Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Brother Roger R.I.P.

Excuse me for a totally non-political post, but I wanted to acknowledge the death yesterday of a truly great man: Brother Roger, founder and Prior of the Taize ecumenical monastic community in France. He was murdered in his own church during evening prayers, apparently by a mentally disturbed woman whose motives are as yet unknown.

Taize was founded by Brother Roger in 1940 at a small farm, which served as a sanctuary for refugees (especially Holocaust refugees) during World War II. Soon after the war, it developed into a formal monastic order with Protestant roots but an inclusive ethic that eventually attracted Catholic and Orthodox participants. Aside from its obvious value as an example of Christian unity, Taize's central mission has been service to the poor and oppressed around the world. But as a byproduct of its own community life, Taize also developed a distinctive set of prayers and songs.

It's this last contribution for which Taize is probably best known in America, especially among my fellow Episcopalians, for whom "Taize worship" exerts a strong appeal on both sides of the High Church/Low Church divide. As an obdurate member of the former faction, I can say that Taize's songs and chants stand out sharply in the wasteland of "contemporary" liturgical music as uniquely capturing both the simplicity and reverential spirit of traditional plainsong, without the self-conscious antiquarianism of High Church ceremony.

Without diminishing Taize's more important missions, I do think any force that can unite today's warring Anglicans has miraculous healing properties.

It's obviously sad and ironic that Brother Roger, a man devoted to the pursuit of internal and external peace, died a violent death. But just as obviously, this reflects the original paradox of Christianity, and serves as a reminder of the "broken" nature of humankind that is symbolized by the Cross. I am grateful for the life of Brother Roger, who spent each day working quietly to forge the bonds of community near and far.
-- Posted at 10:18 PM | Link to this post | Email this post

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