Virginia has been off the blogging grid after having surgery last week & tending to her flu-bug infested brother this week. Unfortunately, some of his germy symptoms matriculated & now sis has it, too. So for today, here’s something previously posted given news of continued conflict on the border of the Gaza Strip.
One of my most treasured memories of the Middle East was carrying the special Easter ‘Sabt al Noor’ light from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to the Orthodox Christian community in Gaza. This involved receiving candlelight from the priests in Jerusalem and (very carefully) making sure it stayed lit during the 2-hour car ride, plus the journey on foot through the Israeli/Gaza border where the whole Christian community turned out for a paraded caravan in buses and cars (with special Orthodox crosiers poking out windows) 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 of Gaza, but as an American I could get in to help facilitate one of the most important rituals of the church year. Middle Eastern 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.
When I first met Abuna George in Gaza he almost had a fit because I was about to step into a part of the 4th century Byzantine church (just following my male colleagues) where no women were allowed. But then, 5 years later, he called & asked ME (not my new male boss) to bring the Sabt al Noor light to Gaza.
Five years of countless visits in and out of the Gaza Strip as a relief & development worker based in Bethlehem and many precious times shared with Abuna George & his family, friends, children in refugee camps, and communities all over Gaza.
That was awhile ago, but unfortunately, some things never change.
Extremism. Bombings. Conflict. Injustice. Suffering.
Children & civilians paying the terrible price: death and 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 and 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 and 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 of oppressive conflict.
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 battered hearts and imbroglios on all sides.
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 whatever darkness may cloud our vision 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.)
Letting the Light of God in, may it gush out of our hearts with compassionate concern & love for all – like holders of the Sabt al Noor light across conflicted borders.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons (& daughters) of God.” (Matthew 5:9)