For every history there is an echo, a shadow, or another story untold. In thinking about the Master’s travels I also wonder about life in the Holy Land in His absence and of those who stayed in Haifa.
In order for the Master to embark on His journey west at a time fraught with the machinations of the Covenant Breakers He needed someone He could rely upon — someone of unshakable trustworthiness, who was completely mindless of self and utterly devoted and faithful to the Covenant. These were clear qualities of the Greatest Holy Leaf and so it was that during His absence Bahíyyih Khánum oversaw the affairs of the community at the World Centre of the Bahá’í Faith; she was, in the Guardian’s words, “His competent deputy, His representative and vicegerent, with none to equal her”. Baharieh Ma’ani, in her book Leaves of the Twin Divine Trees, suggests that perhaps the Master’s first trips to Egypt and Europe were trials to test the means of communication with the Greatest Holy Leaf in the Holy Land before embarking on His voyage to America.
The following tablet from the Master to His beloved sister gives us a taste of His longing for the Holy Land and hints at the work she was undertaking:
Her Highness, the Greatest Holy Leaf, upon her be Bahá’u’lláhu’l-Abhá! He is the Glory of the Most Glorious! O My Beloved sister! Through the bounties of the Blessed Beauty, may My spirit be sacrificed for His Blessed Dust, we have traversed the expanse of deep seas, and have, under the loving protection of the Most Great Name, passed through ports and gulf straights. We are now staying at Grant Hotel in Thonen on the shore of Lake Swiss, thinking of thee and remembering thee. The beauty of the scenery, the pleasantness of the place, the purity of the water, the charm of the horizon, the softness of the breeze, and the lushness of the mountain have combined to produced an extraordinary sight better than which cannot be imagined. However, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is so busied with work and writing that He has no time to look [at the scenery]. But the climate is agreeable. It is hoped that through the favors of the Ancient Beauty, this broken winged gnat will be so strengthened in servitude to the Threshold of the Desired One as to extend new wings. He taketh every breath with such hope, and all dependeth on His aid.
Yea! I swear by the Sacred Dust that the sandy earth beyond ‘Akká is so filled with spirituality and luminosity that one span of it is preferable to a thousand gardens, parks, lawns and meadows of this country, for the soil of that land is luminous and its billowing sea high as the firmament… Therefore, notwithstanding separation from that land, for the people of faith, this is like a prison and portico narrow and dark. Hence, I expect of thee, at the time of visiting the Sacred Court, to place thy face on that perfumed dust, kiss the Holy Threshold, and beseech aid and assistance that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá may take a breath in serving that Threshold…
The water pump for the Shrine Garden has no doubt been installed by now.
God Passes By, p. 348
Leaves of the Twin Divine Trees, p. 172-3