February 20, 2022.

Dear Friends,

Due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic we will gather together remotely for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday February 20, 2022 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm. 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, especially in the Holy Land, an end to the pandemic, and recovery of health for the world.

This time is called "Ordinary Time" in the Christian liturgical calendar. The name comes from the word "ordinal" meaning "numbered". This time is the numbered weeks between the major Seasons of the Liturgical Year, Christmas and Easter. In today's liturgy, we hear in the Book of Samuel how David refuses to kill King Saul even though he had the opportunity to do so. David refused to see the King as an enemy. In the Gospel according to Luke, we hear Jesus speaking to those who would hear "love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. ---Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned, Forgive and you will be forgiven... For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you". Today's evening prayer quotes Romans 8:27-29: "The one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit-". We are invited to probe into the depth of our human hearts with the hope of discovering a source of compassion for human suffering that allows us to experience others with the eyes of love rather than hate.

In continuing our overview of the sources that inspired the re-visioning of the Badaliya prayer movement twenty years ago, we might turn to the mystical traditions in both Christian and Muslim tradition as Louis Massignon did. This resulted in his 50 years of research on the life and spiritual teachings and legacy of Mansur al-Hallaj, the tenth century Sufi mystic that so attracted his own heart. Massignon believed that the intercession of the tenth century Muslim saint, along with the prayers of others in his life, contributed to his return to the Catholic Christian faith tradition of his childhood. Many years after the fact, he wrote about his conversion experience in the midst of the Muslim world and under extraordinary circumstances, calling it "The Visitation of the Stranger". This scholar and mystic, exceptionally gifted linguist and researcher, probed the sources of religious traditions, especially Christianity and Islam.

In his writings, we will find the theme of the "heart" of special significance to his spiritual journey, and ours as well. The Badaliya was founded on the mystical prayers of the heart. The word "heart" appears 131 times in the Qur'an. Besides the external senses of sight and hearing, the human body conceals in its empty central interior a piece of flesh, a seat of oscillating movement, pulsating, a hidden source of gestures, a point of the impact of spiritual events in life of which one becomes conscious; Arabic grammarians call "heart verbs" the verbs expressing doubt or certitude, conversion or becoming, in opposition to "sense verbs", those expressing vision or hearing. A Qur'anic verse states:

The heart is the organ, the "mirror", according to the Prophet's contemplation, in whom God has "opened the breast". (Qur'an 94:1)

Compared to Christian religious literature, Muslims retain more of the spiritual significance of the heart which is "circumcised" by Divine inspiration. The Qur'an says "The heart of the infidel is "uncircumcised", the heart of the believer is worthy like a lit flame... the place of Divine secret; it is here that the human alone, in spite of his inconsistencies, is able to carry the weight of a certain Divine deposit; this Secret of hearts, of which the angels are unaware, say the mystics. There is a proverb that says "the hearts of free persons are the tombs of secrets".

The mystic Hallaj, known as the "reader of hearts", said: "Our hearts, in their secret, are a single Virgin where the dream of no dreamer penetrates... this heart where only the presence of God penetrates in order to be conceived therein." We can see in the poems of Hallaj why we call these medieval Christian and Muslim mystics, "Love Mystics". Massignon's own spiritual journey led him not only to fifty years of research into the life and spiritual legacy of Hallaj but also to the Christian mystics and others as well. The source of their spiritual quest for union with the Divine has led to exquisite outpourings of poetic verse in an effort to express their mystical experience. The Badaliya prayer movement in its emphasis on compassion and "crossing over" to the heart-felt experience of others, as well as the prayer of substitution with and for them, is grounded in a mystical sense of connection and love. Massignon often turned to the great 16th century Spanish Christian mystic and Doctor of the Church, Saint John of the Cross who wrote a famous poem called, "The Living Flame of Love". It begins: "O Love's living flame, tenderly you wound My soul's deepest center."

Let us reflect together with a quotation from Ibn'Arabi, one of the greatest of Sufi masters:

"My heart can take on any form: a meadow for gazelles, a cloister for monks, a temple for idols, the Ka'aba for pilgrims, the tablets of the Torah, the leaves of the Qur'an. I believe in the religion of love whichever way the caravan turns; love is my religion and my faith."(Ibn'Arabi)

In the continuing uncertainty of another year of a world-wide pandemic, the increasing dangers associated with climate change and so many pressing concerns that beg for our attention it seems a good moment to enter into the Eternal Now offered to us by Divine Love. May our shared experience open our hearts to the needs of those around us and give us the strength we need to address the pressing issues of our time. As our dear friend, Daoud Nassar, owner of his family's farm called, the Tent of Nations, in Israel has posted at the entrance to his property: "We Refuse to be Enemies". And so must we.

Peace to you,

Louis Massignon, Le Coeur (Al-Qalb) Dans La Prière et la Méditation Musulmanes Études Carmilitaines 1950 pp.96-102. (D. Buck translation)

Ibn'Arabi (1165-1240) was a Muslim philosopher and mystic considered the greatest Sufi master from his time. He influenced the on-going perception of Sufism as both a mystical and intellectual tradition. Quotation from January 19th in Devotions: Wisdom from the Cradle of Civilization collected and introduced by Danielle and Olivier Föllmi. Abrams Books, NY 2008

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