April 17, 2011.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday, April 17, 2011 from 3 pm to 4:30 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 this Palm Sunday, 2011 those of us who have recently returned from our Lenten pilgrimage in the Holy Land continue our pilgrimage experience and join all of you as we ascend to Jerusalem with Jesus and enter into the events of Holy Week . Descending from the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem, with the crowd of disciples shouting hosannas of praise, the Gospel according to St. Luke tells us:

Coming within sight of the city he wept over it and said, "If only you had known the path to peace this day; but you have competely lost it from view! Days will come upon you when your enemies encircle you with a rampart, hem you in, and press you hard from every side. They will wipe you out, you and your children within your walls, and leave not a stone on a stone within you, because you failed to recognize the time of your visitation."(Luke 19:41-44)

The place where Jesus stood is marked by a church called Dominus Flevit, reconstructed in 1954 in the shape of a teardrop. As we imagine ourselves there listening to Him, our hearts too are breaking for this city that has been so often destroyed by war and conquering armies and is drowning in conflict to this day. The path to peace that is Jesus Himself has not been achieved even within Christian denominations much less among the three Abrahamic faiths that call this city Holy. Yet with every return to this city of pain there is also the realization of its miraculous potential for reconciliation. We hope for the abundant life that God promises there and for the eternal peace of the heavenly Jerusalem that this city represents.

In 1955 Louis Massignon described his conversion experience that took place in Baghdad, Iraq in 1908. He personifies the human soul as a woman, and calls this unexpected experience of God the Visitation of the Stranger.

"The Stranger who took me as I was, on the day of His wrath, inert in his hand like the gecko of the sands, little by little over-turned all my acquired reflexes, my precautions and deference to public opinion. By a reversal of values He transformed my relative ease as a propertied man into the misery of a pauper....Before the Lord who struck the blow, the soul becomes a woman....She starts only to commemorate in secret the Annunciation, viaticum of hope, that she has conceived in order to give birth to the immortal. This frail Guest that she carries in her womb determines thereafter all of her conduct. It is not a made-up idea that she develops as she pleases according to her nature, but a mysterious Stranger whom she adores and who guides her. She devotes herself to Him."
(D. Massignon, Le Voyage p.146. Parole Donnée p.281,Opèra Minora vol ll, p.831.)

We are invited during this Holy Week to walk with Our Lord Jesus toward Gethsemene, the Cross, and finally to the Easter Resurrection praying that we do not fail to recognize this time of our own visitation of the mysterious Stranger. Even though we weep with Jesus over Jerusalem let us choose the path to peace and pray for our Muslim, Christian and Jewish brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, throughout the Holy Land and the entire Middle East. May The Stranger/God who enters into relationship with our human souls impregnate us with the divine Guest and lead us to give birth to God's transforming love in our world.

Peace to you for Holy Week and the Easter Season.