May 20, 2012

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday, May 20, 2012 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Pauls 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.

For these fifty days between our celebration of Easter and the Resurrection of Christ and the Feast of Pentecost we have been invited by our Church to reflect on the meaning of Lent and Easter for our own lives. Inevitably we are led to the larger question of what the centuries of these annual experiences of Lent and Easter have meant for the world and what they mean for our world today. Perhaps by returning to the upper room hidden in the streets of Jerusalem where the disciples gather in fear, and yet in hope in the promises of the Risen Lord, we will find our own inspiration and hope. For those of us who have been to the Old City of Jerusalem and visited the Parable house in the oldest remaining Christian village in the West Bank called Taybeh, the biblical images come alive again in our visual imagination. Are we not waiting with the disciples for the promised Holy Spirit and wondering with them what this would mean to them then, and what it will mean for us now?

In the spirit of Louis Massignon's Badaliya this feast has the potential to be a particularly poignant invitation to deepen our commitment to reaching out in friendship and love to others including our Muslim and Jewish neighbors. When the Holy Spirit of God entered dramatically into the hearts of the disciples on that first Pentecost Jews from every nation were gathered in Jerusalem to offer the first fruits of the annual harvest to God in a festival of thanksgiving, called the Feast of Weeks. At that moment the first fruits of God's Holy Spirit poured into the disciples filling them with the gifts they would need to speak in every language and the courage to go into the world with a message that would change the course of human history forever. Like the first disciples we are called to continue the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing Jesus' promise of the Kingdom of God into being, here and now.

In the context of our globalized world today and the way that we live in the midst of extreme diversity of cultures and religions we have both unique challenges and extraordinary opportunities. Can we see the Holy Spirit at work in our world in the struggles for freedom, equality and justice, for peace and reconciliation, for human rights and dignity right now in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land? The ways the spirit of the Badaliya has inspired communities such as Deir Mar Musa in Syria and the Monks of Tibhirine in Algeria as well as the Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus throughout the world living in the midst of Islam are examples of the Holy Spirit at work that can leave us in awe if we stop and pay attention.

Our Badaliya prayer has led us both to reach out to the growing Muslim community here in the United States and to learn about Islam and also to find ways to engage in interfaith sharing with our Muslim and Jewish neighbors. Through our Badaliya prayer we were led to adopting a Partner Parish in Beit Sahour, Palestine. The writings of Louis Massignon and Blessed Charles de Foucauld had to lead us there. The Badaliya was established in the Middle East to encourage what Louis Massignon saw as the "vocation" of the Christians who have lived there since the time of Jesus to be witnesses of Christ's love for all people. Christians in that neighborhood are increasingly threatened today and their numbers diminished as so many leave seeking safety and opportunity. Therefore let us pray for those who stay and those who leave and for the community of Deir Mar Musa and our dear friend Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio in Syria whose writings we turn to for our reflection this month.

Fr. Paolo named the monastic community at Deir Mar Musa, al-Khalil, which means Friend of God, and established it to create harmony between Muslims and Christians and also to slow the emigration of Christians to the West. In the Annex to his book, Amoureux de l'Islam: Croyant en Jésus, Fr. Paolo describes the foundation of the charism of the community. He writes:

"There are men and women saints in every Church who, urged by the Holy Spirit, desire to offer themselves with Christ for the Muslims. We are thinking of Saint Francis of Assisi and of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. In the same way we are aware that the vocation that characterizes us is constructed on the renewal of religious life, especially in the Muslim context, that the Holy Spirit realized in the life of Charles de Foucauld. Our vocation is also rooted in the intellectual and spiritual depth, the serious dialogue, the science and wisdom of Louis Massignon, based in the inculturation of his Christian faith and our own in the language, civilization and spiritual experience of these countries and these peoples. This has led us to found, with our Eastern sister Mary Kahil, the fraternity of the Badaliya for men and women disciples of Jesus, before anything Eastern, consecrated to manifest the love of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, for the Muslims and Islam."

May we be inspired on the Feast of Pentecost by the life chosen by our friends at Deir Mar Musa and keep them in our constant prayers for their safety as they face the uncertainty caused by the uprisings and unrest in Syria. With the urging of the Holy Spirit may we live the spirit of the Badaliya ever more deeply finding ways to build the bridges of peace and reconciliation here at home, in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

Peace to you,