March 22, 2009.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday March 22, 2009 from 3pm to 4:30 pm at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge in the small chapel located in the 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.

The church calls us to enter into a special time of prayer, penance, reconciliation and fasting during the forty days of Lent. As we walk with Jesus on his last days of ministry and follow Him into Jerusalem our liturgy and our prayer focuses us on His journey, and our own, and the significance for all Christians of this holy city and the Holy Land. Our Lenten prayer and fasting is the way to interior transformation and our increasing ability to offer ourselves for the sake of others.That is the center of this recreation of Louis Massignon's Badaliya, the prayer of substitution. Massignon had much to say about the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem and Nazareth that speaks to the heart of our identity as Christians.

These words were written in 1948 in the midst of the establishment of the Jewish State of Israel.

"If I have come back eight weeks ago to Jerusalem it is because as a Christian I feel obliged, despite the risks, to situate and consecrate my prayer, here where "heaven has visited the earth". Besides, Charles de Foucauld has passed on to me this principle of the true "Nazorean" that we can only consummate his national vocation by expatriating ourselves, sometimes all the way to the Holy Land, in order to meditate on it".

Massignon writes how he had "hardly come out of the olive grove at Gethsemane, scattered with violets, when he walked into a full fledged Judeo-Arab gunbattle". He describes how "Haifa had been taken the day before with the expulsion of many Arab Christian families adding to the exile of 20,000 Christian inhabitants of Haifa already evacuated to Lebanon by force since November 1947". Then he continues to describe how Christians and their more numerous Muslim Arab neighbors have always lived in the Holy Land after which he writes,

"We other Christians, as Pius XI said, are and must become more "spiritually semite". Not in order to infect a territorial duel between two semitic people, brothers in Abraham, Jews and Arabs, but to revive in us the meditation of the Holy Books that they received, in order to engage us in the true vocation of baptized nations, from which the Crusades very quickly deviated, pushing the love of profit to the point of the criminal sacking of Constantinople in 1204; we poorly evangelized people, fallen into the idolatry of gold and of flesh, and the liturgy of our wallets and our divinised theatres."

Massignon writes that Israel has a "terrible and sublime, supernatural, vocation" here on earth that God has placed on it, to break all the idols made by human hands, in order to remind us that it is God alone that we are called to worship.

"The salvation of the world depends more and more on Israel, on the character that it imprints in its return to the country. It will only be able to stay if it accepts, with a supreme international control, to live in equality with the Muslims for which Jerusalem is the first and last "qibla" [prayer niche in each mosque, and initially chosen as the direction to face for prayer by the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, and later changed to Mecca], and with the Christians who are all born natives of Nazareth, through the Marian "fiat" of the Annunciation".
(Jerusalem Ville de Paix in Opéra Minora,vol.III. ed. Y. Moubarac. Dar- Al - Maaref -Liban 1963.p. 486-489).

Massignon wrote much and often about the Annunciation and the Virgin Mary's "fiat", her "Yes" to God as the center of Christian spirituality; the invitation we renew during Lent to experience our own "Yes" to God. Therefore for him Nazareth held both the Virgin's "fiat" and Foucauld's spiritual understanding of the poverty of Jesus, the Nazorean. He understood that the Virgin Mary, who is honored in both Islam and Christianity and was herself a young Jewish girl from a working family in Nazareth, is the means to bringing these three siblings of Abraham together. When Israel claimed Nazareth in 1948 he responded with quoting "a seminarian who once wrote that "only the 'sentimentally unrealistic' is able to combine the holy Virgin to the question of Palestine, 'where she has nothing to do with it'.

He wrote: "The taking of Nazareth proves that alas! she has 'a lot to do with it'.Before the Crypt of the Annunciation Zionism collides with the Fourth commandment of the Decalogue. "Honor your father and your mother, if you wish to live. Honor the true parents of the Messiah, the Spirit of God and the Virgin of Israel".

At the end of his article, Nazareth et Nous, Nazareens [Nazareth and we, Nazoreans. p.493.] he asks "But we Christians, do we honor them?"

Louis Massignon challenges and provokes in his writings and invites us as Badaliya this Lent to be with Jesus in the Holy Land in our hearts. Let us pray for our Palestinian and Israeli brothers and sisters that their hearts will be softened by God's promise of peace and love and salvation for all.

Peace to you.