Thursday, August 18, 2005

Brother Roger of Taizé ✠

I learned yesterday that Brother Roger, founder of an ecumenical monastery in the French town of Taizé in Burgundy, was brutally murdered while at worship in his prayer stall in the choir. He was stabbed in the throat and died almost immediately. The New York Times has a full obituary, which can be read at this link. While not as well known as other religious leaders, his influence was worldwide and profound. His prayerful life of peace stands in stark contrast to the manner of his death.

When I read of Brother Roger's death, I thought of St. Stephen's great condemnation found in Acts 7:52, "Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?" And we have taken up our fathers' deadly business, adding Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and now Brother Roger, to the roll call of those whose presence was intolerable to a world under the dominion of the evil one. The Taizé community united Christians from numerous denominations, serving as a sacred bridge from the Protestant world to the Catholic. Brother Roger himself was a Swiss Reformed Protestant, who sheltered Jews from the Nazis, and sheltered countless others from the storms of doctrinal and liturgical battles. Taizé has now become a by-word for peace, for sacred music and worship which is contemporary, but in continuity with the ancient solemnities of chant, contemplative prayer, and responsive prayer. Brother Roger was that rarest of Christians: a contemplative, who valued the inner experience of God over doctrine, intellect, and ecclesiology. His appeal, like that of another contemplative, Thomas Merton, crossed many religious boundaries.

The Taizé Community's influence will continue, drawing many thousands of people, especially the young, to its doors. It's musical and liturgical influence will also continue. Indeed, just this past week, an urban Reformed church in our area began advertising an evening worship service in the Taizé manner. For more information about Taizé, I have included an English language link to their website. Please remember the Taizé Community in your prayers this week, and let us remember that Christ is risen.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" Psalm 116:15.


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