Prayer in the style of Taizé (referred to herein as “Taizé common prayer”) is often known for its simple, beautiful, meditative songs that open the mind and heart to the gates of trust in God. These songs made of short verses express basic Biblical realities of faith that are quickly grasped by the mind, and with their repetition, these realities permeate one’s whole being. At its essence, meditative singing becomes a way of listening to God’s word and learning to experience an inner life in the silence of our hearts.
Silence as a unique moment to meet God is an essential element to Taizé common prayer. Among the many kinds of prayer present during a Taizé common prayer (Pslams, scripture, intercessory prayers, songs of praise and thanksgiving), there is also a long period of silence in the middle. During this silence, participants rest in the trust of God, surrendering worries, fears and leaving to God what is beyond reach and capacity.
At its root, the Taizé common prayer seeks to calm and quiet, to open hearts in silence to be filled with the unconditional love of the Spirit of God.
Meditative (kataphatic) Singing as a Doorway to Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer
For those familiar with Taizé common prayer, but unfamiliar with Centering Prayer practices, they will discover that they grow from the same root of seeking to surrender the mind and heart to the intimate presence of God. They share the same spirit of ancient monastic traditions to open space to let the Word of God reverberate in all its dimensions. Those who have tasted of this open space during the silent period of a Taizé common prayer service may find themselves well disposed to explore related contemplative practices such as Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer.
Sustaining Contemplative (apophatic) Practices with Meditative (kataphatic) Singing
Those familiar with Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer, but unfamiliar with Taizé common prayer, will discover rich ground in how Taizé common prayer supports one’s disposition to the inner work of the Spirit of God. Some may draw similarities between these meditative songs and what Fr. Thomas Keating refers to as the “Active Prayer Sentence” (see Appendix 2 of Open Mind, Open Heart), where he recommends choosing a short aspiration drawn from scripture for daily use. The regular repetition of such short scripture verses work into the heart over time, providing a greater inner disposition to the Spirit of God in daily life. The brevity of most Taizé common prayer songs lend themselves well to being assimilated into such contemplative practices involving simple repetition.
Taizé common prayer developed out of the ecumenical monastic community in Taizé, France, partly in response to the growing crowds of thousands of young people, from diverse countries and denominations, visiting each year. Given the common prayer’s simplicity, it lends itself easily to participation by all present, across differences of language, denomination or culture. In particular, the Brothers of the Taizé Community have found such meditative singing practices particularly effective in supporting young people to become truly open to an inner dialogue in prayer.