Monday, April 23, 2007

The Ridvan Festival: A Baha'i Testimony

"Arise, and proclaim unto the entire creation the tidings that He Who is the All-Merciful hath directed His steps towards the Ridvan and entered it. Guide, then, the people unto the garden of delight which God hath made the Throne of His Paradise. We have chosen thee to be our most mighty Trumpet, whose blast is to signalize the resurrection of all mankind."
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 31)

I'm beginning to really enjoy including lots of pictures in these posts, so here are some from the celebration of the First Day of Ridvan and also the ever popular Arts Night at the Boston Baha'i Center that featured a wonderful visual artist Richard Haynes and Jazz Singer Rachel Price. The beginning to this 12 Day period known as the Festival of Ridvan began for me with the Baha'i elections that I mentioned in my last post. The next day I went to a commemoration of the First Day of Ridvan at a chapel at the Harvard Business School. This chapel was complete with gardens, fountains and even real fish. It was a little taste of what it might have been like to be with Baha'u'llah and His companions and family in 1863 when He publicly proclaimed His station as the Promised One of All Religions and His Mission to unify the human race into a global civilization, the Kingdom of God on Earth. Shoghi Effendi describes the Station of Baha'u'llah in this way:

"He Who in such dramatic circumstances was made to sustain the overpowering weight of so glorious a Mission was none other than the One Whom posterity will acclaim, and Whom innumerable followers already recognize, as the Judge, the Lawgiver and Redeemer of all mankind, as the Organizer of the entire planet, as the Unifier of the children of men, as the Inaugurator of the long-awaited millennium, as the Originator of a new "Universal Cycle," as the Establisher of the Most Great Peace, as the Fountain of the Most Great Justice, as the Proclaimer of the coming of age of the entire human race, as the Creator of a new World Order, and as the Inspirer and Founder of a world civilization. To Israel He was neither more nor less than the incarnation of the "Everlasting Father," the "Lord of Hosts" come down "with ten thousands of saints"; to Christendom Christ returned "in the glory of the Father," to Shí'ah Islam the return of the Imam Husayn; to Sunni Islam the descent of the "Spirit of God" (Jesus Christ); to the Zoroastrians the promised Shah-Bahram; to the Hindus the reincarnation of Krishna; to the Buddhists the fifth Buddha."
(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 93)

The program was simple and beautiful. There were prayers and readings regarding the greatness of the Day ushered in by Baha'u'llah, instrumental music and then story telling by various young Baha'is portraying people who knew Baha'u'llah during His 10 year exile in Baghdad. I was asked to do some music quite suddenly and offered a gospel version of a verse from Baha'u'llah's Writings and then a Yoruba song from West Africa complete a little drum corp we put together on the spot.

I then made my way with my lovely wife to the Baha'i Center for the Arts Night. The paintings by Richard Haynes were magnificent, and the jazz music was sweeeeet, as we say in Boston. The whole atmosphere was magical and the place was packed with beautiful happy people of all races and nations. The whole day made me so grateful to Baha'u'llah for what He has already done in the world and in my life. I can say without hesitation that Baha'u'llah has saved my life. When I found Him, it was like I was Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole into a new and undiscovered world of new people, new places, new thinking, new living. I spent 21 years of my life having no idea of the Day in which I was living, that a new world was being born, that God had plans for me. And then, because of a chance encounter with a book I bought at the store, Baha'u'llah reached out to me from the realm of Glory and started the process of making a young African American man into a new creation. All I can say is Ya Baha'u'l-Abha (O Thou Glory of the Most Glorious!). I'll close with a few lines from a prayer that I think says it all:

"In the love I bear to Thee, O my Lord, my heart longeth for Thee with a longing such as no heart hath known. Here am I with my body between Thy hands, and my spirit before Thy face. Do with them as it may please Thee, for the exaltation of Thy word, and the revelation of what hath been enshrined within the treasuries of Thy knowledge. Potent art Thou to do what Thou willest, and able to ordain what Thou pleasest."
(Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, p. 243)