Monday, April 21, 2008

Everlasting Father

Image of a letter written in Baha'u'llah's own hand to his daughter.

One of my favorite passages in the Baha'i Writings, especially during the Ridvan Festival is a long list of magnificent Names used to refer to Baha'u'llah, the Founder of the Baha'i Faith.

"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)

As I contemplate welcoming my first child into the world in October, it is the Fatherhood of Baha'u'llah that is uppermost in my mind. Not just in the spiritual sense but in the practical sense, for like all the Manifestations of God, Baha'u'llah had a dual nature, both divine and human. Baha'u'llah was not only the "Everlasting Father" but during his earthly life he was also a "dad". Baha'u'llah had several children of which the most well-known and well loved included 'Abdu'l-Baha, Bahiyyih Khanum, and Mirza Mihdi. During His life, Baha'u'llah shared in the joys and sorrows of fatherhood under the extraordinary circumstances of imprisonment, torture, and a decades long exile from His native land. He even had a bury a son who died in His arms. I think of other fathers in the world, fathering against the odds, from Boston to Bombay. I wonder what kind of father I will be, privileged and comfortable as I am sitting here typing away. What tests will I face on the path of fatherhood. Will I pass those tests? I'll close with these Words of Baha'u'llah:

"Unto every father hath been enjoined the instruction of his son and daughter in the art of reading and writing and in all that hath been laid down in the Holy Tablet...God hath prescribed unto every father to educate his children, both boys and girls, in the sciences and in morals, and in crafts and professions. . . ."
(Compilations, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities)