Monday, July 8, 2013

Ramadan Mubarak

For Muslims throughout the world, today is the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. During this time Muslims fast, even from water, between sunrise and sunset. When the sun sets, the fast is broken by the itfar, a communal meal. As with the other so-called Abrahamic faiths (i.e., Judaism and Christianity), prayer, along with other spiritual practices, such as holy reading, increased attendance at communal worship, along with alms-giving go hand-in-hand with fasting. As I never tire of mentioning (truth, especially that born of and only verified through experience, bears repeating), prayer tends to be subjective and alms-giving, or serving the less fortunate, can be too outward directed, thus does fasting play an important integrating function, locating the inward and outward directly in our bodies, helping us to constantly purify our motives.

It is significant that before Ramadan ends that the Eastern Christian Dormition Fast, leading up the Solemnity of the Bodily Assumption (called the Dormition- falling asleep- by most Eastern Christians) of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which goes from 1 August- 15 August, begins. Hence, creating an overlap of a few days, which is appropriate and perhaps even provendential given that Mary is venerated among Muslims.

I think it especially important in these times when humanity seems to me to be so divided, plus being the Year of Faith ushered in by the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, even while keeping in mind the plight of my Christian brothers and sisters in Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Libya, and elsewhere, that we are once again reminded of the words of the Council's Declaration Nostra Aetate: 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.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom (par. 3)
In light of my several recent posts on the vital importance of memory, the word "forget" in the English text is not lost on me. The Latin word in the editio typica is obliviscentes, from oblivisci, which can also mean "disregard," or "neglect." It seems to me that forgiveness can accurately be described as choosing to disregard a wrong inflicted, choosing to neglect it rather to focus on it, which amounts to a refusal to nurse grudges.

It seems to many people in the West that the holy month of Ramadan is all over the Gregorian calendar. It seems this way because it is! The Islamic holy year, of which Ramadan is the ninth month, is reckoned in a lunar manner, not a solar one. So, to all my Muslim friends here and abroad, as well as to my few Muslim readers, Ramadan Mubarak; Ramadan Kareem. Through your fasting, prayer, and care for the poor, may the God of Abraham draw you closer to himself and make you instruments of his peace.

During this month I am going to watch the amazing movie Of Gods and Men.

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