April 17, 2016.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, April 17, 2016 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we encourage Inter-faith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

Christians are contemplating the mysteries inherent in this Easter Season during these eight weeks between our celebration of the Resurrection of the one we call Jesus the Christ and God’s gift of the Holy Spirit given to us on Pentecost Sunday. It is a time for rejoicing in an experience of renewal and new life and reflecting deeply on the meaning of the Easter story in our lives and in the world. The Mystery of the Spirit of God’s creative life in us, around us and through us can be overwhelming, inspiring and unbelievably beautiful. And perhaps, given the efforts of destructive forces in our world today that attempt to strip us of our dignity and humanity, we are invited in this season to see again the Glory of God’s creation and the miracle of our abundant life-giving creative capacities as human beings, “made in God’s image.”

Of the ninety-nine names of God in Islam, Beauty speaks loudly in the tradition of Middle Eastern poetry and in the traditionally chanted poetic verses of the Qur’an. In the Hebrew and Christian scriptures we find the poetic literary form most clearly in the Song of Songs and in the Christian Gospel according to Saint John. For many spiritual seekers Poetry as a literary form provides the only way to express profound inner experiences in words since only poetic verse can speak directly to the human heart through ever more meaningful symbols, metaphors, simile, and the very rhythm evoked by the form itself.

Mystics in all faiths traditionally have turned to poetic verse to express the inexpressible experience of the Spirit at work in their lives. Testimony to the wisdom found in all three Abrahamic faiths is expressed in this verse from the Qur’an:

Say, We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to [all] Prophets from their Lord. We make no difference between one and another of them, and we bow to Allah [in Islam] (Qur’an, Surah 2: 136)

“Ibn ‘Arabi  (1165 – 1230) was born in Murcia in Muslim Spain, and died in Damascus in Syria.   A Muslim philosopher and mystic who aimed to bring together the traditional and esoteric currents of Islam, he is considered the greatest Sufi master and his vast body of work the towering achievement of Sufism. Before ibn ‘Arabi Sufism was considered a mystical belief; he contributed its intellectual dimension and had a profound influence on future generations of thinkers.

He wrote:

My heart can take on any form:
a meadow for gazelles, a cloister for monks,
A temple for idols, the Ka’ba for pilgrims,
The tablets of the Torah, the leaves of the Qur’an.
I believe in the religion of love whichever way its caravan turns;
Love is my religion and my faith.

(Danielle and Olivier Föllmi, Devotions: Wisdom from the Cradle of Civilization, Abrams , New York )

Centuries before ibn’ Arabi, the Saint of Islam known as al –Hallaj expressed the intensity of his inner experience of God in his poetry where he struggles with love of a God who is at once unknown and unknowable and intimately personal. He wrote:

He is closer than consciousness is for the imagination, and more intimate than the sparks of inspiration.

 ( Massignon, L. 1955. Le Diwan d’al-Hallaj Paris: Librairie Orientaliste, Paul Geuthner. P. 48 # 11)

Saliba Sarsar is a modern Christian poet who expresses his love of his native city Jerusalem and the Holy Land in his most recent book. His poem entitled, “When Peace Becomes the Holy Land” speaks to the heart of our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute monthly Inter-faith sharing.

On bright sky a rainbow lights
A graceful dove finds home.
Olive leaves stretch from the hand,
When peace comes to the Holy Land.

Glistening hopes from elders East.
Blend with Western nations.
Fear and sin melt ‘neath the sand,
When peace unites the Holy Land.

A shrine red-petal adorned,
Holds forth its walls bright sound.
Where hymns foretold of sages grand,
When peace restores the Holy Land,

Then laughter the children raise
Midst bells and trumpet blare,
Love reigns! Such sweet demand,
When peace flows from the Holy Land.

No id’l I dream, or empty words,
Nor deeds will break the spell.
For now we must firmly stand,
For peace, peace, peace.

(Saliba Sarsar, Portraits: Poems of the Holy Land, Ilora Press, Cambridge MA, 2015, p. 63)

Peace to you,

(See www.dcbuck.com for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute)