March 9, 2008.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday March 9, 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.

Our Lenten journey calls us to stop and take the time to attend to our prayer life and search more deeply into our hearts and souls for the true nature of our own Christian calling. In this process of walking with Jesus towards the great events of Holy Week those of us committed to the Badaliya prayer are invited to revisit this call to substitutionary prayer with the founder of the Badaliya, Louis Massignon as our guide. Throughout his many years of guiding the members of the Badaliya from prayer into social action he wrote out of the intensity of his own spiritual experience and willingness to take on the sufferings of others as a personal vocation.

Opening ourselves to the sufferings of others and experiencing their suffering as our own is the means by which we as members of the Badaliya move towards personal salvation or immortality. Massignon calls this "apotropaic sacralization", making sacred this means of averting sin, evil and death. In one of his letters he contrasts this Christian call to "substitution" with the concept of predestination. He writes:

"Thus it seems that it is in this apotropaic sacralization by means of taking on another person's suffering that one can begin to see the metaphysical realization of our personal immortality. Our immortality is not this "evaporation" of individual Karma, this obliteration of the weight of our actions, bringing back the living as well as the dead, moved by the implacable Wheel of Predestination. [Instead] Immortality would come from within, in the process of our giving birth to our personal vocation, in our hearts, it would be an Escape forward that would lift us up like a harpoon, an anchor thrown to catch our wounded hearts and save them - a twinkling star snatching us up, from above".(Convocation XXII)

On the first Sunday of Lent we traditionally hear the Gospel readings of the three temptations of Christ posed to Jesus during his forty day fast in the desert by Satan. Massignon's own reflections on what Jesus is modeling for us by his answers to Satan lead us even more deeply to reflect on our call to Badaliya, substitutionary prayer, during these forty days of Lenten fast. Massignon writes:

"In a great meditation on the history of Christianity, Dostoevsky was the first to show how much Christianity depends on the degree to which we imitate Christ in his Answers to the Tempter's Three Questions at the end of his forty day Fast in the desert, as well as the degree to which our compassion resembles His Passion:

1. "Command that these stones be made bread." Instead of performing a technical miracle, of lulling mankind with the mirage of a luxurious and idle life, Christ, through the humility of manual work, "the holy work of one's hands," draws us into desiring the offering of his last fraternal supper, this poor relic of his Passion in which he hands himself over to us, torn apart, dying, in order that we rise from the dead, we, his murderers whom he takes as his Guests into the humble Paradise of his Heart.

2. "Throw yourself down from the Temple so that, as is written, the Angels of God may preserve you from all harm." Instead of delivering men from their self-inflicted pains and tortures by sparing them the use of their own free will, Christ permits that those of humble and virgin heart be stripped and nailed on the Cross of infamy and glory, thereby revealing the radiant, dazzling beauty of Truth unveiled.

3. "Behold, all these kingdoms and their glory fall down and worship my Power." Instead of letting us adore the idol of Science, (the artificial work of his hands), as if Science could give us eternal life here below, Christ invites us to die from compassion for the Outlaws and the Convicts, to renounce all authority and prestige, to surrender to Grace, to the Spirit of Consolation, and, burned by its Fire, set ablaze by prayer, to let ourselves be scattered to the four winds of the Spirit".
(Convocation XVII)

May our Lenten prayer and fast lead us to the Passion of Christ and authentic compassion and love.

Peace to you.