We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday May 16, 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.
As we continue our journey into the mystery of Christ's Passion, death and Resurrection we are also entering more deeply into the mystery of mystical substitution. Following Louis Massignon's journey towards discovering it at the heart of his own Christian life and prayer invites us to further reflection on its place in our own lives.
Louis Massignon's father was an aritst and sculpture known as Pierre Roche. One of his works called L'Homme, (Man) can be seen today prominently displayed in the Luxembourg gardens in Paris. (See a photo of it at www.dcbuck.com). Like many of the artists and intellegentia he was marked by the scientific materialism and human rights movements of the time and was intent on his son's education in scientific research and art. His one Catholic friend was the painter, Charles-Marie Dulac who the young Louis Massignon greatly admired. (A street in Paris in the XVth arrondissement is named after him). Dulac had a profound understanding of the Catholic dogma of the Communion of Saints. He believed that Jesus substituted Himself out of love for us in order to take the sins of the world onto Himself and that we, like Simon of Cyrene, can participate in this act of Jesus as well. Massignon was moved by the way that Dulac simply lived his conviction.
Later, when Massignon described his own conversion experience he wrote, "The painter, Dulac, such a pure soul - his faith, his certitude of mystical subsitution impressed me". This would have been when Massignon was still in his teens and had not yet become a believer himself. Louis Massignon's son, Daniel, remembered, "My father often repeated to me in commenting on the spiritual meaning of the paintings we had that Dulac made him admit the possibility of substitution". The most beautiful of these paintings by Dulac were donated to the Louvre Museum in Paris.
(Six, L'Aventure de l'Amour de Dieu: 80 unpublished letters by Charles de Foucauld to Louis Massignon. Ed. du Seuil 1993. p.29)
Shortly before his untimely death in 1898, Dulac arranged a meeting of Pierre Roche with the esteemed novelist and literary critic, J-K Huysmans, who was looking for an artist to create the frontispiece for the luxury edition of his book, "La Cathedrale". This book was one in a trilogy of novels based on Huysmans' own religious conversion. On October 27, 1900 at the age of 17 Louis Massignon visited Huysmans. Although the writer was in the process of writing a biography of the 13th century Dutch mystic, Saint Lydwine of Schiedam in which he wrote extensively of his own understanding of suffering and mystical substitution, it was not the subject of his conversation with the young Massignon.
Louis Massignon was a physics student and a professed agnostic when he met Huysmans and was still eight years away from his own conversion experience that took place in Baghdad in 1908. It was after his experience in 1908, when he was told that Huysmans had prayed for him on his deathbed in 1907 during an agonizing struggle with a painful cancer, that he took a serious interest in Huysmans' writings on suffering and mystical substitution. Huysmans wrote:"All through the ages there have been found saints willing to pay, by their sufferings, the ransom for the sins and faults of others, and even now this generosity is hard to understand". He spoke in terms of a balance between good and evil both outside of ourselves, resulting in earthquakes, famines and wars, and internally as a conflict within our own human nature. When the pendulum swings too far towards "evil" , "His mercy is such that He then excites the devotion of His saints...that his wrath may be appeased and equilibrium re-established". He saw the call to enter religious life in the contemplative monasteries as the sacrifice of one's life for the well-being of others. He wrote that since so few now are called to the monastic life, God turns to those of us who are not saints to experience our suffering as a mysterious offering of ourselves for the sake of others, and in it find great joy. Ultimately by enduring with patience and love his own years of suffering before his death, Huysmans became a model for his own beliefs in mystical substitution. Certainly that is why Louis Massignon was so moved to learn that Huysmans had prayed on his death bed for Massignon's conversion and well being .
(Huysmans, J-K. 1923. trans. Hastings, A. Saint Lydwine of Schiedam. Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc.)
Growing up in a household filled with his father's artwork and those of his friends, artistic expressions of religious belief and the interconnection of art and religion became a theme in Massignon's own spirituality and was expressed through his writings and lectures as well as in his devotions, much like his friend and mentor, Brother Charles de Foucauld, who directly expressed his devotion in his drawings. Prominent is the symbol that Foucauld drew of his relationship with Jesus that has become the emblem of the Jesus Caritas communities world wide. A cross mounted on a heart brings us straight to Jesus' sacrificial love for all of us and Louis Massignon added to it for his design of the emblem of the Badaliya. Massignon wrote:
"A plaque was designed and created in September 1953, thirty-three years after our vow to fast monthly, (during the exile of the Sultan of Morocco), the inscription in Latin, "Jesus-Caritas" was translated into Arabic, "YASU'-IBN-MARYAM HUWA L'HUBBU", [Jesus son of Mary, He who is Love], and the heart was pierced.
At the top of the Cross, the sword of compassion burns and seals the Heart of Mary; the angelic reverberation of the Thrust of the Lance of the soldier, felt through the wounds of mystical substitution.
It was offered as an ex-voto, as often in its Latin form as in its Arabic form, in several chapels in the Middle East: Teheran, Baghdad, Damascus, Jerusalem, Beirut, and Ephesus; In Africa: Cairo, Damietta, Namugongo, Tamanrasset, Beni-Abbes, Rabat; and in Europe: Vieux-Marché, Aix-en-Provence".
In these few words may we be led to deeper and deeper reflections on the prayer of Badaliya, mystical substitution.
Peace to you.