February 25, 2007.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday, February 25th from 3:00 pm-4:30 pm in the small chapel in St. Paul's Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we pray for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land, in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the midst of the many conflicts in our world especially in the Middle East and the Holy Land we are invited to hold out our hope for reconciliation and non-violent solutions by our call to the Badaliya Prayer.

As we enter into the Christian season of fasting and prayer that we call Lent, our journey towards God and our experience of Badaliya call us ever more deeply into our struggle to open our hearts and minds, first to God and then to our brothers and sisters of all faith traditions. The God that we call "merciful" is found at the heart of all three monotheisms. With Louis Massignon as our guide we are led to his discussion of sacred hospitality, the kind of sacrifice of ourselves to God that allows us to be merciful to one another. Massignon writes:

"The most basic kind of charity is the offering of the self, i.e., hospitality, which is a synthesis of the works of mercy... The exercise of hospitality, essential in Abrahamitic Islam, is also essential for the Badaliya, because this movement asks us to take in the poorest of the poor, the Exile par excellence, God, hidden, substituted in the most defenceless of those strangers who come to us for hospitality,,,, let us recall, with St. Benedict, the mysticism of hospitality: the Virgin gave hospitality to the Holy Spirit on the day of the Annunciation, touching upon, like Abraham at Mamre (Gen.18:2-9) the very basis of the mystery of the Trinity, in which God is by turns, the guest, the host, and the home....

" This notion of sacred hospitality, which I have developed over a period of many years since 1908, when Foucauld encouraged me like an older brother, seems to me to be central in the search for Truth among men, in our travels and our work on earth, until we reach the threshold of life beyond the grave.....Forty years of travel within Islamic lands have led me to this conviction, confirmed by reality, that if Islam has survived all of its losses, territorial, economic and technical, this has been to preserve for the world, in the hearts of simple and sincere Muslims,,,,a solid reserve, infinitely precious, of faith in the divine promises, a faith which finds its true expression in the hospitality extended to every foreign visitor, as if he were the guest, the image of God, the Angel sent to Abraham at Mamre and who must one day help us recover the eschatological significance of sacred hospitality, the right of sanctuary, for the salvation of humankind"

"Today in a world which is de-sacralizing itself and aspires instead to complete secularization,...it is proper to meditate upon the obligation of "Christian" hospitality, which ought to give each one of us the occasion to demonstrate a supernatural faith and a kind of love which is divine rather than merely philanthropic by taking in the guest as if he were Jesus Himself, who lives again in our fellow Human beings".(Badaliya letters #13 and #15).

In a study of the Opening Surah in the Qur'an, the Fatiha, we are introduced to two of the Ninety-nine "names" of God, Allah, prayed daily by Muslims everywhere:

The All Compassionate, the All Merciful

God's own Name "Allah" in the Basmallah is followed by two valuable descriptive names: Ar-Rahmân, Ar-Rahîm.

These two terms have the same root that leads us back to Merciful: rahma. The first, ar-Rahmân, indicates that God is compassionate in His essence. He posseses this supreme quality independent of His creation. The second, ar-Rahîm, indicates the rapport that connects God with His creatures. The nature of the first is descriptive, the second is active. The Qur'an thus confirms: "And He is all merciful (rahîm) in relation to believers".

Just like God's own name, Allah, the word Rahmân (compassion) is exclusively reserved for the Creator. We can not use it for any creature because compassion is the esssence of Allah. The word rahîm, on the contrary, is used as qualitative for describing created beings. The Prophet is thus "The Messenger...sympathetic and all merciful (rahîm) towards the believers". (Qur'an 9:128) We can call his son or daughter Rahîm but it is impossible to call them Rahmân.

There are many divine names such as the King, Infinite Wisdom, the Creator, the All Powerful etc. but it is interesting to observe here that these two names that God has chosen to mention in the Basmallah to accompany His own name are both connected to the theme of Mercy. This signifies that the essential quality that connects the human being to God is Mercy. The rahma contains the idea of compassion, love, gentleness and protection. If we observe this sentiment between creatures between a mother and her infant, for example, we are able in turn to grasp the depth and immensity of it in God. The Prophet said," Allah has made the rahma (mercy) into one hundred parts. He has kept ninety-nine parts next to him and made one part descend to earth: from there comes the compassion creatures have for one another, to the point that the mare lifts her hoof for fear of hurting her foal". This hadîth makes us understand to what degree we are unable to have the least idea of what divine Mercy really represents.

(Muslim gives the following version of this hadîth: "The Most High God posseses one hundred mercies. He has sent down one alone that the djinns, humans, birds, beasts and animals everywhere share. Through it they demonstrate tenderness and compassion for one another. He has reserved ninety-nine mercies through which He is merciful towards His worshippers on the Day of resurrection"). The djinn are intelligent, invisible spirits residing somewhere between humans and angels. [They have the capacity to assume visible form and can be good or bad, sin or be saved. Our word genie comes from this word].

And finally for our further reflections on God's mercy towards us, the call of Badaliya prayer, and the sacred hospitality to which we as Christians are invited to meditate on and practice during this lenten Season:

Luke 6:27-38

"To you who hear me I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you.... if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. if you do good to those who do good to you, how can you claim any credit? Sinners do as much.... love your enemy and do good. Lend without expecting repayment, then will your recompense be great. You will rightly be called sons of the Most High, since He Himself is good to the ungrateful and the wicked".

Luke 6:49

"... anyone who has heard my words but not put them into practice is like the man who built his house on the ground without any foundation. When the torrent rushed upon it, it immediately fell in and was completely destroyed".

Peace to you.