It was the day just after a gentle light had shown upon us. The evening before, in this same gallery-like room, we had elected a Local Spiritual Assembly. The afternoon before, we had placed many fragrant plants and flowers in the room, installed as a temporary reminder, centered around a camping tent disguised as a gathering place for pilgrims and well wishers. The symbolic meaning of the tent we have discussed already in a previous entry (How To Elect A Local Spiritual Assembly.) Today we are here for an observance, for a celebration. It is the First Day of Ridván, the cycle of 12 days in which we truly begin to see the rise of Bahá’u’lláh. From this point on in history, His true fame and reputation begin to grow. Resistance to His cause increases from this point as well, although over the next 50 years both the Ottoman Empire and the Qajar Dynsasty would be powerless to stop the steady stream of pioneers, pilgrims, followers, curiosity seekers and scholars who would travel, sometimes for months, just to see Him. As described by the Cambridge scholar Edward Granville Browne, who met Bahá’u’lláh in 1890,
“The face of Him on Whom I gazed I can never forget, though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one’s very soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow.… No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain.”
Perhaps it was in part a jealousy toward the personage of Bahá’u’lláh that led two empires on a protracted yet ultimately fruitless quest to crush both Him and the growing number of His followers.
And so here we are. The observance takes place on a placid, sunny Monday afternoon. We are encouraged as followers of this Faith to suspend work on a number of our Holy Days. The First, Ninth and Twelfth days of Ridván count among these, and some of us have indeed been able to take the day off. Faint smells of lavender and rose water cling to the air. The room is full of light. A few people have set up tables, flowers and refreshments in the lobby area, to be enjoyed by guests after the observance. The observance itself leaves me in such a placid state that I’m almost embarrassed. There is some simple music, a scattering of short, calming prayers, and a few readings from moments in the history of our Faith. Instead of the rushing emotion I sometimes feel when I think about the start of this Faith and how it has grown, what I feel today is a tranquility, a contentment. It’s so overwhelming that I must admit, I nearly fell asleep during the observance. It is much to my relief while enjoying cookies and tea later that Bryan confesses to me the same effect, that he, too, was quite nearly lulled to sleep, so peaceful was the ceremony.
So perhaps it is then that on the first Ridván in 1863, the dawn of an era began not with a cathartic jolt, but with a surrounding glow of peace. Such is my imagining, and such is my hope for a contemporary human society gripped in meltdown and destruction. A joy comes to me, and I wish it to come to everyone, everywhere.