May 17, 2009.
We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday May 17, 2009 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.
One of the keys to Louis Massignon's thought is his understanding of hospitality. His concept of it informed his spirituality. He associated the hospitality of the patriarch of all three monotheistic traditions, Abraham's welcoming of the three strangers at Mamre, as the quintessential example of hospitality. For these "strangers" were the very angels of God and in this story they eventually announce that Abraham's wife Sarai will give birth to new life in her old age, the beginning of the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. Hospitality became the ground for Massignon's cultural, sociological and political views and wiritngs but it was also a spiritual reality for him that experiences God as the "stranger" who penetrates our lives with mercy, compassion and love. He wrote many letters to Mary Kahil after they founded the Badaliya prayer movement in Damietta, Egypt in January 1934.
In a letter written on September 8, 1948 to Mary Kahil, Louis Massignon wrote,
"From the beginning our Badaliya is a call for everyone, first of all for us, to the sweetest Christian obligation: to welcome the other, the stranger, our neighbor who is closer than all those closest to us, without reserve and without calculation whatever the cost, at any price. Let honor be for those who want it. As for life, we have offered it together, and it was even predestined, that day. [January 29,1934] This is what it is, the Badaliya, a direct seizing of the heart by the sweet hearts of Jesus and Mary". (Keryell, Louis Massignon L'Hospitalité Sacrée, 1987 Nouvelle Cité, Paris.p. 255)
In this same letter Massignon speaks of his relationship with Blessed Charles de Foucuald and how he defended his friend's legacy and his vocational "honor". At the time of Foucauld's death in 1916 he felt that the "sacred deposit of Foucauld's spirit in the Church of God" was given to him to defend and sustain. He took the challenge and risked much in the effort to honor his friend's spiritual legacy. He wrote:
"Why? Because all the flowering of substitution in our Badaliya comes from his supreme blessing of "Ibrahim" in order that all that he left of his writings would continue forward in front of the brothers and sisters of Foucauld who, not having known him, could only base their judgement on his writings. We in the Badaliya must remind them that Foucuald, from beyond his death asks more of them. Love never gives enough".
The Little Sisters and Brothers who have dedicated themselves to Foucaauld's legacy work in the most abandoned and poor countries and neighborhoods. Following Foucuald's example they work in many Muslim countries. Massignon would see hospitality as an essence of their vocation.
Massignon's writings about the Holy Land and the great need for reconciliation for all three Abrahamic faith tradtitions were prophetic and continue to be in our time. As some of our Badaliya members are about to follow Massignon's many spiritual visits to the Holy Land this month, we do well to remember his words as we will be the "strangers" and be welcomed by the "living stones" of all three traditions who inhabit this holy land. Middle Eastern hospitality surely influenced Massignon too. May our spiritual journey offer us all the opportunity to be welcomed and welcome those that we meet along the way. We ask for your prayers for a safe and spiritually renewing journey.
Peace to you.