Case Twenty: The Day of the Lord

Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall . . . (Isaiah 2:10-15)

Months ago, I had planned to speak about this passage, and so I had no way of knowing how eerily appropriate it would feel in the wake of the events of September 11. Nevertheless, and in spite of the fact that it points ultimately toward a realm that is beyond terror, beyond fear of any kind even, I find that I cannot discuss this biblical koan tonight. At this point, I cannot bear the thought of reading from my own holy book.

Instead, I would like to look at a passage from the Qur’an. That passage is called the Fatihah, or “Opening,” and it contains the central message of Islam. It reads:

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate, praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of all Being, the All-merciful, the All-compassionate, the Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee only we serve; to Thee alone we pray for succor. Guide us in the Straight Path, the path of those whom Thou hast blest, not of those against whom Thou art wrathful, nor of those who are astray.

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