Monday, January 4, 2016

Epiphany - thoughts of Brother Alois of Taizé

The following is a meditation Brother Alois of Taizé wrote in 2009
for the newspaper "La Croix."

Christmas sets before us a humble event that took place one day in Bethlehem. Epiphany shows us that this event has a universal and even a cosmic dimension. The Wise Men are guided by a star and represent all peoples, all cultures.

Today we would like to understand how the light of Christ can enlighten all people. To achieve this, like the Wise Men we must leave our habits and some of our beliefs behind. We must leave ourselves behind, bending down and entering the stable. Any other attitude would cause us to miss the God who humbled himself to the point of being born in a hidden place.

Let us spend time with them. May our prayer, before being petition, be, like theirs, adoration. When we look towards the light of Christ, it gradually becomes an inward light and the mystery of Christ becomes the mystery of our own lives as well.

The spirit of adoration is not easy in a world where immediate results matter so much, where the mere thought of a long process of maturation arouses impatience. As for the Wise Men, a journey is necessary to allow us simply to remain in the presence of God. In long silences where nothing seems to happen, God is at work in us, without our knowing how.

[Our] stained-glass window of the Epiphany shows the Wise Men adoring the Child. Let us look at that child to understand who God is. Let us consider the extreme humility of God. Let us see that, as a poor child, he comes to beg for our love! And let us see too that he restores human dignity to those who have lost it.

To adore means to discern the presence of God. God is present in his Word (at the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome, the "sacramental" character of the Bible was recalled). God is present in the Eucharist. Christians of the East know that icons also lead us into communion with God. God is present in the humble events of our lives. And the Gospel insists: God lets himself be found among the poorest of the poor.

Adoration means turning away from ourselves to look towards God. If our own concerns take up all the room, how can the obstacles that cover over the source of life set within us by God be removed?

The Wise Men express their adoration by an offering. The prayer of adoration leads us to offer the best of ourselves to God and to others. It leads us to make our life a gift for those who are entrusted to us.

It is true that some suffer too much and no longer have the strength to worship God. We must have respect and compassion without limits for such people. But if the Gospel asks us to look beyond ourselves, it is in order to keep hope alive, even for those who are unable to hope any longer.

Christians of the East may feel an attitude of adoration before the mystery of God more spontaneously than Westerners do. I had that experience recently. In early December, the death of the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow, Alexy II, touched our hearts. I had met him, and he told me he wanted to deepen cooperation with Taizé. I went to his funeral with two of my brothers.

During the celebrations in Moscow, I said to myself: we have such a need to open ourselves to the treasures bequeathed to Eastern Christianity. One of the secrets of the soul of Eastern Christians lies in a prayer of adoration where God's goodness becomes tangible. This prayer allows access to the mysteries of the faith: the incarnation of Christ, his resurrection, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. And it is from these mysteries that Christians of the East draw a sense of the greatness of the human being. God became man so that humanity might participate in his divinity; every human being is called to be transfigured with Christ already here on earth.

Could our liturgies, without in any way neglecting the communal dimension, lead to more adoration, to inwardness, to a personal communion with God?

In the East, the Epiphany is called Theophany, "appearance of God." The liturgical tradition links the story of the Wise Men, the baptism of Jesus and the water changed into wine at Cana, since they are, at the beginning of the Gospels, three moments when the secret of Christ is revealed: letting the compassion of God shine forth in our humanity.

In coming to earth, Jesus manifested God's love for all people, for all nations. He inscribed God's "yes" in the depths of the human condition. God welcomes all of us just as we are, with what is good, but also with our shadows, and even our defects. We learn to accept that we are poor. And from that moment on, we cannot despair either of the world or of ourselves.


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