February 10, 2019.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, February 10, 2019 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel 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.

Baptized Christians have entered into the weeks between the seasons of Christmas and Easter that the Church calls, Ordinary Time. Followers of Christ continue to journey with Him in his public ministry allowing His life and His message of salvation to transform our lives as we become more and more like Him in compassion and loving service to others. It is hardly an "ordinary time" if we allow ourselves to reflect deeply on the significance for our daily lives of the mysteries inherent in Christ's life, death and Resurrection.

Last month we began a discussion of Mary in both the Christian Scriptures and the Qur'an and the meaning of the declaration by the Church Council at Ephesus in the 4th century declaring her theotokos, or Mother of God. In both traditions, Mary is always linked to her son, Jesus. Therefore, his identity as experienced by the earliest Christian believers in their efforts to understand the Scriptures also leads us to both the mystery of Mary as Mother of God and of Jesus as Son of God. There are three Mysteries of the Church's faith experience that separate Christian and Muslim believers; Mary, Mother of God, Jesus, Son of God and the Trinity as God in three persons. Although each of these beliefs that we call "Mysteries" are celebrated on separate feast days in the Church calendar, in fact they are intimately bound to one another. Each of them requires the others as we enter into reflecting on them ever more deeply, and struggle to grasp their significance throughout our lives as Christian believers.

Our Muslim friends have a great love of Mary as the mother of Jesus. She is the only woman who is named in the Qur'an, and Jesus is a revered Prophet, second only in stature to Muhammad. There are unusual events described in the Qur'an, such as Mary's silence as she points to her son, Jesus who miraculously speaks as a tiny infant. In exploring our very distinct theological differences we find that we each grow in our own faith experiences by sharing them with one another. That was very much the experience of Louis Massignon, the founder of the original Badaliya in Cairo, Egypt in 1934. Years of engagement and love for all three Abrahamic traditions and his theological conviction that the Messiah, (or Salvation of humanity), would be revealed through the Jewish people led him to see the biblical narratives as they informed the Mysteries of Christian belief.

Thus, he associated the story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac in the Hebrew scriptures as linked to Mary's "Yes" to the Angel. This story is also in the Qur'an with Abraham's son, Ishmael as the sacrificial victim. God recognizes Abraham's total trust and faith and replaces Isaac, or Ishmael, at the last moment with a sacrificial lamb instead. In Massignon's theological reflections, this sacrifice of Abraham's son had to be completed in order for God's promise of salvation, or the coming of the Messiah, Eternal life, or Resurrection, to be fulfilled. In Massignon's theology, Mary's "Yes" to the Angel of God was not only agreeing to give birth to her son Jesus, but also to the completion of the sacrifice of Isaac by the Passion and death and Resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, who Christians call the "Lamb of God". He saw Mary as making her vow for the salvation of her own people, the Jewish community. As we mentioned last month he wrote that Mary was, "...suspected (or ignored) for 2000 years by her people for whom she had infinite love, because in order to save her people she laid bare the secret vow of an immaculate heart, something that was even greater than Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac." Mary's Immaculate Heart, even though she had "no relations with a man", trusted that God's promise to her would be fulfilled in her miraculous pregnancy and birth of "God's Son".

These Mysteries that were defined by the Church Councils after hundreds of years of contemplation and rejection of heresies, connect the Trinity, as God in Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Christ as the Second Person of the Trinity and Mary, as Mother of God to one another. These spiritual Mysteries are not found in Judaism or Islam but as we continue to explore them together we discover the spiritual messages that are also in the Qur'an through sharing the faith experiences of our Muslim friends. May we continue to learn from one another.

Let us pray together for peace with justice and reconciliation of all three Abrahamic faith traditions throughout the world.

Peace to you,

(See www.dcbuck.com for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute)