In spite of the amazing Fall weather we’ve been experiencing, in spite of being dazzled by Creation’s palate decorating hill and dale, many of us, anxious over the unfolding of global events, have found little time to relax and, as my father would say in Arabic, “Shim al hawa — smell the wind.”
Seemingly, from Gaza’s summer war and from the Ukraine’s ongoing conflict, from fears of the unknown threat of the Ebola virus and from the challenge of ISIS’s militancy and brutality, we are seemingly caught up in a vortex of anxieties and tensions that weigh heavily upon us all.
This year, perhaps in predestined anticipation of our need for healing and reconciliation, our calendar has presented us with an uncommon ecumenical convergence.
This year some of the holiest days of the Abrahamic faiths — in Judaism, Christianity and Islam — fall on the same day, October 4th.
As though in prayer alongside each other, Jews, Muslims and Christians will celebrate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement; Eid Al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice; and St. Francis’s Day.
As Jews are observing the Great Fast of Yom Kippur, Muslims will be observing their Great Feast – Eid Al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, in memory of how Abraham prepared to offer his son Ishmael in sacrifice, when at the last moment, through God’s Grace and intercession, a ram was instead offered.
And in further serendipitous coincidence, on Sunday October 5th, Protestant churches, many of which practice communion in different ways, will together celebrate “World Communion Sunday.”
Together, this weekend we can acknowledge our interconnectedness, not just to honor the Oneness of God but to honor the oneness of universal humanity. This weekend the Abrahamic communities, in communion with all humanity that yearns for social justice and peace, can reach out to each other through fasting, feasting and prayer.
In Judaism the Blessings of Peace include, “Great is peace, for the only vessel that can contain blessings is peace… Great is peace, for we must seek it even in time of war… Great is peace, for it is bestowed upon the humble… Great is peace, for it is bestowed upon those who act justly… Great is peace, for it is equal to all of the work of the creation.”
Centuries ago, during the Fifth Crusade, Francis of Assisi, trying to see others as they truly are, traveled to Egypt hoping to negotiate peace. Francis, without regard for his safety, courageously crossed enemy lines to enter into dialogue with Sultan Malik al-Kamil in Damietta. Francis was received respectfully and although his mission was unsuccessful the two men impressed each other with their lives of faith and prayer.
It is said that St. Francis prayed, “Lord, make us instruments of your Peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy …”
And on Saturday morning, October 4th I will join my Muslim sisters and brothers at prayer in celebration of Eid Al-Adha. After communal prayers the rest of the day, indeed the weekend, will be spent feasting and gathering with family and friends.
One of Prophet Muhammad’s preferred prayers entreats, “O our Sustainer, You are Peace and from You comes all Peace and our ultimate return is to You, to Peace. O our Sustainer, continually You enliven us with Peace. Allow us to enter Your Garden, the Abode of Peace… ”
This weekend, in the sacred spaces where we dwell between Fasting, Feasting, Communion and Prayer, surrounded by all the Beauty and evidence of Creation’s gifts, let all communities — not just those of faith — but those of goodness and spirit find love, healing, reconciliation, justice and peace.
This column appeared originally in the Portsmouth Herald.