February 21, 2010.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday February 21, 2010 at 3pm 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.

In March 1953, Louis Massignon began inviting members of the Badaliya prayer movement to fast privately for one day each month "for a return to serene peace between Islam and Christianity (and Israel), especially in North Africa". In September 1953 he set the day for this monthly fast and the gathering of Badaliya members in Paris, and around the world, for the first Friday of each month. At the beginning of his letters inviting members to join the gatherings, and up until his own death on October 31,1962, he mentions the number of days of fasting for Peace. The final number was 93 days of private fasting for Peace.

As we begin our Lenten fast in this year 2010, it seems fitting to reflect on the meaning of fasting in the three Abrahamic traditions and how Massignon experienced it as the foundation of what he called his "vocation" to Badaliya prayer. In December 1953 Massignon wrote his Annual Letter to members of the Badaliya from the Church of St. Anne, in Jerusalem. In it he speaks of those from all three Abrahmic traditions who joined the Badaliya fast at the time and his acute awareness of the correspondences with the feast days in all three traditions.

"Our first private fast took place on Friday, June 12th (the feast of the Sacred Heart which coincided with the last day of Ramadan in the Maghreb) after a Mass celebrated by Rev. Fr. Voillaume for the return of a serene peace in North Africa. A prayer was said in the cell in Dover where Sr.Violet Susman (Reverend Mother Marie-Agnès) died, after a life of self-immolation for Japan and of prayers for the Foucauld fraternity and the Badaliya. Many Muslims from Istanbul to Fez joined in our fasts on June 12th and August 14th. On September 19th, Quatre Temps de Septembre, the feast of Our Lady of La Salette, which coincided with the Jewish Kippur and the Muslim Ashura, Jews fasted with us from the Ihud group under Martin Buber's direction, which wants equality between Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land (in memory of Judah Magnes)".

Massignon wrote: "This fast, which is to be observed with the discipline of silence following the first Christians, and the tradition in Islam, made a profound impression and gave the participants a deep sense of inner peace. The act of fasting is the virginal basin into which flows the word of divine Justice, the word of Resurrection. Fasting makes us hunger and thirst for Justice, which is the consummation of Love. Fasting is an action, an active prayer of Badaliya. We have asked the Pope to bless it every first Friday of the month for the return of a serene peace between Christianity and Islam. The prayer for the dead is also an act of "Badaliya" since it is from our substitution for them, and from it alone, that they can receive the consummation of their love of God". (Annual Letter #VII)

Rabbi Simmons wrote: "In Judaism, the purpose of a fast is to lower the volume on our physical pursuits in order to focus more acutely on our spiritual selves. This facilitates the process of "teshuva" - literally "return." We return to G-d, and to our essential state of purity".(With blessings from Jerusalem, Rabbi Shraga Simmons, Aish.com)

"The origins of fasting are attributed to various sources but in biblical times fasting was instituted for many reasons including, as a sign of mourning or when danger threatened, or when the seer was preparing himself for a divine revelation. Occasional fasts were instituted for the whole community, especially when the nation believed itself to be under divine displeasure such as a great calamity befell the land, when pestilence raged or when drought set in; and sometimes also when an important act was about to be carried out by the officials of the land. The Day of Atonement, is the only fast-day prescribed by the Mosaic law (Lev. xvi. 29), however after the Captivity four regular fast-days commemorated the various sad events that had befallen the nation during that period. (Zech. viii. 19; comp. vii. 3-5)". (Jewish Encyclopedia):

The following are twelve explanations of the spiritual meaning of fasting in Islamic tradition:

  1. It teaches man the principle of sincere Love: because when he observes Fasting he does it out of deep love for God. And the man who loves God truly is a man who really knows what love is.
  2. It equips man with a creative sense of hope and an optimistic outlook on life; because when he fasts he is hoping to please God and is seeking His Grace.
  3. It imbues in man the genuine virtue of effective devotion, honest dedication and closeness to God; because when he fasts he does so for God and for His sake alone.
  4. It cultivates in man a vigilant and sound conscience; because the fasting person keeps his fast in secret as well as in public. In fasting, especially, there is no mundane authority to check man's behavior or compel him to observe fasting. He keeps it to please God and satisfy his own conscience by being faithful in secret and in public. There is no better way to cultivate a sound conscience in man.
  5. It indoctrinates man in patience and selflessness, as through fasting, he feels the pains of deprivation but he endures them patiently.
  6. It is an effective lesson in applied moderation and willpower.
  7. Fasting also provides man with a transparent soul, a clear mind and a light body.
  8. It shows man a new way of wise savings and sound budgeting.
  9. It enables man to master the art of Mature Adaptability. We can easily understand the point once we realize that fasting makes man change the entire course of his daily life.
  10. It grounds man in discipline and healthy survival.
  11. It originates in man the real spirit of social belonging, unity and brotherhood, of equality before God as well as before the law.
  12. It is a Godly prescription for self-reassurance and self-control.
(Islamic Society of Rutgers U. Dr. Arafat El-Ashi. Dir. Muslim World League Canada. Office)

May we learn much from our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters during our Lenten fast.

On November 14, 1910 The Carmel of the Holy Family in Nazareth was founded. The property had been identified by Blessed Mariam Bawardi in May 1878, three months before she died. The sisters who some of us met last May in Nazareth have invited us to pray with them during this year of their Centenary celebration. They are a community of nine different nationalities living the Carmelite call in Israel. May their continuing presence lead to Peace in the Holy Land.

Peace to you.