June 11, 2023.
We will gather together remotely for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday June 11, 2023 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm. Please join us on Zoom, or in spirit, as we encourage Inter-faith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East, especially in Israel and Palestine, due to the escalating violence there, and for an end to the war in the Ukraine. Our prayers are on-going for all the victims of the three devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.
Today Catholic Christians celebrate a solemn feast called Corpus Christi, The Holy Body and Blood of Christ. It is a reminder of the foundations of the daily ritual we call Communion, the very center piece of the Catholic Mass. or liturgical celebration. We return to that Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples just before the betrayal that led to the events we call the Passion of Christ; his condemnation and brutal death by crucifixion and the wonder of the resurrection we call Easter. This was the moment when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples exhorting them to do the same for one another and then broke the bread, blessed it and offered it to them as his body. Likewise he blessed a cup of wine and offered it to them as his blood. This transformation of bread, made from the harvesting of wheat and the making of wine from the fruit of the grapevine into the flesh and blood of Christ highlights our human dependence on this earth for our most basic need for nourishment in order to thrive. Simultaneously it highlights our need to be spiritually and physically nourished by the Divine Creator/Lover of Humanity made manifest in Christ. Catholic Christians call this transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ Transubstantiation. We are members of the Body of Christ. Thus our evening prayer reading from 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 26-27:
"For in our Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jew, or Greeks, slave or free persons, and we were all given to drink of the one Spirit.---- Now you are Christ's body, and individually parts of it.----. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy."
Just as we have highlighted the foundations of this solemnity of Corpus Christi on this final gathering before our two month summer break, let us take a journey into the spiritual foundations of the Badaliya prayer movement with its founder, Louis Massignon, identified by many as both an erudite French scholar and an intense lover of the Divine, a mystic. Massignon would not forget the date, March 24, 1907 when he was 24 years old, for it was that day that his Spanish friend Luis de Cuadra pointed out a passage to him by a little known Islamic mystic known as al-Hallaj. This was found in a book called The Memorial of the Saints by the Persian author, Farid ud-Din' Attar. "Two moments of adoration suffice in love, but the preliminary ablution must be made in blood."
Many years later, Massignon admitted that this was a wake-up call for him that caused him to examine his life. It also gave him a great desire to know more about this Sufi mystic, al-Hallaj, and ultimately led to a dissertation on the life, poetry, teachings and legends surrounding this Islamic saint. He continued for fifty more years of research that led him all over the Islamic world, and the publication of the four volume Passion of al-Hallaj. The fact that Hallaj was crucified in Baghdad as a heretic for publicly preaching about his experience of his intense mystical experiences of God's love was an image of the Muslim martyr that held Massignon captive since Jesus too had been crucified. A life-long journey into the mystical tradition of Islam, as well as Christianity, was begun leading to a personal sense of communion with all saints and mystics and an intense mystical path of his own. Seeking for the meaning of life and for union with God through personal experience is an invitation to all of us called into being by the Divine Lover of humanity and of all of creation.
This passion for discovering the mystical paths of the saints formed a spiritual foundation for the establishment of the Badaliya prayer movement and engagement with the Muslim world. There is a rich legacy of mystical writings, reflections, teachings and poetry in our two traditions that can enrich our own spiritual lives and our sharing of our experiences with one another. Perhaps, as we enter into our summer months we can nourish our hearts and souls with the help of a few of our Christian and Muslim mystics.
It is thought that the first person to be called "Sufi" was the Persian poet Jami, Abd-Allah ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah who died in the year 716 CE and that there were always Islamic mystical seekers shortly after the death of Muhammad. One of these was the Islamic scholar of theology and mysticism known as Hasan al-Basri. He was born in 642 CE and became an important figure in the development of Sufism. It was not until the 12th century that the Sufi orders, or Tariqa, were established by spiritual founders, or Sufi Sheikhs, spiritual masters, who attracted disciples and became saints for whom devotional shrines were built. The intense devotion to God was called "the science of the hearts".
The tenth century Persian mystic, poet and teacher of Sufism Husayn ibn Mansour known as al-Hallaj was born in Iran in 858 CE and died in Baghdad in 922 CE. His journey led him through a traditional Hanbalite Qur'anic education in Basra, Iraq, through identification with Sufism, disagreements with his Sufi masters and finally to a return to Iran and an ascetic life. His mission included being opposed to all political extremism and tyranny and a dedication to his passionate desire for a unified Muslim community. His spiritual vocation was as a witness to the truth of the transcendent God of Islam. His father had been a "Hallaj" a wool carder, and he became known as a "carder of hearts". "His inner experience of God was expressed most poignantly in his poetry where he struggles with love of a God who is at once unknown and unknowable and intimately personal". He wrote:
"Your image is in my eye, Your memorial on my lips.
Your life in my heart, but where do You yet hide?"
Massignon's first exposure to the teachings of al-Hallaj was in Farid ud-Din' Attar's Memorial of the Saints. Attar was a Persian Sufi poet and mystic born in 1145 CE in Nishapur, Iran and died in 1221 CE. His Memorial of the Saints is an account of the sayings and experiences of seventy-two Sufi saints and he is also the author of the well-known mystical journey called the Conference of the Birds. Attar wrote:
"Plunge into the ocean of your heart, for there you will find the universe."
Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi was born in present day Tajikstan in 1207 CE and died in Konya in the central Anatolia region of present day Turkey in 1273 CE. He was a Persian mystic and poet who founded the Mevlana Sufi order that established a very demanding school for spiritual seekers, called Dervishes. Their ritual circular and repetitive dance movement slowly increasing in tempo was a means to ecstatic experience of the Divine. The school was disbanded in 1926 with the advent of modern day Turkey and remains a shrine and the burial place of Rumi. The mesmerizing dance became a performing art known as the Whirling Dervishes.
Rumi left many inspiring collections of his poetic writings the most famous is called the Masnavi-e Ma'navi, spiritual couplets and consists of 25,000 verses and 50,000 lines. Here is one saying:
"When you are with everyone but me, you are with no one. When you are with no one but me, you are with everyone. Instead of being bound up with everyone, be everyone. When you become that many, you are nothing: Empty."
A more recent well-known Lebanese poet, artist and philosopher was the Christian Maronite, Kahil Gibran. He lived from 1883 to 1933, settled in New York and headed efforts to support countries in the Middle East. His many books of poetic philosophy include his most well-known best seller The Prophet. He wrote:
"The wind speaks not more sweetly to the giant oak than to the least of all the blades of grass; and he alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into song made sweeter by his own loving."
"If you would know God be not therefore a solver of riddles
Rather, look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children."
May these words help us to mitigate the onslaught of daily news of the pain and suffering in the Middle East and the Ukraine and elsewhere in the world as we pray together for peace with justice and cherish the moments we share in our Badaliya and Peace Island gatherings.
Blessed summer and Peace to you,
See www.dcbuck.com for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands