IN THE midst of all the glitter and glamour of Christmas TV, Channel Four screened two sensitive and moving documentaries concentrating on the deeper and more religious aspects of life. The first, shown on Christmas Eve, was Taize: That Little Springtime. Taizd is a village in the Burgundy area of France, which as a result of the work of Br Roger, has become a centre of pilgrimage for young people from all over the world.
The film was shot during Holy Week when over ten thousand descended on the centre, camping in the surrounding fields and intent on sharing their Easter together. It is an ecumenical community embracing many aspects of Christianity, and was founded by Br Roger in 1940, in response to the need for a place of reconciliation where different and divided nationalities and denominations could come together and pray. The Orthodox veneration of icons, the Protestant emphasis upon the Bible together with practices derived from Catholic monasticism all form part of the prayer and worship of Taizd.
The core community consists of over SO men from various countries and Christian faiths who share a vow of poverty and celibacy and hold their goods in common. Their commitment to reconciliation has led to Taize's fame billowing out far beyond the French countryside and inspiring young people from all over the world to come and join in the daily prayer and singing, offering hope and reconciliation.
Jean Vanier founded L'Arche, a community for men and women with mental handicaps, over 21 years ago. His first home was at the French village of Risly Breuil; now there is a worldwide organisation of over 60 communities in 16 countries.
The Heart Has Its Reasons, (Boxing Day) told Jean Vanier's story, and visited some of the L'Arche communities.
The helpers are all volunteers who follow Jean Vanier's ideals, living with the mentally handicapped and offering them warmth, friendship and a sense of belonging, as well as helping them with the everyday skills of life. Jean Vanier's life and philosophy are embodied in each L'Arche community.
Yet another French influence on our Christmas television is Hector Berlioz' Oratorio
L'Enfance du Christ
(Monday, ITV 9.15pm). It is a lavish production by Thames Television, presented in a visually rich operatic form, using paintings by Botticelli, Millais, Lear and Holman Hunt as sets.
Anthony Burgess translated and dramatised the Oratorio for this production. The soloists include Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Richard Van Allen and Benjamin Luxon. The dancers are members of the Royal Ballet, choreographed by Wayne Fiona Kimm and William Shinnel (above) take the roles of Mary and Joseph in Berlioz' L'Enfance du Christ (Thames 9.15pm, December 30). (Below) Brother Roger, Taize's founder, during filming of Taize: That Little Springtime (Christmas Eve).