Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Behold the Candle

"Great mercy and blessings are promised to the people of your land, but on one condition; that their hearts be filled with the fire of love, that they live in perfect harmony and kindness like one soul in different bodies. Never forget this; look at one another with the eye of perfection; look at me, follow me, be as I am; take no thought for yourselves or your lives, whether ye eat or whether ye sleep, whether ye are comfortable, whether ye are well or ill, whether ye are with friends or foes, whether ye receive praise or blame; for all these things ye must care not at all. Look at me and be as I am; ye must die to yourselves and to the world, so ye shall be born again and enter the kingdom of heaven. Behold the candle, how it gives light. It weeps its life away drop by drop in order to give forth its flame of light."
('Abdu'l-Baha, Compilations, Baha'i Scriptures, p. 503)

In a few hours I'll be wiping my weary eyes and heading over to the Boston Baha'i Center to join with whatever sleepy Baha'is make their way over there to commemorate the Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Baha. I'm reminded of the spirit of this Holy Day, which for me is about self-sacrifice. I think of the sacrifices my enslaved and later emancipated ancestors made so that I would be here today. As the African saying goes, "I am because we are and because we are I am." I wonder what sacrifices God is calling me to make in the path of love and service. It is not easy to be a black man in America, but 'Abdu'l-Baha reminds me that oppression does not excuse me from self-sacrifice, but demands even more from me in order to achieve true freedom for myself and for my people. Like the candle mentioned in the above quotation, the Words of Baha'u'llah light my way through the darkness of a wayward world:

"How vast is the tabernacle of the Cause of God! It hath overshadowed all the peoples and kindreds of the earth, and will, erelong, gather together the whole of mankind beneath its shelter. Thy day of service is now come. Countless Tablets bear the testimony of the bounties vouchsafed unto thee. Arise for the triumph of My Cause, and, through the power of thine utterance, subdue the hearts of men. Thou must show forth that which will ensure the peace and the well-being of the miserable and the down-trodden. Gird up the loins of thine endeavor, that perchance thou mayest release the captive from his chains, and enable him to attain unto true liberty."
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 92)