March 24, 2013.
Palm Sunday

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our shared Badaliya and Islands of Peace Institute Prayer on Sunday, March 24, 2013 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Pauls Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the Parish Center. 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 and especially in the Holy Land.

Today we begin the most sacred week in the Christian liturgical calendar. Today, Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday, marks the entrance of Jesus into the holy city of Jerusalem in order to celebrate the Jewish Passover meal with his disciples. As believing Christians we walk with Him on this journey that will lead to His condemnation and death on a Cross. Latin Christians call this "Good Friday", and Eastern Christians call it "Black Friday" or, "Sad Friday". Even though we know the end of the story and the joy and glory of the Resurrection, every year we enter into Christ's Passion with open minds and hearts in order to enter into the experience of dying with our Lord. Throughout these 40 days of Lent we have struggled with our own failures to truly live the ideals of the Christian life. Here is our opportunity to "die" to those failures; to love others compassionately, to ask forgiveness of others and to forgive those who have injured us, to overcome our pride and arrogance and our instincts for vengeance and even violence, as well as our failures to seek justice and peace within our communities and our world.

The significance of the Cross for Christians everywhere lies within our interpretation of it. Jesus is the model for us of the most radical form of God's Love for humanity. Crucifixion was the most cruel form of persecution and death inflicted on ordinary criminals by the Roman Empire. We believe that Jesus was both fully human and fully Divine and that his incarnation into our world as a human being allowed Him to fully experience the pain and suffering of our lives. Accepting death on a Cross was not only an extreme form of trust in God but also an extreme way of experiencing the death that all of us will one day experience. Taking all of our sins upon Himself, Christ dies with us. Only on Easter morning will we see the fullness of this enormous self-giving sacrifice of God for us. Then we will know that our sins are truly forgiven and that death no longer has any power over us because the "Lord is Risen". Today we begin the rituals of Holy Week and are called to reflect ever more deeply every year on it's signicance for our lives as we allow ourselves to be transformed by a loving and merciful God who would sacrifice His very life for us.

It is this experience of Jesus' sacrificial offering of His life for us that we might have eternal life that forms the essence of the Badaliya prayer movement established by Louis Massignon and Mary Kahil in 1934. Massignon himself wrote that after his conversion experience in Baghdad in 2008, the direction of his life took shape through his loyalty to the vision and prayers of those living mentors like the hermit priest Charles de Foucauld, the prayers for him by his Muslim friends the Alussi family, and those of the well-known writer, J-K Huysmans on his death bed, along with his deepening relationship through his research on the life and spiritual writings of the 10th century Sufi saint, al-Hallaj. Reflecting on how Huysmans influenced him to "retrieve his path" he wrote that it was Huysmans, after his death, who sent Massignon to the writer's former spiritual director, Daniel Fontaine. Here was the beginnings of an intense belief and devotion to the Christian understanding of the Communion of Saints. From his spiritual guide Massignon learned of the depth of meaning contained in what Huysman's called "mystical subsitution", the essence of the Badaliya prayer. He describes himself as the "converted sinner" called to "participate, through mystical substitution in the sufferings of his unrepentent brothers." To put oneself in the unrepentent sinner's place before a merciful God of Love is trusting fully in the saving power of a loving and compassionate God. This embracing of "redemptive compassion" animated Massignon's entire life. (from 1957, Écrits Mémorable vol.I, p.147)

This is a profoundly Christian interpretation of the Cross and is therefore very different from our Muslim brother's and sister's understanding of the life of Jesus. There are many prophets that are found in all three Abrahamic traditions and Jesus is revered as a prophet second only to Muhammad in Islam, yet the Christian interpretation and understanding of Jesus is disputed in many places in the Qur'an. Exploring these very great differences in our traditions is an invitation for us to "cross over to the other" as Massignon would say, and to truly experience loving one another as Jesus has loved us.

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.".(Jn.15:13)

Peace to you and a Blessed Holy Week.