For me, to write about one’s spirituality is like trying to describe outer space. How does one describe mystery? A vast expanse of unknowing beyond my knowing? How does one describe encounter and transformation? How does one describe the Presence of Love? But as I am increasingly asked by others about my spirituality, I felt it was important to express what I could in writing in my own simple way to help create more understanding and awareness of my heart in spiritual matters.
One of the ways I would like to do this is to write about someone who has been a constant source of inspiration to me as my spiritual journey has gone through many stages and developments.
Brother Roger of Taizé became a spiritual father to me in 1997 even though I never met him in person. I am so grateful for the light of his life which has been like a torch through the landscape of spiritual growth over the past 20 years.
Brother Roger, who is now passed, was the founder of the Taizé community in southern France. This ecumenical community became a gathering place for thousands of people since WWII till the present time.
When I went through my own spiritual and personal crisis many years ago, I no longer knew what I knew! The paradigm structure of my faith wasn’t able to hold me as my world fell apart. Somehow I stumbled upon Brother Roger’s writings in this time of confusion. Brother Roger’s words were full of vitality and life. His face held a radiance, filled with love and true joy. His words matched his eyes. There were so few humans I knew who were able to match their words with their eyes, but he was one. He wrote about an inner well-spring. An invisible communion. A life of joy.
I didn’t know what he was talking about. But he awakened my curiosity. And placed a yearning in my heart to deepen and grow.
My Christian faith as I had experienced it in my growing up years had placed a large emphasis on what we believed; our theology, our dogma. And for many years, this served me well. But when life entered a time of great suffering and shattering, these dogmas no longer lit the way in my darkness.
Brother Roger wrote about living a life of joy, of listening to others, of compassion and of communion with God. For him, Christ was his light and pathway to God. Christ was also his teacher in embracing everyone. Brother Roger believed that as we truly listen to another and embrace another, we see the beauty of another person’s soul and thus the beauty of God. He carried a posture of humility in loving and serving the other.
Brother Roger also believed in sung prayer. He crafted, together with musician Jacques Berthier, many songs of simple truths that could be sung as chants. I was introduced to these songs in my crisis and they changed my life.
The darkness is never darkness in your sight, the deepest night is clear as the daylight. Beautiful words from Ps. 139. As I sang this over and over again, I was moved to know that my darkness was not darkness to the Divine Presence. Nothing was hidden, nothing too far beyond the touch of God.
Another song from Taize that touched my soul in these early years of transformation: Ubi caritas, et amour, ubi caritas, Deus ibi est.
Brother Roger explains these Latin words in this way: where there is love, unconditional, self-less love, that is where God dwells.
This song had such a profound effect on me. I had grown up thinking that where there was correct belief, that is where God dwells! I had also grown up with the thought that if you and I don’t adhere to the same belief, we are separate. This simple chant led me to a place of wonder….to look for places of self-less love, unconditional love….wherever and with whomever I experienced them. I started celebrating the Divine Presence in places even if nothing was spoken, perhaps especially when nothing was spoken. I realized it wasn’t words/correct belief that made me aware of God’s presence, it was a state of the heart, the awareness of Love.
Over 20 years, this understanding has grown and evolved. Now I understand that we are IN the unconditional LOVE of God and that NOTHING can EVER separate us from that LOVE, no matter who we are or what we believe.
Christ’s presence leads me into this profound love and I follow him into loving all of creation, every living thing, every person. It is as I am in communion with Christ that the overwhelm of this LOVE captivates my life and overwhelms me into a life of loving and service. This is not something I speak about, but something I aim to live every single day.
You may find me at a church. You may find me in the woods. You may find me at an Interfaith Gathering. You may find me on my knees. You may find me in silence. You may find me in song. You may find me listening to others. You may find me gazing at the sky. You may find me in circle with others. You may find me alone. Wherever I am, I am resting in the Love of God which sustains us all.
I may not be able to define a theology for you, but my prayer is that I may live a life of love and service. My prayer is that if we meet face to face, you will know in a deeper way how precious you are, how beautiful, how sacred and how loved.
This song sums it up as best as I know how……Beautiful Presence.