February 17, 2008.
We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday February 17, 2008 at 3pm at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the 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.
It seems all the more vital this year to turn to Louis Massignon's experience of our annual Lenten fast as he interprets its meaning for members of the Badaliya prayer movement. He reminds us that fasting for Peace and Justice in our world and in our lives is a form of atonement that connects us as Christians to our responsiblity for one another as members of the universal Body of Christ. This means of atonement for the suffering we have inflicted upon one another, in the light of "substitionary" prayer, must lead us beyond our own community to recognizing the pain and suffering we have caused our neighbor, especially our Muslim and Jewish neighbors, our brothers and sisters who share our Abrahamic heritage. The call to true compassion and mercy can only be realized when we can feel the other's pain and suffering as our own and recognize that our fasting is for both those who have committed atrocities, both past and present, in our name as Christians and also for those who have suffered or died as a result. As Badaliya, or substitutes, and as Christians, it is not enough to fast for our friends. We must also fast for those who we perceive as enemies as they too are children of God.
Massignon writes, "Coming back from Washington, where I thought about Lincoln's fasting for the sake of the black slaves and returning from Mehrauli, south of New Dehli, where I reflected on Gandhi's last fast, I realized in the summer of 1953 that in France some evil deeds against Muslims by our countrymen, most of them Christians, were staining the spiritual purity of our common spiritual body.... Accordingly. I joined with some friends in atoning for those of our brethren who were going astray, acting as "substitutes" for these badly treated Muslims. Fasting periodically, especially during Ramadan, the Lunar month of the Muslim "Lent" touched several Muslims who joined us in prayer. One of them openly joined my struggle to make joint Muslim-Christian pilgrimages and to visit common places of worhip, such as the cave of the Seven Sleepers in Ephesus (Turkey), in Vieux Marché (Brittany, France) and in Guidjel (near Sétif, Algeria). One day, on April 25, 1957, this friend, Professor, Hajj Lounis Mafoud wrote to me that on the next night, the 27th night of Ramadan, the most solemn Night of Destiny in Islam, when we were to pray especially for the sake of Muslims, he would also pray in communion with us for our common spiritual goal at the Cemetery of the Seven Sleepers in Guidjel ("alone so as not to compromise anyone"). On the following June 5th he was killed; as a sacred victim. I myself was exposed twice to murderous attacks which shows the reality of our spiritual compassion for the sake of Peace, just as did the deaths of Gandhi and Lincoln".
(Louis Massignon, 1959 in Opera Minora, vol. III, p. 711. Beirut 1963 Dar Al- Maaref- Liban)
Let us allow Louis Massignon's words to guide us as we continue our Lenten fast with open hearts and minds for the well-being of our painfully divided world. He writes:
"Whether we are talking about Islam, Israel or the Eastern Churches, that may or may not be united with Rome, let us keep in mind that MEMORY MUST BE TRANSFORMED INTO HOPE, as St. John of the Cross tells us; that it is absurd to pit the West against this ancient East that we all came from; that we shall not be wholly reconciled with it unless we go back to our origins and recover our ultimate Unity; let us enter into the eternal liturgical cycle, beyond our divisions, predestined from time immemorial to all the filial and genealogical descendants of Abraham, following an Einsteinian curve of Time through contemplative worship". (Convocation XII)
"Despite our misery and seeming uselessness before this national and international tragedy, let us stay firmly rooted in our commitment to the exclusive use of Christ's non-violent weapons, namely, prayer, fasting and the sacrifice of substitution. As we keep bearing public witness to the truth, let us avoid even the slightest suggestion of aggressiveness or hatred toward those who are blind but will not always remain so. ...." (Convocation XIII)
Peace to you.