Friday, July 20, 2012

Ramadan begins

For Muslims throughout the world, Ramadan began today. It just so happens that traditionally Fridays are days of fasting and/or abstinence for Christians, thus giving us an opportunity to fast and pray along with Muslims. Later in the month of Ramadan, 1 August on the Gregorian calendar, Orthodox and most Eastern Catholic Christians begin the Dormition Fast, which runs until what we Latins observe as the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which falls on 15 August and is a holy day of obligation. While Christian fasting takes a different form from what Muslims do during Ramadan, like Muslims, during these times Christians are also to pray more and give alms more generously. As I never tire of mentioning, these three spiritual disciplines, which are fundamental to any authentic Christian spirituality, are common to the Abrahamic faiths- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Along these same lines, especially in light of the fact that later this year we will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, this seems to me a good time to cite an important passage from an important decree of the Council, Nostra Aetate, known in English as Declaration on the Relation of the Church To Non-Christian Religions:
The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting (par. 3)
With a deep diaconal bow to my brother and friend, Deacon Greg, who drew my attention to this over at The Bench, I recommend reading Ramadan Observed, by Dr. Elias D. Mallon, which appeared in the truly excellent and award-winning publication of the Catholic Near Eastern Welfare Association, One (for which Deacon Greg is Executive Editor- probably a connection between that it winning awards).

By the way, CNEWA is a worthy recipient of your alms-giving.

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