Tuesday, July 17, 2012

When Little Children Lead

It takes a lot of prophetic witness, at times, to actually do what is proscribed in the Bible. Think about it: when was the last time you picked up a stranger who'd been mugged on the side of the road and paid for his hospital expenses?

So that is, perhaps, an extreme example. But my point is made.

And so, it was with tremendous fascination – and joy – that I watched how Taizé does their liturgies. Specifically, with how they treat their children in the liturgical environment.

First, allow me to define my terms. By children, I do not mean the teenagers who flock here by the thousands every week. I mean the very young, those who are four to eight years old, and who accompany their parents to Taizé for a pilgrimage.

You would think that there would be no place for the very young here. And you would be wrong.

Each week, a new set of young adults arrive at Taizé. Most of them come by the bus load, accompanied by chaperones. But there are a growing number of families that come as well, and they come with vans crammed with tents, camping chairs, outdoor equipment – and little kids.

At the beginning of the week, some of these very young are placed in a position of liturgical honor in Taizé's Chapel of Reconciliation: at the very end of the long column of monks, where the abbot is seated, a representative group of the little children is also seated. These children are not just ornamental: they actually lead the abbot and the monks out of the worship space during the dismissal at the closing of every prayer service. During the Veneration of the Cross, they are the ones that spread the light to the assembly with lit tapers. And during the distribution of Communion, they again lead the monks to the places where the Body and Blood of the Savior will be shared.

It takes a lot of energy to be committed to such a model. Asking children to do ceremonial things in front of thousands of people is not necessarily the easiest thing to accomplish. But I'll tell you this – the sight of an abbot being led through an assembly of thousands, led by the hands of little children who escorted him and his community through the church – this is a sight I will not soon forget.

The Book of Isaiah speaks words of hope, and when doing so, says that "a little child shall lead them". At Taizé, those words have taken on flesh and bone, in tiny hands and earnest, joyful faces. In the midst of recent scandals in the Church, it was prophetic to see such a bold and hope-filled gesture take place within the liturgical assembly. Taizé simply took the words at their face value, and made them come to life.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Taize, Bourgogne, France

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