Lenten Reflections: Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday)
Reflection by John Glynn, STM’11
Reflection by John Glynn, STM’11
John Glynn, STM'11, is a campus minister at Boston College where he oversees the wildly popular Kairos Retreats for BC undergraduates. John also serves as Resident Minister to undergrads in Ignacio and Rubenstein Halls, and is actively engaged with the Contemplative Leaders in Action program through The Jesuit Collaborative in Boston.
“Gott ist nur Liebe. Wagt, für die Liebe alles zu geben. Gott ist nur Liebe. Gebt euch ohne Furcht.”
Our prayer that morning had us sing this simple German phrase over and over again. It was our third day at Taizé, and my tongue had finally loosened enough to handle the nimble linguistic turns between songs in French, German, Spanish, Ukranian, Dutch, Tagalog, and more. At Taizé, every voice (or heart, at least) sings.
It was our first time to Taizé as a BC group sponsored by Campus Ministry. Seven students, three staff members, a Jesuit, and myself, made the long trek from Boston to this small community five hours southeast of Paris in pilgrimage to experience the humble spirituality and prayer of the Taizé brothers. For the past sixty years outsiders have journeyed to Taizé in order to join with the brothers in prayer – these days, more than 100,000 young and emerging adults spend time at Taizé every year.
The accommodations were very simple (the meals even simpler), and our days featured a discipline of morning, noon, and night prayer, interspersed with group reflection on scripture and chores around the camp between. After the first day, I wondered why it was so popular. After all, I had just slept on a mattress the consistency of concrete and ate a bowl of mashed potatoes with a side of potato soup (sans actual potatoes) for dinner. On the last day, I didn't want to leave.
Taizé is about renewal. The day before leaving, we met with one of the Taizé brothers, Brother Emmanuel, who explained that the spirituality of the Taizé community can be summarized as an absolute devotion to the Loving God who fervently loves us, just as we are – a devotion that is renewed every day. This Loving God is not the Judging God or the Wish-fulfilling God (or in my version, the Santa Claus God), but God who desires us. Every day the brothers renew their loving response to the Loving God in silence, prayer, song, and communion. And that they would be generous enough to invite a stranger like me to share in their response – and thereby renew my own – for a few short days is something for which I'm exceptionally grateful.
At Taizé, light and darkness share a captivating space in the chapel. The sanctuary space is gorgeous – small shadow boxes are stacked at random, but each holds a single, softly glowing candle. I was struck by the same interplay of light and darkness in our Gospel reading today. "…The light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light…" (Jn 3:19). At the altar of Taizé I saw myself – a shadow box – yet lit by the Loving God.
Every night at Taizé the candles in each box are extinguished at the conclusion of the evening prayer, and every morning they are relit for the coming day. I came to see this simple action as deeply symbolic of my own renewing of a commitment to being a vessel for God's love every day. As Brother Emmanuel shared with the BC pilgrims: our loving response to God needs to be rekindled every day, just as married folks, family members, and friends require love's renewal in order to stay fresh, alive, and healthy.
So this week, let's reflect on how we can recommit ourselves to carrying God's love into the world every day. Where are the sacred spaces in our daily routines that allow us to exchange love with God? Where are the dark places in our small corner of the world that requires the light of our love?
And every day may our hearts sing over and over again:
“God is only love. Dare for that love to provide everything. God is only love. Do not be afraid.”
Click here to listen to the Taize song referenced in this week's Reflection.