One of my most treasured memories of the Gaza Strip was carrying the special Easter ‘Sabt al Noor’ light from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Orthodox Christians in Gaza. This involved receiving candlelight from the priests in Jerusalem and (very carefully) making sure it stayed lit for the 2 hour car ride, plus the journey on foot through the Gaza/Israeli border where the whole Christian community turned out for a paraded caravan (buses, cars, special Orthodox croziers) to accompany the light all the winding way to the heart of old Gaza City.
For some (geopolitical) reason Abuna George, the Orthodox Palestinian priest, could not get out, but as an American I could get in to help facilitate one of the most important rituals of the church year. Orthodox Christians seriously fast (no meat or dairy) the whole of Lent, but when they receive the Sabt a Noor light on Easter Saturday, fasting ends & rejoicing begins.
The thing is, when I first met Abuna George he almost had a hissey because I was about to step into a part of the 4th Century Byzantine church (just following my male colleagues) where NO WOMEN are allowed. hmmn. But then, 5 years later, he called & asked ME (not my male boss) to bring the light to Gaza.
Five years of countless visits in & out of the Gaza Strip as a relief & development worker based in Bethlehem (& many precious times shared with Abuna George & his family & children in refugee camps & communities all over Gaza.)
That was awhile ago, but unfortunately, some things never change.
Extremism. Bombings. Conflict. Injustice. Suffering(s)..
Children & civilians paying the terrible price: death & loss amidst piles of rubble.
I don’t care about your politics, or theology, or religion, this is about PEOPLE: mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons & daughters – children. ALL beloved of God.
“We are all people with souls, sparks of the divine.” (Henri Nouwen)
Both sides of this current conflict need soldiers of Peace, soldiers of Light, and soldiers of Love. Maybe the Middle East seems far away to friends in America and around the far corners of the globe – but we all can be soldiers of peace and light as we get down on our knees and pray, pray, pray.
Not hellfire & brimstone prayers we might like to see fall on our enemies, but heartfelt cries for peace and reconciliation, for love and light to shine in the darkness … for the construction of new bridges of understanding – a miracle amidst the current rubble and rising death tolls.
Please pray that the Light of the Love of God will enter Gaza somehow today, that sparks of the divine within the peoples on both sides of the border will burst into flames of compassion for all (on both sides of the border.) That the desire for peace will grow somehow in the rubble of the rabbled hearts on both sides of this conflict.
May we also let the Light of God into our hearts today – for ALL people. No matter how deeply buried sparks of the divine reside, we all need God’s Light to lift the darkness within us to see clearly the sparks of humanity around us: Israelis for Palestinians, Palestinians for Israelis, Russians for Ukrainians & Ukrainians for Russians, for HIV/AIDS victims, for all those of the fringe of society (& even the Beanheads running things within..)
Let the Light of God in… & then may it gush out of our hearts with compassionate concern & love for all.
grace, peace & DIVINE LIGHT
“Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called sons (& daughters) of God.” (Matthew 5:9)