December 21,2008.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday December 21, 2008 from 1pm to 2:30 pm 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.

On December 1st members of the Badaliya joined the Boston Jesus Caritas, a lay fraternity belonging to the spiritual family of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, to honor the hermit priest's untimely death on December 16,1916. For Louis Massignon, Brother Charles was like an older brother, a mentor who planted the seeds of Massignon's own developing spirituality. Foucauld wrote that he wanted to be a "universal brother" for all those who came to him in need or friendship regardless of their ethnicity or religious beliefs. It had taken him many years to grow in this conviction as he allowed his great love of Jesus of Nazareth to transform his own life.

We enter into the season of Advent reflecting on the Immaculate Conception of Mary whose own growth in the Spirit led her to be willing to accept the words of an Angel who declared that she would give birth to a Holy Son by the power of the Spirit of God. Mary's "fiat", her "Yes" to God's will for her and the world became the center of Massignon's understanding of the Christian call to faith. We are called to proclaim our own "Yes" to God, giving birth to Jesus in our hearts in order to recognize Him in everyone. It is fitting therefore that we turn our attention to Nazareth with Brother Charles and focus our prayers on the Holy Land.

Although Brother Charles died during World War I and did not live to see the outcome of the next great World War, Massignon was called to serve in both and experienced first hand the events in 1948 that led to the establishment of the current State of Israel. He foresaw the current plight of Muslim and Christian Palestinians and appealed to the UN, his own government and the Pope to guard the dignity and rights of all three Abrahamic faiths by preserving free access to the Holy Sites and especially the city of Jerusalem. He wrote that the key would be the relationship of these three Abrahamic traditions to each other and that they are called to know one another as brothers and sisters rather than oppressed and oppressors or mortal enemies.

In 1916 Brother Charles made the decision to stay in Tamanrasset for the duration of the war and built a small fortress as a safe haven for his Tuareg neighbors. He wrote:

"There is one case when we must resist evil forcefully. It is when it is not a case of defending ourselves but of protecting others. It takes forcefulness to defend the weak and the innocent when their oppressors wrong them.The spirit of peace is not a spirit of weakness but a spirit of strength". (Aux Plus Petits de mes Frères, Nouvelle Cité 1973 p.131-132).

Brother Charles also knew that sometimes our non-violent efforts to protect others leads us to die for them. Massignon called this the Badaliya, substitutionary prayer. The prayer is an ever deepening awareness of being called to offer ourselves for the well being of others, to stand before God for them if necessary, and even take their place in the face of danger, as Bonhoeffer did during World War II and died in a Nazi death camp, or as members of the Christian Peace Maker Teams and other NGO's have done tryng to protect the innocent victims of the invasion and on-going conflict in Iraq today.

The Badaliya prayer movement was re-created in Boston MA on Decmber 8, 2002, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This year is our 6th anniversary. The result has led to a continuing relationship and out reach to our Muslim and Jewish neighbors in friendship and sharing of traditions and to the seeds of a new relationship for St. Paul's Church in Cambridge MA with a Partner Parish in the Holy Land. Our guide in this process is the Holy Land Ecumenical Foundation in Washington, DC. As we gather together this holy month let us pray that God's will be done in us, and through us, as we continue these ministries in God's name.May we grow in our ability to "cross over to the other" in Massignon's words, in understanding, respect and love.

May Christ's Peace be with you during this season of Advent and Christmas, and always.