As you might imagine from my absence from blogging – life is just overwhelmingly busy, busy this year. I am hoping that next year my teaching workload may be less, or perhaps DH will be around for more than 1 week of 4 (average) with the work he is currently doing. But life right now is pretty overwhelming.
There are many amazing blessings which I appreciate so much, and much joy to be found. I just wish more sleep (and the energy to maintain a tidier house) was a part of the package! I have been moving more and more into the excitement of the journey of faith, though. A great part of this is meeting regularly with two friends to talk, study the upcoming mass readings, and pray. Another involves listening to many Journey Home episodes (for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZUBhZDj0_w) while doing the necessary nightly tasks of getting the lunch dishes washed. I have become more and more interested in the Catholic faith, of which I am a part. There are still some tough questions though – some of which come to the fore when I occasionally read about the experience of those in the LGBTQ community. (one – Catholic, Gay and Feeling Fine – gives an invaluable view into the Catholic Faith: http://www.stevegershom.com/ and the others really makes me question how we can be loving and accepting of all: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/permissiontolive/2013/03/oblivious-to-privilegepart-two.html
Anyway. Amid all of this I had the opportunity to go on retreat (thank you parents, for coming up to look after things on the home front so that I could go!) I attended a Taizé Lenten retreat at Loyola House, a Jesuit retreat centre. One thing I like about Loyola House is that I have met people there from many different faith traditions – various Christian backgrounds (Anglican, United, Lutheran … I don’t think I have met any from Baptist or Quaker though) and also some non-Christian backgrounds (Buddhist, Agnostic).
The retreat was completely, utterly, amazing. Not only was it truly a retreat, I had the chance to participate in evening, midday, and morning prayers in the Taizé singing format. I find this to be such deep prayer and connection with God and community. Singing is a natural way to connect with the divine for me, and I was really ready for a time to live the peace and quiet of a time to just focus on God and self, with some awareness of and sharing with others. (not to mention naps, cups of tea, fantastic food and nibbling on cookies!)
I have not done many retreats, but those I’ve found most productive in terms of listening to God have been 6 or 8 day completely silent retreats. This one had periods of silence (breakfast, morning, mid-day prayer), which I cherished. But the singing … one reflection that came to me (especially as I ponder the Catholic teaching on what it means to be male or female, what we bring to our lives in this way) – is how singing perfectly integrates and depends upon each role. I personally love hearing the bass voices of the men, which underlie and provide a foundation for all singing. I love hearing the soprano voices soar – they are often the superstars of the music – though I myself am not soprano. I sing alto. While less ‘showy’ it is often very interesting. You have to be attentive to the melody, and try to balance it perfectly. Sometimes altos do carry the melody, too! And tenors as well have some very interesting roles to play, and key harmonies to sing. When all these different voices are put together, I sometimes find it unspeakably moving and beautiful.
Now, the Taizé songs (or chants) are not performance art. They are prayer – and I could really feel that. They are short, simple, usually harmonized songs or chants which are repeated many times. They seem to sink into the heart and sing of themselves. I often would stop singing and let myself be carried along by the music. Something about participating, being in community with others in various degrees of suffering upon this road …. you know, I guess it is the action of Holy Spirit acting among us all – there was such a feeling of being carried upon a swelling current in the ocean. Most songs have English translations, which is what was usually sung. We also sang in Latin, French, and Spanish.
Here I am listening to my discs of Taizé now that I am back home – and they are beautiful, I can sing with them – but it does not compare to the experience of singing & praying with them in community. I am so thankful to have had that experience.
In case you have never heard of Taizé songs, here are a couple of samples. I hope you will find them beautiful, but rest assured that their real power comes in the singing of them – with others.
God bless us all, and the new pope as well!
Bénissez le seigneur
Confitemini Domino (come and fill our hearts, Lord)
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