May 20, 2018.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, May 20, 2018 from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, in the Conference Room located in the Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we encourage Inter-faith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

Christians understanding of the resurrection is that Christ has risen and lives eternally in the here and now with us, in us and through each one of us. This has been seen in the witnessing of his disciples throughout the Easter Season. They were transformed by the experience of the Risen Christ in their midst. This is the truth of Divine Mercy: that God is alive and active in our world right now, forever leading us toward ever more caring and kind relationships with one another, evermore awareness of the sanctity of all human life, and evermore capable of becoming vessels of God's abundant love for all of humanity. Today Christians celebrate the close of the Easter Season with a celebration of the events that are recorded in the Scriptures called Pentecost. It is the fulfillment of the Risen Christ's promise to the disciples that they would receive and be filled with the spiritual grace of the Holy Spirit, thus inspiring their courage to go out to preach the good news, the Gospel, to all the Nations.

Our Muslim friends began the Holy month of Ramadan on May 15th. Entering fully into this month of fasting, prayer and almsgiving means abstaining from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset, breaking the fast each evening with friends, family and guests and sharing the spirit of reconciliation with Allah and one another. It is a month devoted to deeper reflection on the teachings of the Qur'an and the Prophet and their meaning in one's daily life along with care for those less fortunate.

Louis Massignon has been described by many as both a Scholar and a Mystic. He chose to fast and pray in solidarity with his many Muslim friends and colleagues every year during the month of Ramadan. By entering into the religious devotions and Muslim practice of Islam he offers us an example of his own understanding of true Inter faith engagement. "Crossing over to the other" by entering into their devotional experience, allows for mutual understanding, respect, and the transformation of fear and hatred into loving relationship and friendship.

This kind of transformation into love and lasting friendship invites us to reflect on the Sunday following Pentecost in the Church calendar. It is no coincidence that the Church has designated the Sunday following Pentecost to celebrate the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. The gift of the Holy Spirit given to the disciples on Pentecost is a manifestation, a revelation, of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit breathing the Divine message of Love into the life of the disciples and ultimately into each one of us in our spiritual and relational journey through life. The Christian Mystery of three persons in One Unity of Being expressed in the Love relationship between the First person of the Trinity, God, the Father, the Second person, Christ, the Son, and the Third person, the Holy Spirit has been the subject of theological and spiritual reflection since the foundation of Christianity. It is to Massignon's mystical reflections and experience that we can turn to reflect on this profound Mystery in Christianity and simultaneously on both the Trinity and the Incarnation as they interrelate spiritually with one another.

The Trinity is an example of a dynamic relationship of Love within the three-in-one image of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Incarnation is an example of the Divine nature entering into human experience through the Second person of the Trinity, Christ the Son. In reflecting and praying with these images, we are invited to recognize the Unity and immensity of Divine Love and to participate in it by experiencing our own love for God and one another as a manifestation of Divine Love in our everyday lives. Massignon wrote:

"The Trinity is not an arithmetic tri-theism but the divine deepening of the mysterious and transcendental Unity, the Pure Act in the inner life, uniting the Beloved with the Lover in Love, like the three powers of the soul - memory reduced to hope, intelligence reduced to faith, will reduced to Desire for God - that are but One in the depth of the soul." (Louis Massignon, Pioneer in Interfaith Dialogue, Blue Dome Press 2016, p. 253-254).

Desiring union with God transforms Christians in every aspect of their lives. When we know without doubt that we are loved by God we are free to love others as we have been loved, for just who we are, human beings made in God's own image. The relationship of love within the Trinity is the Mystery of God's love that can transform humanity from violence and war into loving relationship with one another.

Through his years of research and relationship with the 10th Century Sufi Mystic al-Hallaj, Massignon came to the following observation:

"The saint who has perfectly united his will with the will of God is in everything and everywhere interpreting directly the essential will of God, and participating in the divine nature, 'transformed in God' (Vol 1 Passion p 123)

Both the Christian understanding of the Trinity and the Incarnation are images that are not accepted by Islam. We have an opportunity here to respect our different perspectives and experience and thereby grow in our understanding of each of our faith traditions and increase our appreciation for one another.

Peace to you,

(See for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute)