THE sweet and the strong — the hippy and the revolutionary— broke bread together this Easter at Taize, where I spent several days among approximately 6,000 young people from all over the world.
They had come spontaneously on pilgrimage to this little Burgundian hamlet, home of an ecumenical community of monks. I wondered if ever the twain could really meet and if in fact it was not "from the sweet that comes forth the strong."
For at Taize I found two main tendencies, sometimes reconciled but too often apart. One was the yearning for the transcendent, the enthusiasm for prayer both liturgical and contemplative.
Three times a day almost everyone participated in the liturgical prayer of the monks and in between times, in the fields, in the church. in the tents. one saw young bodies sitting, kneeling, stretched out in attitudes of profound meditation.
Talking to them one found a tremendous desire to know the person of Christ, or to learn the art of contemplation, to be able to sit still and give oneself up to the "greater than L" On the other hand, there was an understandably aggressive preoccupation with how to change the world into a place of justice, fraternity, freedom.
Often, particularly among the young people coming from the old Catholic countries of Spain, Italy and Latin America, this revolutionary ardour was accompanied by a suspicion of prayer, an angry impatience to contemplate, not Christ, but the social economic and political condition of their countries.
It seemed as if these two currents were flowing in opposite directions, drawing one either to a Christ who is a person at whose feet we might sit in quiet joy to look, to listen, to be, or to a Christ who is a slogan, a banner, a symbol of the effort we must immediately and concretely undertake to analyse society, to protest against its inhumanity, to realise its renewal.
This tension probably pulls at the heart of most thinking Christians. But is Christ really either a person, or a symbol, either a tranquilliser or a stimulant?
There is an Arab proverb which says : "Come to me with your heart and I will give you my eyes." What does that mean if not to go to another with that openness and receptivity with which we risk being changed by another, being illuminated by the other's understanding?
Does this not give us a clue to resolving the seeming opposition between prayer and action, contemplation and revolution? For if we really come to Christ with open hearts, not projecting on to him our own vision and desires, we shall receive his eyes, his love, his life. A life that was lived for others in cornpassion, risk, hunger and thirst after justice.
It is not the Christ of the Gospels who will lull us to sleep while injustice oppresses the weak and defenceless. Rather, Christ necessarily must transfigure our inmost hearts and, in the words of Prior Schutz of Taize, "give us enough imagination and courage to open up a path of reconciliation, prepare us to give our life so that man may no longer be victim of man."