay here in Switzerland. And I am very grateful that I have a possibility to take a piano or an organ and put this cocktail into life for example when I accompany the services and prayers. It is also a great fun to jam with my two friends who are very good singers.

Last week I was asked to accompany a baptism on Saturday on the organ. I was very excited because it wouldn’t be a “normal” baptism but a Croatian one. I agreed gladly. No one in the parish knew the family of the child to be baptised and the Croatian priest who spent that week in religious retreat. So I decided to prepare a colourful mixture, from the instrumental pieces, the chants from the Swiss catholic songbook to the Taizé songs. The three of us were very excited what the plan of the unknown priest would be. It turned out that the Croatian priest was a young gentle and open-minded monk who greeted us hearty. He said that the musical design of the baptism would completely be up to me. But I was unsure. ‘Wouldn’t the songs we chose be too difficult? Should I shorten the songs or replace them with instrumental pieces? No. Let’s give it a try and stick to your plan’, I said to myself. The moment I started to play the first chant I was amazed to realize that all the people were joyfully singing together. And so it happened. All of us – the German-Polish Taizé community and the Croatians – were singing Latin, Engish and Russian Taizé songs from France in a Swiss church. Unbelievable!

Music is a mighty force. It has the power to destroy the borders of language, origin, social rank and wealth. It has the power to connect people.

Martin Luther once said: “Music is a donation and a gift of God that expels devil and makes people joyful.” I think he’s right.

Sebastian

How to prepare a Taize prayer – practical guide

 

 

This is the post for those who will create the temporary communities or just want some creative ideas or guidance of how to structure a Taize prayer – it needs to have a structure, a rhythm, it should not be an utterly spontaneous set of songs and texts put together. However, a bit of creativity makes the prayer more dynamic. All we write above is our subjective advice and is not a “Taize doctrine” you have to stick to. Just pick the suggestions that you like. Apart from our suggestions you can find a lot of helpful hints at the beginning of the Taize prayer books.

Beginning

  • Should the prayer start punctually? Yes and no. You should be ready at the time scheduled, so you have to know how much time you need for arranging chairs, altar, song booklets or sheets and candles. Sometimes people tend to come 2-3 minutes after the due time. So you if you notice that, you can consider waiting.
  • It’s up to you if you decide to greet people before the prayer, for instance: “Good morning. It is great to see you here” makes the atmosphere more homely.
  • When we arrange an evening prayer with some more people who are not necessary well acquainted with the Taize songs, we often exercise a few songs – never more than 3 and never longer than 5 minutes. If you intend to choose songs in “strange” languages, such as Polish, Portuguese or Bulgarian (don’t hesitate to do so if a translation is provided under the notes), then yet before pre-singing, it is good to read the text for people loudly and clearly and let them repeat.

 

Order of things

  • At the very beginning of our community time took a calendar (It is actually a must that everyone in the provisional community has a calendar in the table form with all assignments for the month that is filled in regularly. It can be printed or you can also have one shared Google calendar). At the start of the month we divided the prayers – each prayer is led by just one of us and this person makes all decisions about structure, readings etc. As a prayer leader you don’t have to do everything on your own – you can delegate the tasks. But when one person is in charge – today evening me, tomorrow morning you and tomorrow evening he – it spares us many possible conflicts. We just arranged first two or three prayers together in order to get accustomed to the environment and then it has been going on in turns.
  • Before the prayer, especially public one, you have to know more or less how much time you intend to devote to the prayer. It is also good when people know whether they should expect 20 minutes or an hour.
  • The traditional order of our prayers is (in full version): song – song – psalm – song – Bible reading – song – silence – song – litany – song – Our Father – song.
  • Many times we largely modified this outline scenario. The midday prayers in which we had no more than 2 people apart from us, are always shorter. The shortest version was song – reading – song – silence – song.
  • It is also good to tell people before the last song that this is the last chant at least in the official part of the prayer, so they have a sense of structure and are not confused when actually the prayer is over. “The last song will be… but you are welcome to stay, we will keep singing”.

Songs

  • It is important which language you choose to sing the chants in. it should all be balanced. Latin and English are universal. It’s advisable always to incorporate at least one song in the mother tongue of people who are present. Every now and then you are welcome to pick “strange languages”.
  • Before the prayer, try to make sure that your community companions know the song that you chose for the prayer. We developed a nice custom that if someone wants to introduce sth new or unknown, we exercise it privately a day or hours before. it excludes the risk that there will be just one person singing.
  • Check, if possible before the community time, if your host parish has Taize song books, or if not, a printer. We work in three parishes and only one has Taize books so yet before the community time we printed the song sheets – with the texts only. On one A4 sheet printed on both sides you can easily put approx.. 60 songs. The songs on your sheet MUST have numbers.
  • There are two ways of telling people what song is the next one. Don’t expect your parish to come up with a display such as the one in Taize. There are nations who “want to be exactly told what to do in a given moment. For such people (we were told that the Swiss are like that) it is advisable to SAY the number of the chant before each one. It is also better if it’s quite dark inside. You can also try a big sheet of flipchart paper with the numbers written on but it does not always work, especially when it is dark inside and when you don’t worte it in sufficient big letters, because people couldn’t read it for afar.
  • The prayer leader should remember to sing “Amen” to signal the end of the song.
  • If you notice in the course of the prayer that people have difficulties singing, make sure that there is one leading voice (who sings the soprano part) to which people can stick to. If people singing with power it is not necessary and then you have more freedom to introduce the polyphony.
  • In the “afterwards part” you should expressly encourage people that they can say loudly the number of songs they would like to sing.
  • Roger was always attentive to the sensitivities of other denominations. If you are in a protestant environment, think about asking before you come up with a song such as ‘Bogurodice dievo”.

Reading

  • You can choose between readings from the Taize books, readings that Taize community offers for a given day, or readings that the local church or other Christian church offers for each day  (example here) or just the passage that you like. Make sure that you know what the Bible book is called from which the passage is derived in the very language that you read it in. They sometimes vary considerably – for instance The Book of Revelations in German is called Offenbarung and in Polish Apokalipsa
  • You can always ask an ordinary participant to take over a reading. In my opinion the form “Would you please read…?” works much better than just addressing all people present “Who would like to…?”

Psalm

  • Again you can choose between the psalms from Taize prayer books, local church readings and you can just pick any of 150 biblical psalms.
  • Especially if you do the last thing, exercise it before if you intend to sing it.
  • If you don’t have any instrument such as piano or guitar, mummying by two other companions might be helpful.
  • It’s good when people understand at least a part of the psalm, so you can for instance sing one part in English and the other in a local language.

Silence

  • It’s good to announce the silence.
  • If you are badly prepared for the prayer, there is a temptation to browse through the sheets of paper you have in front of you to search for something. Even if the paper does not rustle a lot, you will still spoil the silence. Don’t do it. For somebody who leads the prayer, the silence is sometimes the only moment when they can get truly engrossed in personal prayer. It’s time just for you and God!

Litany

  • The Taize books have a limited scope of litanies. After the first week we realized we are running out of litanies. After two weeks we realised that we sort of keep repeating the same ones.
  • So in the third week we either wrote our own exclamations, or allowed people to spontaneously express it with us. It always worked and people could feel that they could make their own personal contribution. If you go for requests, you can tell people that they can just say single names of those they want to pray for (it will encourage them) or just requests (supplication).
  • On the Taize webpage we found out that the litany does not have to be a set of It may also be a praise (what God Is like) or thanksgiving (what good things happened to me).
  • For us it worked that after each three spontaneous requests / acts of thank-you, we sang Kyrie, Laudamos te or Christe Jesu Lumen

 Prayer

  • There are various books with the prayers of Fr. Roger and Alois and unlimited number of books and webpages with other prayers. We picked pope Francis’s words a few times.
  • Sometimes we just prayed out of our heart even if we had a prayer prepared in fron of our eyes. People listen more attentively when you speak than when you read. If you have some chatty youngsters in your prayer, start praying with your own words and chances are that they will get silenced. But don’t make it too long – no more than two sentences. It’s not a sermon!

Our Father

  • It is advisable to tell this prayer in the local language and to have a short introduction prepared, such as “let’s pray as Jesus taught us”.

Prayer topics

  • But how to put it all together?
  • You can choose the reading first and then the songs that fit to the topic.
  • You can also pick the topic first and then search for a suitable readings and songs.
  • Possible topics: light and darkness, thankful prayer, freedom, peace, love of God
  • Recently Sebastian came up with a brilliant idea to make a blessing prayer. The traditional parts of the prayer were incorporated, but the reading was split. After each blessing (Jesus Mount Sermon – Mathew, 5), there was a chant that corresponded to the blessing. For more details, contact us.
  • Think about the order of the chants – for instance I think that Veni Sancte Spiritus is better for the beginning than for the end or that songs with solo parts are not quite suitable as an introductory song.

If you are preparing for the temporary community, share it with your friends and discuss which of those ideas appeal to you.

Maciek

Where is the key? What is the key?

If you have any problem, you can fin dan answer in the Bible. With this sentence I would like to introduce the story of trouble that we went through. The day started as usually.  I woke up at 7 am., took a shower and went to prepare the morning prayer. Before I left the flat, I asked Maciek to give me the key for the sacristy. First I went upstairs to the parish house to slip a cup of tea, look up the Bible passage in the internet and to take a notice paper from the office. Afterwards I went to the church which had already been opened, took a  Bible and began to write down the outline of the morning prayer. Maciek and Sabastian came and the morning prayer started. After the prayer I realized that the key wasn’t in my pocket anymore.  I quickly had a look in the sacristy but it wasn’t there. After breakfast I asked the landlady who was in the church before me whether she had not accidentally taken the keys out of the lock of the sacristy where I might have possibly put it. But she hadn’t. Slowly I grew afraid, but the dudes told me to stay calm. They were optimistic. They told me that our God is like the light in the darkness that helps us find the way when we get really lost. Therefore they believed that the key would be found in the afternoon when we were back from the trip.

Back at home we profoundly searched through the whole church and sacristy, but no key…So the only place where the key could be found was our flat. We searched in the whole flat but also no key… At the end of the day we gave up hope to find the key. I had a really bad mind that I lost the key. Our host gave us the key and trusted us that we would care about it. Furthermore I feared the financial consequences in case the key and the locks have to be exchanged.

When I woke up the next morning I have already accepted that we won’t find it. Before the morning prayer, Sebastian gave me the bible and told me that the answer to every problem can be found in the bible. I wasn’t sure what he meant. As he told me that I have to open the bible, I opened it on the page with the passage I used for the prayer the day before:

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John, 8:12)

between the sheets, there was it. The key. Only now I realized that I had used it as a bookmark. Sebastian was right to say that the answer to every problem can be found in the bible.

Jan

 

 

Who am I to judge?

 

We live 20 km away from the town, where Huldrych Zwingli, one of the five best known reformation leaders founded his new church. Over last three weeks we could see how different denominations dance together. In Langnau we took part in the ecumenical service in the protestant church. The atmosphere was cheerful. Much singing and applause. Astonishingly enough, the was no cross whatsoever in the church. Later we talked to the head of the congregation to find out that the crosses rarely appear in their churches as they try do get rid of all possible symbols. For some it might be appalling, for others nothings special.

In turn, the catholic church in Langnau is placed on the hill and the flat of the parish priest is located on the very last floor. As we tasted the delicacies from the parish cook and enjoyed the view of the neighbourhood from the window, we had a conversation. Sitting at the very top, we let our thoughts plunge  very deeply.  Why no more than 5% of 0,the registered catholics go to the church? What the remaining 95% are missing in the pastoral care? How the community gets on with their protestant neighbours? Is there ‘we and them’? Why in the region of Zurich is predominantly catholic, even though Switzerland has such a rich rradition of the reformed church?

First came the reformation and according to the principle cuius regio eius religio (yes yes, all three of us learnt Latin at school:) the rulers banned the catholic church in the region. In the middle of the 19th century there were more and more women coming from Italy. Many of them worked in big spinning mills in Langnau. As they were catholic, they thought that they just had to have a priest. The masses were first held at homes and then they built in Langnau the first catholic church and parish house since the 15th century. It was exactly where we were now. Migrants from eastern and southern Europe have contributed to the fact that there are now so many catholics in this area. In the neighbouring parish there is even a Polish priest.

The communication between the catholic and reformed church has its bright and shady moments. There are plenty of ecumenical get-togethers. We arranged, cleaned, served food, sang and sold fair trade products on such interconfessional events. Next Sunday we are going to the Baptist church as they regularly organize a Taize prayer.

There are also challenges difficult to play down. There is a certain percentage of people who do not explicitly show their reluctance to the other confession but in fact they would be happy to stigmatize the other group – some Catholics would imprint the letter “R” on the backs of the Reformed, some Reformed would keenly stigmatize the Catholics with the letter “K”. It is now not allowed to organise a Corpus Christi procession withn the town area because the non-Catholics might feel uncomfortable about it. So there were priests who arranged it far on the fields.

Taize teaches us to respect the differences and seek the similarities. The parish priest of Langnau does his best to make sure that all people who come to his church feel at home, regardless of the denomination :

I know that about one third of people who attend my services are not Catholics. They just come and they receive the holy communion. I am not a judge to say, ‘you are not Catholic, you are divorced and live in new relationship’ or whatever else. I do not refuse to give communion to anyone. Jesus also would not make a difference.

To me it was an echo of what pope Francis once said when asked about his attitude to homosexual people: “Who I am to judge?”

Maciek

 

 

 

 

5 minutes of “Ranft”

Once upon a time there was a Brother. He grew up among steep hills of Switzerland. Once day he left his promising career. He left his family, upon their consent. He travelled a little bit and finally in the place where hills, water and an old church make out a fabulous scenery, he set up a place where you can encounter God, where many people pilgrimage.

Does it ring a bell to you, Taize people? Brother Roger? Yes and no. The very same description applies to another Brother. St. Brother Klaus. Not a Taize Brother, but the most famous Swiss saint. It is right today that we celebrate his 600th birth anniversary

At the age of 50, he left his wife and ten children as he believed to be called by God to live a solidary, hermit life. At a first glance it appeared to me highly controversial that the Church canonised him.But let’s leave this controversy to the Holy Spirit.

I really enjoy those moments when the last person leaves the evening prayer in the room called Olive Tree which overlooks the lake. and then I feel that there is really me and God. It has a particular taste and flair. I think of Taize in the forties and Brother Roger who regularly left the village a few times a day in order to loudly pray in the woods. I think of Brother Klaus who prayed at home, long before he left. He often got up in the middle of the night, went to the kitchen and knelt close to the stove to get immersed in God.

Today we took a pilgrimage to fetch the relics of Brother Klaus and to visit him in the depth. in the very bottom of the Alpine valley. The place is called Ranft. It is here that Brother Klaus set up his hermitage. Strangely enough it was just 15 minute walk away from his family house. In his sparely furnished room he had two windows. One overlooked the altar of the chapel, the other one – alpine peaks. To me it is a clear sign that I need to have my two eyes open, one for God and what he whispers to me and the other for daily routine, beauty of life and the needs of others, sometimes whispered unobtrusively between the lines.

In Taize there is the Source – a green area with some water to stay in silence. Here we had a stream Melchaa to refresh body and mind. We could put off our shoes to feel the freezing water and choose the stone for our parish installation. The priest from Thalwil intends to do an intriguing installation behind the church. As Brother Klaus’s pillow was a stone, Marios, the priest, intends to arrange a bench with a stone-pillow and a book about Brother Klaus, so that the community members have a cosy place for reflection and prayer. So we  entered the stream and rolled up the trousers to get hold of the stones.

The silence is Ranft has a special taste. The silence undisturbed by an astonishingly small number of pilgrims given such a round anniversary. The silence not abused by our midday prayers. There are two churches and two chapels. We entered each of them and everywhere we ventured a short Taize prayer with a handfull of people gathered inside.

Ranft, the valley cutely set among steep mountains is an invitation to go deep inside ourselves. To the very bottom of our desires, dreams, wounds. This is why in Switzerland there is a church campaign for “more Ranft”

Dear reader. If you have read until this point, congratulations! Please, please, don’t let it be just an entertainment or a nice reading. Please make your own Ranft now. Just put your phone or computer aside and spend 5 minutes in silence.

 

Maciek

What is a church?

It was during the preparation for the evening prayer last Friday which was the first public evening prayer in Oberrieden. In terms of the content, everything was quite clear, but we had different opinions about the arrangement of the church interior. Each of us hastily drew a sketch of the church presenting his own ideas about how the chairs, the cross and the candles should be set up. In hurry we paid little attention to the proportions. Small wonder then that the circular church building resembled times an egg, times a mushroom. But still, everyone commented his outline with the remark: “This is the church”.

As I took a look at those three circle-like drawings I was amused and asked “What is a church?”. The three of us laughed and worked on.

But afterwards the question still haunted me: “What is a church?”

 

What is a church?

Immediately, thousands of pictures crossed my mind.

Old and new churches, little and big churches, thick and thin …

I thought of the church in my home parish,

of the little Romanic church in the village of Taizé,

of the majestic dome in Speyer,

of the youth church in my hometown illuminated with spotlights.

And in the middle of all this, the three churches that we got to know here at the Zurich Lake:

Langnau with its big glass front,

the traditional building in Thalwil

and the rotunda in Oberrieden mentioned in the beginning;

each of them with its own, exciting history.

But somehow that didn’t answer my question. Wasn’t a church something more than a sanctified building, something more than tangible?

 

What is a church?

Press headlines came into my mind:

“The church compliments …”,

“The church criticises …”,

“The church allows …”,

“The church says …”;

many news highlights about decisions, statements and ideas which appeal to me times more times less.

But this too could not be the answer. Wasn’t a church something more than an institution that issues decisions, positions and proposals?

 

What is a church?

I had to think about recent days here at the Zurich Lake – by now we’ve already crossed the halftime of our small provisional community.

I remembered the services we were involved with,

Taizé prayers,

caring about little kids in the kindergarten and the twinkle in their eyes,

many conversations with pupils, times challenging, times purely joyful;

different “Soup-Days”, when many people gathered to eat and talk,

the plant-workshop related to the Lent,

cooking for old ladies.

In all this I recalled the kaleidoscope of faces: dedicated employees and volunteers who make all that possible day by day, with lots of energy and joy. And I also recalled all the others who eagerly and gratefully respond.

 

The word “church” comes from the Greek kyriaké” which means “the Lord’s (house)”.

Of cause a house needs walls, open (!) windows and doors, as well as committed management. But what would a house be without people inside? They are the ones who fill the house with life and the taste of God.

 

 

A song written by Anton Schwarzmann, Johannes Klehr and Stefan Hoffmann says:

 

Dies Haus aus Stein,                                      This house made of stones,

es soll lebendig sein.                                      it has to be alive.

Gebaut für uns, für jedes Kind,                       Built for us, for every child,

für alle, die Gemeinde sind.                            for all who make a community.

 

That is the answer! That is a church!

Sebastian

 

From the diary of an altar boy who became a preacher

 

 

How peculiar is a life of three novice altar boys who jumped into the bandwagon of serving in three parishes at a time, each of them coming from a different cultural region – North Germany, South Germany and Poland!  Many questions and magic words make us vulnerable to mistakes. It is sometimes good to make mistakes. Big entrance, little entrance, (kleiner und großer Einzug), How should we approach the altar? Who goes first? To bow or to kneel? Who kneels first? On which knee? Did an

elderly organist understand well how many time to play a Taize song?  Why on earth didn’t the priest tell the Creed as we agreed? Each parish has its own rules. This confusion is kind of beautiful. Swiss altar boys have more splendid costumes than Polish ones, but on the football pitch, they would probably little to say against their colleagues from central-eastern Europe.  Yesterday we were temporarily promoted from altar boys to preachers, as in the course of the sermon we were asked: “What advice for life would you give us?” To stroll between the pew aisles with a mic was a pleasure and an honour.  To see people laughing and smiling was a reward. By the way,  We, Taize boys gain experience day by day. Indeed we could take over the whole Mass – one would play the organ, another would, give a sermon, yet another would do perfect reading. Oh, sorry…. we still need a priest!

But don’t worry. We are working on it!