Reflections on monastic life and communion, by Brother Alois
In 2016, Bro. Alois shared his reflections on monastic life and the theme of communion with leaders of the Benedictine family. Extract.
“Brother Roger wrote that Taizé was only a simple bud grafted onto the great tree of monastic life, without which it could not live. What can a little bud bring to the great branches of the tree which, for centuries, have risen firmly towards heaven? (…) The search for communion, enlightened by the Word of God, is at the heart of our vocation. The source is communion with God. (…) When, in prayer, we look to the Light of Christ transfigured, it gradually becomes interior to us. Each of us is also the beloved child of God. Like Jesus, we can abandon ourselves to God. And in return he transfigures our person: body, soul and spirit. Then even the frailties and imperfections become a door through which God enters our personal life and our community life. The brambles that hinder our common walk feed a fire that lights the way. Our contradictions, our fears, perhaps remain. But, by the Spirit Holy, Christ comes to penetrate what worries us about ourselves and others, to the point that the darkness is illuminated. Our humanity, our differences, are not abolished, God assumes them, he can give them fulfillment. Our gaze towards the transfigured Christ allows heaven and earth to unite in our lives.
In our time, individualism has become a great value. We should not only deplore this phenomenon. It contains a positive aspiration, that of personally assuming one’s major decisions. For Christians the time is over when it was enough to follow traditions more or less consciously. We are called to a personal commitment in faith. One of my brothers told me recently: Before giving my life in a common vocation, I must possess it. He is right, it is true, and even very important. We must know ourselves, be faithful to what is inscribed deep within us, be free from determinisms from elsewhere. Vocation is not something that is added from outside, the path of lifelong commitment must correspond to the deepest desire inscribed in our being. But on the other hand, it must also be said, we remain a great mystery for ourselves, psychology only partially sheds light on this mystery, we cannot be aware of everything that determines our decisions. We gradually discover what lives in our depths. The “I want it” of our profession must also integrate the gray areas of our being, which is still waiting to find a maturation. Along our journey, there will be acceptance of the shortcomings and obstacles that may arise and that will force us to repeat the “I want it”. Autonomy is not to be free from all determinism, that would be impossible. Rather, it consists in assuming over time everything that has shaped our person. Abandoning ourselves to something that does not come from us is only possible in view of a greater love, when we sense that there is a hidden treasure for which we burn to give everything.
(…) By bringing together Protestant and Catholic brothers, our community tries to anticipate the unity to come. This supposes going to a single Eucharistic table. Since 1973, a door has opened: we all receive communion from the Catholic Church. And, without any canonical status, we are committed to refer to the ministry of unity of the bishop of Rome, the pope. Those of us who grew up in a Protestant family assume this without any denial of our origin, but rather as an extension of our faith. Brothers who come from a Catholic family find enrichment in opening up to the gifts of the Reformed Churches, such as the central place occupied by Scripture, a Christocentric faith, the enhancement of freedom of conscience, the beauty of choral singing… This ecumenical life has become very natural to us. It may involve limitations and renunciations. But there is no reconciliation without renunciations. With the Orthodox Churches, among the signs of closeness that we can accomplish, there is sometimes the reception of an Orthodox monk from one country or another, who comes to share our life for a period. The history of Taizé can be read as an attempt to come and stay under the same roof. Coming from about thirty countries, we live under the roof of the same house. And when, three times a day, we come together for common prayer, we place ourselves under the single roof of the Church of Reconciliation. This common prayer also brings together young people from all over the world, Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox, and they are associated with the same parable. We are surprised to see that they feel deeply united without lowering their faith to the lowest common denominator.