Our Taizé services, held several times a year, have traditionally been attended by adults. For the service scheduled midway through Lent we wanted to make it more of an intergenerational event. How could we make Taizé more experiential while retaining its contemplative nature? How might we introduce Taizé to families with children? How could we tap into scripture with baptismal and Lenten themes paired with the music of Taizé? This and other questions led to our creation of a Taizé Intergenerational Liturgy held on the afternoon of the Third Sunday of Lent at my home parish, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wilton, Connecticut.
Our team (Marissa Rohrbach, rector; Fiona Smith Sutherland, music director; Becky Hudspeth, children’s and youth minister; and myself) created two other events this program year (The Way of Love and Advent) and wanted to build upon those. Then two of us saw a post on Building Faith by Charlotte Preslar entitled “Creating Prayer Bottles” that had been developed as a sensory prayer experience before Lent began. We knew we had found our experiential, contemplative missing element for our Taizé service.
In advance, we ordered our supplies and sorted all the “pieces” in little containers for easy use with little hands and less mess. We set up a simple focal point of tables of various sizes and heights, with chairs surrounding them on all sides with ample room to move between them all. Around the perimeter of the chairs were six 6-foot tables, while near the entrance the piano and small adult choir and an instrumentalist sat. Battery-powered candles (the ones that looked like they had flickering flames) were scattered on the focal tables and piano. A variety of icons were placed on the tables as well as small terra-cotta pots filled with sand. A large clear glass bowl was filled with water and placed on the center of the largest altar table. Scattered on the floor were tall bottles filled with warm water and a basket of thin, long tapers (candles). Torches (from the sanctuary) stood on either side of the tables and our processional cross was placed in the center back of the room.
A sermon preached at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Wilton, Connecticut for the Great Vigil of Easter, March 26, 2016 ( Roman 6:3-11 and Matthew 28:1-10)
Why is this night different than all other nights? That is the ultimate question to be asked by the youngest male as Jewish families gather on the night of Passover. For them, it is a series of nights to remember how their ancestors, the Israelites, were liberated from slavery. It is a spring festival, with the words “to pass,” “to spring over,” or “to spare” translated from the word pesach. Throughout history, and even today, this is a commemorative occasion, reminding the children of Israel of their deliverance out of Egypt.
For us Christians, tonight is also a night different than all nights. It, too, is a night of remembrance. We might have begun our liturgy asking, “Why is this night different above all other nights?” And the answer we could receive is very similar. It is about an all-night storytelling session about who we are and where we came from. It is about death, as well as life. But this time it is our re-membering, our re-constructing in our hearts and minds the great deliverance we have received from Jesus Christ – the Messiah who has brought all his people from the doom of death on account of sin, and from the bondage of sin itself – something much worse than Egyptian bondage.
The Paschal Candle is a large, white candle used in Western Christianity in such traditions as the Episcopal, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic Churches. Lit during the season of Easter and at special liturgies of Holy Baptism and funerals, “Paschal” comes from Pesach, which is Hebrew meaning “Passover,” relating to the Paschal mystery of salvation. Dedicated during the Great Vigil of Easter, the Paschal Candle is symbolic of the eternal light of Christ – the Alpha and Omega: the beginning and the end; it symbolizes the eternal light of Christ from the beginning of Creation to the end of time.
Typically these candles are sold with decals and/or wax decorations on them from a variety of church supply companies. They can be very ornate or very simple. In recent years hollow candle “shells” have become available to fill with oil in order to be used over and over again, not burning down as a traditional beeswax candle might after much use.
Many years ago when I was the Director of Children’s Ministries at my home parish, I asked my daughter and her friend if they wanted to decorate a special Paschal Candle, to replace the church’s previous years’ candle that could no longer be used again. I gave them carte blanche to design the candle as long as the traditional components were present: the cross with incense points, the date, and the Greek letters α (Alpha) and Ω (Omega). I provided the supplies: a blank, white Paschal candle, incense points (taken from the “old” Paschal candle), small sheets of colored beeswax sheets, and a Book of Common Prayer. Continue reading Salvation History on a Paschal Candle→