October 12, 2014.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Islands of Peace Institute Faith Sharing on Sunday, October 12, 2014 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 encourage Interfaith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

We begin our monthly Interfaith gatherings with the traditional Muslim Call to Prayer, chanted in a recording made in Senaa, Yemen. Each of our Abrahamic faith traditions has its own Call to Prayer. In Judaism the Shofar, or ram's horn, is sounded to announce holy days such as Rosh-ha-Shanah and in Christianity the sound of Church bells ring out the special call for the people of God to gather to hear God's Word. During a noon time visit to the Carmelite Monastery in Bethlehem, founded by our Palestinian patron Saint, Blessed Maryam of Jesus Christ Crucified, we were enriched by hearing the Muslim Muezzin chanting the Adhan simultaneously with the Church Bells filling the air wih this reminder to "come to listen and hear." The words chanted in the Adhan are intended to bring to the mind of every believer and non-believer the substance of Islamic beliefs, or its spiritual ideology. It includes the Takbir, God is Great, followed by the Shahada (There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God).This statement of faith, called the Kalimah, or Word, is the first of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Throughout the month of October Catholic Christians celebrate memorials to some of the holy men and women who have been designated as canonized Saints by the Church. Some were charismatic spiritual seekers whose followers became communities of men and women living, praying and working together and living out their religious lives in convents and monasteries dedicated to the spiritual teachings of their founders.In our chapel at St. Pauls we have icons displayed of three of these most well known saints who have also been named Doctors of the Church. On October 1st we honor St. Thérèse of Lisieux and on October 15th we honor St.Teresa of Avila, who founded the Discalced Carmelite religious Order of our Palestinian Blessed Maryam. We refer to these holy ones as Mystics.

In Islam the inner mystical path of spirituality is called Sufism. Congregations of spiritual seekers traditionally gather around a spiritual Master of these Sufi Orders who trace their origins back to the Prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, Ali ibn Abu Talib, or to the first Calif after the Prophet's death, Abu Bakr. Sufism is considered a science of the heart, a turning away from all that is not God and learning how to put oneself in the presence of the Divine. We call these mystics, "love mystics". Louis Massignon spent fifty years writing and revising his famous Passion of al-Hallaj, a study of the life, legend and spiritual writings of the renowned love mystic of Islam, the tenth century Sufi Mystic, Hussein Mansour al-Hallaj.

Prayer stands at the center of these mystical paths and of these spiritual seeker's lives. We honor them that we may also be led into ever deepening levels of prayer and reltionship with God and one another through their example. There are many forms of prayer in the Christian and Muslim faith traditions that we are invited to share and explore together so that we may enhance our mission of praying for Peace with, and for, all our brothers and sisters who are suffering oppression and violence in the Holy Lands of the Middle East and throughout the world.

Many of the mystics in both traditions found that only in the metaphors and simile of poetry could they begin to adequetely express their experiences of the Divine, or the spiritual lessons of life, learned through their prayer journeys. Here are two examples from the reflections of al-Hallaj:

"Your image is in my eye
Your invocation on my lips
You live in my heart
Where then can you be absent?"

"What land is empty of You
so that one rushes to search for You in the sky?
You see those who look at You in broad daylight.
But in their blindness do not see."
(Poèmes Mystiques: Hallaj, traduits et présentés par Sami-Ali, Albin Michel, 1998. p.27 and p.35)

As we explore the traditional prayer forms in our respective traditions my we be enriched in our spiritual lives and invited to deeper purpose in our concern for those suffering in our world. May our social actions lead to healing and Peace.

Peace to you.