Pilgrimpace's Blog


given

Our hearts are broken this week by the massacres in Paris over the weekend – and of course those in other parts of the world we hear less about in the western media.

I am thinking and praying hard about this at the moment as I will have to preach about it on Sunday.

I know I will want to be saying things about the need to carry on living; to overcome fear; to live together with our neighbours in this city and world; for solidarity; and something about the very hard things Jesus says about the need to forgive and the duty to pray for and love our enemies.

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As I pause and pray and light candles and wrestle with darkness, I go back to this remarkable document written nearly twenty years by Dom Christian de Cherge, Abbot of the Cistercian Monastery in Tibhirine in Algeria, as he lived in the face of martyrdom there.

My brothers and sisters, let’s pray for this world and let’s work to make it a place worth living for everyone.

Testament of Dom Christian de Chergé

                                                                    (opened on Pentecost Sunday, May 26, 1996)

Facing a GOODBYE…. 
If it should happen one day – and it could be today –
that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to engulf
all the foreigners living in Algeria,
I would like my community, my Church and my family
to remember that my life was GIVEN to God and to this country.
I ask them to accept the fact that the One Master of all life
was not a stranger to this brutal departure.
I would ask them to pray for me:
for how could I be found worthy of such an offering?
I ask them to associate this death with so many other equally violent ones
which are forgotten through indifference or anonymity.
My life has no more value than any other.
Nor any less value.
In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood.
I have lived long enough to know that I am an accomplice in the evil
which seems to prevail so terribly in the world,
even in the evil which might blindly strike me down.
I should like, when the time comes, to have a moment of spiritual clarity
which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God
and of my fellow human beings,
and at the same time forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down.
I could not desire such a death.
It seems to me important to state this.
I do not see, in fact, how I could rejoice
if the people I love were indiscriminately accused of my murder.
It would be too high a price to pay
for what will perhaps be called, the “grace of martyrdom”
to owe it to an Algerian, whoever he might be,
especially if he says he is acting in fidelity to what he believes to be Islam.
I am aware of the scorn which can be heaped on the Algerians indiscriminately.
I am also aware of the caricatures of Islam which a certain Islamism fosters.
It is too easy to soothe one’s conscience
by identifying this religious way with the fundamentalist ideology of its extremists.
For me, Algeria and Islam are something different: it is a body and a soul.
I have proclaimed this often enough, I think, in the light of what I have received from it.
I so often find there that true strand of the Gospel
which I learned at my mother’s knee, my very first Church,
precisely in Algeria, and already inspired with respect for Muslim believers.
Obviously, my death will appear to confirm
those who hastily judged me naïve or idealistic:
“Let him tell us now what he thinks of his ideals!”
But these persons should know that finally my most avid curiosity will be set free.
This is what I shall be able to do, God willing:
immerse my gaze in that of the Father
to contemplate with him His children of Islam
just as He sees them, all shining with the glory of Christ,
the fruit of His Passion, filled with the Gift of the Spirit
whose secret joy will always be to establish communion
and restore the likeness, playing with the differences.
For this life lost, totally mine and totally theirs,
I thank God, who seems to have willed it entirely
for the sake of that JOY in everything and in spite of everything.
In this THANK YOU, which is said for everything in my life from now on,
I certainly include you, friends of yesterday and today,
and you, my friends of this place,
along with my mother and father, my sisters and brothers and their families,
You are the hundredfold granted as was promised!
And also you, my last-minute friend, who will not have known what you were doing:
Yes, I want this THANK YOU and this GOODBYE to be a “GOD-BLESS” for you, too,
because in God’s face I see yours.
May we meet again as happy thieves in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.

AMEN !   INCHALLAH !  

Algiers, 1st December 1993 
Tibhirine, 1st January 1994 

Christian

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5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thank you for sharing this. It’s hard for me to read but it’s inspiring

Comment by revdamanda

Thank you Amanda

Comment by pilgrimpace

With Amanda in the comment above I want to thank you for sharing this. Dom Christian challenges us all to make this life with all of its joys and sorrows a gift. My prayers today have been especially for the residents of St Denis (the very name recalls one of the richest spiritual strains in our history!). My usual Thursday is now spent largely in the company of ladies in their late 80s or their 90s. This too I choose to offer as a gift.

Comment by stephencwinter

Reblogged this on Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings and commented:
I am so grateful for this blog posting at a time when the challenges that Dom Christian faced seem to have come a little closer to all of us. Dom Christian’s deep honesty about himself prevents us from seeking some romantic version of our faith in which we become heroes. Like Dietrich Bonhoeffer a generation before he is content simply to be a human being in fellowship with other human beings. Those who are drawn to this story of faith might want to see “Of Gods and Men” a film that tells his story and the story of his community and that of the people among whom they lived with the kind of honesty (and love too) that is displayed in Dom Christian’s prayer here. May we be just a little more worthy to be named as his brothers and sisters today. Let us pray for one another and for all our suffering brethren especially those who have had to flee their homes from the evil actions both of ISIS and the Assad regime in Syria. Let us open our hearts and homes to them in their need.

Comment by stephencwinter

Thank you Stephen,
that adds a lot of insight
Andy

Comment by pilgrimpace




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