Sunday, April 7, 2013

Le Christ est ressuscite! Il est vraiment ressuscite! Alleluia!

I can hardly believe that we are already in April. When I last blogged we had been here little over a year and now we are into the bed and breakfast season! Lent went by at lightning speed, notably the installation of the new window was achieved in the salon, although we need to finish things off with that: we celebrated 30 years of marriage on 26th March and welcomed our first guests on 20th March!
Our first guests enjoyed lovely weather for their stay and continued to explore the area on what was their third visit to us! They especially enjoyed the musical offerings of the Taize community a they are both committed Christians and skilled musicians too. They left on the morning of 25th and after a day spent cleaning and laundering bedding and towels we had promised ourselves a day off and a day out to enjoy our 30th wedding anniversary. There were several discussions about where we should go and eventually we took a lovely drive across to the high Beaujolais hills to a restaurant we have been to previously from which on a clear day you can see Mount Blanc! This was not a clear day! However the food was fab!
My starter - a tarte paysanne with mushroom sauce


Main course:

Charollais Steak cooked a la point - medium rare, with a spinach and pepper sauce!

Joe's veal kidneys in a red wine sauce!

Yes Desserts followed!


But of course this was just a little treat for ourselves and we wanted to share our thankfulness and our joy with others too! We were able to celebrate again after Easter with good friends who came to stay- one of whom was at our wedding!
We have tried to get into Taize as much as possible during Lent. This was important to us as Christians as it is part of our preparation for celebrating Easter and it is made all the richer by careful and thoughtful preparation for it. Part of mine was taking an afternoon a week to be still and to read a book on the passion narratives in the four gospels. We were struck again, just as I used to be in our old parish, by the omission of the Gloria normally sung in the Eucharist - to me it was a self denial - not being able to sing and hear the familiar words of praise and glory to God. Again, on Easter Day it was very special!
Also during Lent was the election of the new Pope Francis and the enthronement of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The prior of Taize, brother Alois attended both and commented about them in his talk on Easter Eve.

Many of us felt the beauty of... communion tangibly through the gift we received of the new pope, Pope Francis. I was able to greet him briefly in Rome. Through his simplicity the joy of the Gospel shines out, hope is arising in the hearts of many.
And at the same time we thank Benedict XVI for his humility. Through it he opened a way forward. At our European meeting in Rome at the end of December we had a common prayer with him on St. Peter’s Square. It was unforgettable. A few days later he spoke publicly about it, saying that it was “a moment of grace where we experienced the beauty of being one in Christ.”

And we continue our pilgrimage of trust in communion with the various Churches. Last week I was in England for the enthronement of the new Archbishop of Canterbury. The hymns sung with fervor still echo in my heart.

Let us all be brought forward by the joy of Easter: all of us, those who have a strong faith in God as well as those whose faith is very weak, those who have no faults to reproach themselves for as well as those who are burdened by the weight of a serious error. To all of us Christ says today: “I am risen, I am close to you, I invite you to my joy.”

On Maundy Thursday we went to Taize for the evening prayer and experienced the foot-washing as we have never done before. 40 of the brothers went to various points around the church with a jug of water each and a sponge. Aided by some of the young people, they moved from person to person  - and there were over 5000 that evening, offering to wash their feet. Shoes and socks were quickly removed and the brothers humbly moved from person to person. Hundreds of pairs of feet were gently bathed.Those who had clearly not experienced this before were very moved by it.
On our return from Taize that evening we welcomed our Belgian guests come to share in the Easter weekend with us. It was a joy to see them again on their second visit to us and we sat down to a late supper of home-made  cream of celeriac soup and quiche and caught up on families' news before a very late night!
Good Friday was marked with quiet and solemnity as we remembered with sadness the death of Jesus on the cross, the pain and the suffering endured and his willingness to suffer for us. In the evening the Taize cross was carried around the church amongst even greater numbers of young people arriving for the festival from far and wide, including Sweden and Finland this year. But our sadness was tempered by the prayer around the cross when we are reminded as we are every Friday, that Jesus died to open a new way to God and that the cross becomes a way of life as we bring our burdens and those of others to the cross in the prayer.
On Easter Eve we had as on the other evenings, to be in Taize early to find somewhere to sit. By this time there were 7000 sharing in the celebration. We had had a lovely but busy day! Out of the blue we had received a text message from friends who live in Brussels - we had not seen them for several years and during the gap they had had two more children to add to the two that they already had! They were coming to Taize for just 24 hours en route to Spain and were anxious to see us and for us to meet the rest of the family! After consulting with our Belgian guests, we invited them to join us for the Saturday evening meal which we took at 5:45 sow e could get up to Taize in time! We were 11 around the table and it was such a joy to catch up and to share food together. I think that this is one of the highlights of our ministry here - a ministry that was confirmed to us just in the last week when we went to a Bible introduction led by brother John and he talked about Abraham and Sarah and the 3 men who came on an unexpected visit and who were showed hospitality. Our friends who were staying with us, after the talk, came to us and said, "that was meant for you, we believe the Lord has called you to offer such hospitality to those whom he sends to you!" I had to agree as the very same thought had crossed my mind too as I heard the talk!
Anyway, Easter Eve was especially special as Brother Mikhail from the Basque country was being welcomed into the community of Taize as a permanent brother. (The brothers begin community life when they are given the prayer robe, and then they live with the other brothers as they test this vocation more fully. At a time decided by the community, a brother goes on to make his life vows and receives the ring of the community which he wears on his left hand as a sign of commitment.
This is what Brother Alois the prior said about it:
' ...tonight a brother made his life-commitment in our community. We are happy that his parents and his extended family from the Basque Country are here. And in heaven, his grandmother who died last year and was over 90 years old is surely joining us.
The presence of all of you who witnessed his commitment tonight is a joy and an encouragement for us who want to follow Christ by a life in community."
Such a commitment is not heroic. Rather it involves knowing and accepting our frailties and our weaknesses, entrusting them to Christ. It is true that this is a narrow and demanding road; we go forward on it to the extent that we rely not on our own strength but on God’s presence. What this brother asked for tonight is “the mercy of God and the community of his brothers.” '

At so to Easter Day! We had eaten breakfast and had left the house by 8:30 in order to get a seat in church for the Easter Eucharist. Everyone entering the church was given a small candle and we made our way in realising that actually we could have got there even earlier as there was not much space left even then - and we had over an hour before the service began. The Easter fire was lit in the brazier and from it the enormous Pascal candle was lit. Then it was carried down the church, stopping 3 times whilst the words "Le Christ est ressuscite, il est vraiment ressuscite!"(Christ is risen, He is truly risen!) were sung out with great joy! As the candle was carried by two of the young brothers of the community, so Brother Alois the prior lit the candles of the young people sitting either side of the aisle. Some of the young children helped too as we sang the praises of the resurrected Christ - all 7000+ of us!
The Eucharist always challenges me and inspires me and strengthens me but especially on Easter Sunday it is a whole rebirth! It was wonderful!
At the end of the service the bells of Taize rang and rang and the brothers took it in turns to say "Christ is risen" in 28 languages, and the response, "He is truly risen" echoed across the church from each nation! It took a long time and English was the last!!!
What a joy!
We came home and cooked roast duck to share with our Belgian friends! We had already had Easter eggs on the table at breakfast and had greeted each other with The Lord is risen - he is risen indeed! It was then that the Belgians told us this story: The Belgian children are told that the bells that ring out from St Peter's Rome actually leave the city on Maundy Thursday (they do not ring from then until Easter Day), they grow wings and fly over Europe full of Easter eggs which they tip over Belgium so that the children can find them in their gardens on Easter morning. No child may go out to look for the bells and amazingly every year the bells are back in Rome to ring out on Easter Day!
I hope this long blog gives you a taste of Easter here!
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!


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