The reason and significance of His journey was a recurrent subject addressed by the Master during the long crossing of the Atlantic.
It was customary for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to casually walk on the deck every morning and evening. Mahmúd recounts how on one of these occasions He described how nobody had undertaken such a trip “with a purpose like ours, from Persia to America” and how such a voyage was previously undertaken for personal gain and for meager reasons. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said that this could be considered “the first voyage of Easterners to America.”
Among the passengers who gathered around the Master was an American newspaper publisher who inquired about His voyage one afternoon. He replied:
I am going to America at the invitation of peace congresses, as the fundamental principles of this Cause are universal peace, the oneness of the world of humanity and the equality of the rights of men. As this age is the age of lights and the century of mysteries, this lofty purpose is sure to be universally acknowledged and this Most Mighty Cause is certain to embrace the East and the West.
Throughout my reading of the accounts of the last days of the Master’s time on the S.S. Cedric, I came across phrases like “was slightly indisposed today”, “He was tired”, and “although tired from the sea voyage”, which made me realize how difficult this long journey must have been for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at His age and in His condition of health. In his portrayal of the Master’s travels to the West, Shoghi Effendi described how He arose “with sublime courage, confidence and resolution” in order “to consecrate what little strength remained to Him, in the evening of His life, to a service of such heroic proportions that no parallel to it is to be found in the annals of the first Bahá’í century”.
Finally the last day at sea arrived and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá received “a wireless from the friends in New York congratulating Him on His arrival and welcoming Him.” That evening the passengers had the opportunity to say goodbye to ‘Abdu’l- Bahá and by 9 o’clock “the lights of New York appeared shimmering in the distance and the steamer anchored offshore near the breakwater to enter the harbor the next morning.”
While burying myself in all the different books and materials referring to the Master’s journey on the S.S. Cedric, I could not help but reflect on the differences between this voyage and the one undertaken in 1868. On that sea journey, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá traveled as a prisoner with his Father. I can hardly visualize how gloomy the view of the Most Great Prison must have been after such an arduous and difficult voyage, and how much grief the aggressive response of Akká’s habitants brought to the Holy Family. This time, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá traveled as the Center of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh with the proclaimed aim of working for “the establishment of universal peace and the oneness of mankind”. In contrast to His earlier voyage, it is difficult to imagine the astounding sight of the coast of New York, with its tall buildings and the Statue of Liberty, and the welcome He received by those who awaited His arrival with hearts full of love.
Mahmúd’s Diary, p. 27 – 34
‘Abdu’l-Bahá: The Center of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 172
God Passes By, p. 279
The Promulgation of Universal Peace
Photo from www.centenary.bahai.us