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Archives First Advent Taizé service held in Plattsburgh

December 14, 2022

By Mary Beth Bracy
Contributing Writer

Plattsburgh – On Tuesday, November 29 the first Advent Taizé service was held at St. John’s Church in Plattsburgh. Around 40 faithful gathered from every vocation; participants included children and teens to the middle aged and elderly. The event, which included song, silence and Scripture, allowed attendants to enter into the holy season with stillness and amazement.

“Taizé is a great opportunity for ecumenism and contemplation. We typically do a Lenten Taizé but Advent seemed like a good time to give it a try,” said Jen Toohill.

“I am excited that a Taizé prayer service is part of our Advent preparation this year,” added Mary Skillan. “Taizé is such a beautiful form of prayer incorporating community prayer and individual prayer.”

Anita Soltero provided some background about the service.

“It was Starr Burke’s idea to do it for Advent,” she said at the event. “We contacted Father Kevin (McEwan) back in September with the idea, he liked it. We met as a group with him, he gave us his vision and suggestions for readings. Sue Pombrio, Marie Nacht, Starr and I pulled together readings, prayers and music, with help from Jen. We sent it to Father Kevin (McEwan), we met again and refined the program. He okayed it, and here we are. The ‘theme’ was developed around waiting for ‘the light of Christ’ to come.”

Father McEwan, pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Plattsburgh, reflected on the meaning of the Taizé service.

“The intent when I met with the group to plan was the anticipation of what is yet to come – not just with Christmas but each day we welcome God into ourselves,” Father McEwan said. “We wanted to help people try and focus on the intent of Christmas and every day of our lives. The simplicity of the light that is to grow within us. We are sometimes so distracted by the world and in our prayer life.”

“It was my first time helping to plan a Taizé prayer service and it was nice to see it from that angle (why certain songs/prayers are chosen, etc.),” Marie Nacht related.

Susan Pombrio read the introduction and Father McEwan led the opening prayer. Other readers included Mary Skillan and Marge Stewart. Father Mike Marzan, parochial vicar at Holy Cross, proclaimed the Gospel and led the concluding prayer.

During the quiet reflection time attendants were invited to write prayer intentions and place them in a special basket before the empty manger.

Chants and songs were led by Nate Pultorak, Holy Cross choir director and musician; Jen Toohill, Seton Catholic music teacher, band and chorus director; Emily Lawliss, choir member and soloist; and Seton seniors Shaylee Staves, violinist and Ebony Ruffin, singer.

Taizé chants featured were “Veni Creator Spiritus,” “Nada te turbe,” and “En nuestra oscuridad.”

“I sang for Taizé during Lent last year and was really excited to sing again,” said singer Ebony Ruffin.

Jen Toohill added, “I think ‘En nuestra oscuridad’ is usually sung in French but we sang it in Spanish because Ebony is in AP Spanish and wanted to learn more Spanish songs. Plus the cool thing about Taizé chants is how you can get the same song in like a bunch of different languages.”

Other songs were sung acapella as well such as “Waiting in Silence,” “Maranatha,” and “Night of Silence,” which featured Shaylee Staves on the violin. Nate Pultorak performed “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” on the dulcimer.

Prayers touched upon themes of mercy, peace, compassion, light, healing and love. Organizers and participants expressed the hope that the Advent Taizé service will become a yearly tradition.

The service concluded with the singing of “Christ be Our Light,” and participants were invited to light their tea lights then bring them out into the world.

“There is also the theological understanding that we are constantly preparing for the end of time,” Father McEwan said. “This is why we chose the Gospel where the infant in Elizabeth’s womb leapt. Do we proclaim the greatness of our Lord and God? If not, what are we doing?”

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