Taizé and Icons

 

Since the focus of Taizé meetings is on the contemplative use of sound and silence the display of icons is minimal. The compromise between a profusion of icons in the Orthodox tradition and their non-use by many non-conformists is also appropriate as Taizé is essentially an ecumenical community.

Two icons and a rood icon are often displayed, which is also the tradition of many Anglican and Catholic churches. Substituting for the conventional Pantocrator icon, the sixth century, Coptic image of Jesus and Saint Menas, renamed at Taizé as “Christ and the Friend,” may be placed on the far right (south) side of the altar and, on the far left, one of the classic icon-types of the Virgin and Child. In the centre of the east wall may hang a San Damiano cross.

 

 

Our Lady of Vladimir

 

The San Damiano cross

 

 

Jesus and Saint Menas

 

 

When the Glastonbury Taizé group sing at a location which has its own versions of any one of these icons (e.g. the stone-carved rood in the Lady Chapel at Glastonbury Abbey) it will normally take precedence and the Taizé icon not used.

There are two other icons that are sometimes used by the Glastonbury group, particularly on the feast days of the saints depicted, but usually displayed only in the absence of the above in order to maintain simplicity. The first is “Our Lady of Glastonbury” and the other is a detail from it – Saint Beon (Benignus in Latin) who is the singing-group’s patron and was, in legend, Saint Patrick’s psalm-singer (cantor) and successor as Abbot of Glastonbury.

 

Our Lady of Glastonbury

 

Saint Beon chanting

 

When singing during the feasts of other significant saints an icon of that saint may alternatively be displayed. However, the altar always remains free of icons but it should have at least one candle on it. A profusion of candles is a Taizé tradition, the more the better, and electric lighting is avoided where possible.

The use of icons is by no means mandatory or essential but at least one, lit candle is always displayed - as the ultimate icon - representing the eternal, divine flame that is the source, and essence, of all things.