A fifth Sunday at St James, West End provided the opportunity to come together for evening worship in the style of Taizé. Prayer and silence are at the heart of Taizé worship along with the singing of repeated prayer chants, often highlighting simple phrases from the Psalms or other pieces of scripture, which are designed to help meditation and prayer.
A candlelit San Damiano Cross, a large Romanesque rood cross, is usually the central focal point and is the cross that St. Francis of Assisi was praying before when he is said to have received the a divine commission to rebuild the Church. St James is lucky enough to have its own copy and was placed in the centre of the chancel steps for our service
What follows is excerpts from the evening service, including a meditation on Salt and Light.
Opening prayer (said together):
God our Father, be with us in our time of worship. When we pray, help us to concentrate our thoughts on you; when we listen to the reading of the Bible, help us to understand it; when we sing your praise help us to sing because we really love you: help us to worship you in spirit and in truth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Confitemini Domino quoniam bonus.
Confitemini Domino. Alleluia!
(Give thanks to the Lord for he is good).
Psalm 27:1-6, 13-14 was read, with a special emphasis on verse 14
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Before the next chant:
Wait for the Lord, his day is near. Wait for the Lord: be strong, take heart!
Our reading Matthew 4:23 – 5:16 then led us into our meditation, that was in two parts. Firstly concerning salt
13 ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.
‘You are the salt of the earth!’
Salt, that precious commodity that purifies, preserves and penetrates;
and we are called to be as salt into the world of human society
to purify, preserve, and penetrate that society for the kingdom of God
Who hasn’t felt the tiny flecks of salt on their skin when next to the ocean?
Or maybe you remember the jars packed with salt and green beans at harvest time
to provide a delicious treat in the depths of winter;
or licked your lips and tasted the saltiness after physical exertion?
Salt – as precious as gold
It paid the Roman soldier his salarium
and indicated your standing in society
as to whether you sat above or below the salt.
Salt – to purify and to heal
A gargle for sore throat, a soother of stings and burns,
a pain reliever for toothache and sore gums
a natural ‘miracle’ medicine
Salt – to preserve and penetrate
Adding flavour and preventing food from spoiling
and saving people from starvation
A symbol of fellowship and the common meal
Yet salt can become contaminated,
often burnt in ovens to increase the heat,
then no longer useful it is thrown out onto the ground
and mixes with the dirt and gets trampled underfoot
Therefore, God calls us, his precious creation,
to be like salt, to penetrate society
and show in our lives and our dealings with others
how in living differently and seeking purity
that we can bring healing and hope,
both now and for the future through Christ;
and to avoid those things that would contaminate us,
and seek ways of making life liveable, healthy and good
We are also blessed with special receptors on our tongues that can detect saltiness and know when things are good;
so take your pinch of salt, and if you want dip your finger in and taste and see that the Lord is good [small glasses with a pinch of salt had been given out to everyone at the beginning]
Our service continued by singing, as a chant, the chorus from the beautiful anthem ‘Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord’ by James Moore Jr. I am sure we didn’t do it as much justice as the soloist at the Washington National Cathedral*, but it provided a special moment in the midst of our worship.
Taste and see, taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
O taste and see, taste and see the goodness of the Lord, of the Lord.
Then concerning light:
14‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
‘You are the light of the world’
Light is vital to enable us to see in the darkness
and to help us to avoid stumbling.
Light is also an expression of inner beauty,
truth and the goodness of God.
Who hasn’t stood under the night sky and gazed up at the infinity of space
and seen the pin pricks of light of a million stars?
Or been awakened by the sunlight creeping in through their curtains;
or come home on a winter’s evening to a darkened house and been grateful to flick on the light?
The psalmists tell us that ‘In [God’s] light we see light’ (Psalm 36:9) and that
‘[His] word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (Psalm 119:105)
Through God’s grace our darkness is illumined and banished
and we are filled with spiritual light, joy and peace.
Light dispels the darkness and nothing can be hidden;
From others, from ourselves, from God
Everything is known to God, who sees all.
Yet there is great freedom and joy for those
who live in God’s light and who seek his truth.
As believers that light shines in our hearts
and we are called to act as light-bearers of Christ
so that others may see the truth of the gospel
and be set free from those things that blind them
We should seek to show light and healing in every part of our lives
to every relationship, every activity, every word;
to bring Christ’s light and hope, joy and peace
to those who need it the most;
as well as discovering God’s light shining in unexpected places
revealing his glory.
So let us light our candles and place them at the foot of the cross
to better illuminate that glory.
During the following chant, we were invited light a candle and place it in the bowl of sand at the foot of the Taizé cross.
The Lord is my light, my light and salvation: in God I trust, in God I trust
There followed five minutes of silence, introduced by saying together:
Lord, you are living water, You are light and fire, You are love.
Come, O Holy Spirit! Come, O Holy Spirit
Our service concluded with intercessions and a final chant:
Within our darkest night, you kindle the fire that never dies away, that never dies away. (repeat)
and a final prayer:
Be with us Lord as we go out into the world. May our lips that have sung your praises always speak the truth; may our ears which have heard your word listen only to what is good, and may our lives as well as our worship be always pleasing in your sight, for the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Before we departed, having said the Grace.
There are not many fifth Sundays during the year, so it was nice to be able to be part of something special , something that was beautiful as well as uplifting, exactly what worship should be like.
*YouTube link to a soloist singing Taste and See The Goodness of the Lord at the Washington National Cathedral © James Moore Jr.
The Service was put together by David Forster and Linda Galvin using both resources from the Taizé community and original material.