December 17,2006

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday, December 17th from 1:30pm-3:00pm in the small chapel in St. Paul's 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, in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In this Advent season we are called to enter ever more deeply into our experience of the young Jewish Mary and her experience of an angel of God inviting her to welcome the Divine Guest into her very being in order to give birth to the Divine in the world. We are reminded that Louis Massignon's devotion to the Virgin Mary was founded on his understanding of her as the bridge between all three Abrahamic faith traditions. From the angel Gabriel, to her willingness to trustingly enter into the unknown and accept the words of an angel, her"fiat", "let it be done to me according to your word" and the birth of Jesus, we share our story with our Muslim brothers and sisters. For Massignon, Mary's fiat stands at the core of the religious and secular dilemma of our time. He sees this young Jewish woman as chosen by God to bring into the world the child destined to complete the sacrifice of Isaac that was interrupted. He writes,

" From the beginning she agrees to become a betrothed woman suspected of infidelity, slandered by her neighbors, called an adultress in the geneological records of the city where she was born, and suspected ( or ignored) for more than 2000 years by her race for which she had infinite love, because in order ro save her people she laid bare the secret vow of an immaculate heart, something that was greater than Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac. For this she offered up for Israel the very root of God's justification vis-à-vis His only perfect creature in a spiritual sacrifice unimagined by the angels".

For Massignon the secret of the mystery of the Annunciation is our inheritance revealed in the virginal heart of Mary whose "Yes" to God was offered for the salvation of all of humanity. She fulfilled the vocation of the Jewish people and that of all of us. His message is one our world has not been ready to hear and we are invited to ponder on it with Mary in our heart of hearts to imagine how she has the potential to spiritually reconcile these three faith traditions.

December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, is the 5th anniversary of our present day Badaliya movement in the USA, and beyond. It is a celebration of Mary herself whose own purity of heart and mind allowed her to be the chosen one of God in fulfillment of God's own plan. Given Massignon's profound insights in his meditations inspired by both the Hebrew/Christian Bible and the Qur'an on the significance of the Virgin for all three faiths, this feast day seemed the most appropriate for marking our efforts to begin our prayer for peace and reconciliation of the world's religious communities.

The story of the birth of Mary found in the Qur'an seems appropriate in honoring our December 8th Feast day and the 5th anniversary of our Badaliya.For our further reflections I offer you these words from Surah 3 verses 33-37 found in the Qur'an:

  1. Allah chose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of 'Imran above all people.
  2. Offspring, one of the other, and Allah knows all things.
  3. Behold! A woman of 'Imran said, "O my Lord, I do dedicate to You what is in my womb for Your special service. So accept this of me for You hear and know all things".
  4. When she was delivered she said, "O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!" And Allah knew best what she brought forth. And nowise is the male like the female. I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Your protection from the Evil One, the Rejected".
  5. Right graciously did her Lord accept her. He made her grow in purity and beauty. She was assigned to the care of Zakariya. Every time he entered (Her) chamber to see her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said,"O Mary! Whence (comes) this to you?" She said, "From Allah, for Allah provides sustenance to whom He pleases without measure".
Let us pray especially for refugees everywhere at this time and remember all those suffering from poverty and disease. I am reminded that December 1st was World Aids Day and include a web site with messages from around the world including the one below from our friend in Damascus,Syria, Eustathius Matt Roham, Archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch.

Peace to you.

World AIDS day 2006


In connection with World AIDS Day on December 1st, I would like to share my
experience and thoughts on HIV as many other religious leaders do. We all have to
make sure that we, who fortunately live in communities so far spared by this
pandemic, are prepared so we can act as good and caring Christians when the day
comes when we for the first time meet a person with HIV.

I had an interesting experience in the summer of 1986 when I shook hands with two
HIV-positive people at Nassau County Medical Center - East Meadow, New York.

I was taking a course in clinical pastoral education with Revd. Thomas F. Kennedy.
The course was about ten weeks in length, and one morning Revd. Kennedy informed
us that a nurse was coming to do an hour-long presentation about AIDS. At the end
of the lecture, the nurse escorted us to the sixth floor of the medical center and told us
that two rooms on this floor had been designated for people with AIDS.

Before I entered the room, I thought that HIV-positive people would be quarantined,
but when we entered the room, I saw two patients, who seemed to me to be just like
any other sick people. The nurse introduced us and said that she had been taking care
of these two patients for five years and had not contracted AIDS. She affirmed that
HIV is not transmitted through normal handshaking or breathing.

Revd. Kennedy proceeded to shake the patients' hands and we followed suit.
Initially, I was hesitant, but then I took heart and thought to myself, "If the fear of
dying is hindering me from shaking hands, then I should choose shaking hands and

Our world nowadays is very similar to the world of the past some 2,000 years ago.
Some people still treat HIV-positive people the same way that people with leprosy
used to be treated at the time of Christ. A leper used to be shunned and quarantined,
and leprosy itself was explained as God's anger towards people.

Jesus, however, never ignored lepers or other marginalized people. We owe it
ourselves to follow Christ's example by standing humanely with HIV-positive people
and other marginalized groups in our society. I assure you all that I will not condemn
any in our church who is living with HIV. I will welcome that person and sit down,
share a meal and discuss how Christ came to heal persons in such a difficult situation,
and to bring them salvation through His suffering, death and resurrection.

Eustathius Matta Roham,
Archbishop of Jazirah and Euphrates
Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch