Thursday, November 08, 2007

Promise of All Nations

An eagle watches over the gardens at Bahji near the Shrine of Baha'u'llah.

On Sunday evening, Baha'is in the Boston area will be commemorating the Birth of Baha'u'llah, Founder of the Baha'i Faith. This is one of my favorite Baha'i Holy Days of the year. Coincidentally, I heard an excellent presentation today about social work practice and hope and it made be think about a brief reference to "eschatological hope" in a talk by Dr. Michael Penn. I would define eschatological hope as a hope related to the anticipation of the radical transformation of the social and spiritual order associated with the coming of the Day of God and the Savior of the world described by different names in a variety of faith traditions. The commemoration of the Birth of Baha'u'llah for Baha'is can be seen as one way of celebrating the realization of this ancient hope held by peoples and nations throughout the world. The theological significance of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah was emphasized eloquently in the document One Common Faith:

"The declared purpose of history's series of prophetic revelations, therefore, has been not only to guide the individual seeker on the path of personal salvation, but to prepare the whole of the human family for the great eschatological Event lying ahead, through which the life of the world will itself be entirely transformed. The revelation of Bahá'u'lláh is neither preparatory nor prophetic. It is that Event. Through its influence, the stupendous enterprise of laying the foundations of the Kingdom of God has been set in motion, and the population of the earth has been endowed with the powers and capacities equal to the task. That Kingdom is a universal civilization shaped by principles of social justice and enriched by achievements of the human mind and spirit beyond anything the present age can conceive. "This is the Day", Bahá'u'lláh declares, "in which God's most excellent favours have been poured out upon men, the Day in which His most mighty grace hath been infused into all created things.... Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead.""
(Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, One Common Faith)

As a black American, it is interesting to think about Baha'u'llah in the context of the eschatological hope that is so distinctive in many of what are known as "negro spirituals". I'll offer just three examples:

1. Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ‘roun’
Turn me ‘roun’
Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ‘roun’
I’m gonna wait until my change comes

Don’t let nobody turn you ‘roun’
Turn you ‘roun’
Don’t let nobody turn you ‘roun’
Wait until your change comes

I say I’m gonna hold out
Hold out, hold out
I say that I’m gonna hold out
Until my change comes

I promised the lord that I would hold out
Hold out
I promised the Lord that I would hold out
Wait until my change comes

2. De talles’ tree in Paradise
De Christian call de tree of life
And I hope dat trump might blow me home
To the new Jerusalem

Blow your trumpet, Gabriel
Blow louder, louder
And I hope dat trump might blow me home
To the new Jerusalem

Paul and Silas, bound in jail,
Sing God’s praise both night and day
And I hope dat trump might blow me home
To the new Jerusalem

3. Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel
Deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel
Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel
An’ why not-a every man.

He delivered Daniel from de lion’s den
Jonah from de belly of de whale
An’ de Hebrew chillun from de fiery furnace
An’ why not every man

De moon run down in a purple stream
De sun forbear to shine
An’ every star disappear
King Jesus shall-a be mine
De win’ blows eas’ an’ de win’ blows wes’
It blows like a judgement day
An’ every po’ sinner dat never did pray’ll
Be glad o pray dat day

Deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel
Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel
An’ why not-a every man.
I see my foot on de Gospel ship
An’ de ship begin to sail
It landed me over on Canaan’s shore
An’ I’ll never come back no mo’

Can’t you see it’s coming
Can’t you see it’s coming
Can’t you see it’s coming…

When I think about Baha'u'llah, I think about the hope with which my enslaved ancestors sang giving birth to a whole new form of American music and culture. I think about their hope for a new world, a new Jerusalem and how glad I am to be living in this promised Day of God.

"Consider the multitude of lives that have been, and are still being, sacrificed in a world deluded by a mere phantom which the vain imaginations of its peoples have conceived. Render thanks unto God, inasmuch as ye have attained unto your heart's Desire, and been united to Him Who is the Promise of all nations. Guard ye, with the aid of the one true God -- exalted be His glory -- the integrity of the station which ye have attained, and cleave to that which shall promote His Cause."
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 6)