May 17, 2020.
We will gather together remotely for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday May 17, 2020 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm. At this moment, faced with the necessity of social distancing due to the worldwide pandemic called Covid-19 threatening all of us, our gathering is taking place via Zoom on-line rather than 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 and for a recovery of health for the world.
On April 22, 2020, the 48th day of quarantine in Bethlehem, Palestine, just as Ramadan was about to begin, a testimony by one woman in her preparation for the holy month was preceded by the following quotation:
"Some people imagine that by returning to tradition, you will renew it. This is not true, for by returning to tradition, you renew nothing. But by setting out from it and adding to it, you renew its power, because only by addition can you prepare the future path for the living sap within it." (Jabra Ibrahim Jabra (1920 - 1994) was born in Bethlehem. He died in exile in Baghdad.)
In this unusual time of seclusion and social distancing, first Christians, for the six weeks of Lent and the Easter Season, and now our Muslim friends in the midst of the Ramadan fast, have indeed set out from tradition on a new way of renewal. Despite the fact that we can no longer gather together in our Churches and Mosques or break open the fast with friends and family each evening for a shared Iftar dinner there is a striking invitation here that is very evident in both our traditions.
There are three very important aspects of both Lent and Ramadan that believers enter into with focus and purpose: Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving. We are certainly asked to fast at this time from much personal engagement with our friends and families. Almsgiving in terms of financial donations may be limited due to diminished funds at this time. Other forms of physical outreach to those in need are also severely limited for the sake of protecting each other from a lethal virus. Spiritual practices of communal prayer and worship that are one usual form of prayer during the Easter Season and Ramadan is not available to us right now. However, what allows us to want to fast from food, to remind us of those who have very little or none, or to fast from destructive and divisive judgements of others and the many ways we lack compassion and forgiveness depends on the ground we stand on: our relationship with the Divine source of courage, strength and abundant love for God and one another. Perhaps the lesson for us this year is to nourish that relationship by listening more intently to the One who calls us into that relationship and speaks to our hearts.
When Louis Massignon and Mary Kahil made their original vow to offer their lives in Badaliya, substitution, for the well-being of the Muslim community they were entering into a new way of praying from the heart. This intense and sincere prayer of the heart and purposeful positive engagement with the "other" was a response to a commandment to Love one another as God loves us. Massignon encouraged members of the Badaliya to turn to the spiritual writings and spirit of Blessed Charles de Foucauld who devoted his life to the imitation of Christ. The image that guided him was of the hidden life of Jesus in Nazareth, a small insignificant village in Palestine of poor working class families. Foucauld went in search of God and solitude to Nazareth on March 5th, 1897 and lived for the following three years in a hut on the property of a religious order of nuns called the Poor Clares. It was those three years of prayer and discernment that allowed him to find the vocation that God was calling him to. And that is perhaps the model for us today. It takes time, silence and listening to allow our prayer life and relationship with the Divine to mature and lead us on the path that we are meant to follow on our journey through life. Let us see this time as an unexpected opportunity.
While still a Trappist monk in Akbes Syria in 1896 Foucauld wrote a prayer that he "put on the lips of Jesus" because it would be "too demanding for any of us". It is a prayer of trusting abandonment to the will of God. May this prayer, that has been adopted by the many religious and lay communities dedicated to the spirituality of Blessed Charles de Foucauld nourish your spirit and help to establish the ground you stand on. Let us offer it for those many families who have suffered the loss of loved ones in this world-wide pandemic and for the well-being, courage and perseverance of all those who are putting their lives at risk to care for them.
Prayer of Abandonment
Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you; I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father. Amen. - Blessed Charles de Foucauld
A blessed Easter Season and Ramadan Mubarak
Peace to you,
Quotation found at www.brothercharles.org
(See www.dcbuck.com for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute)