With heavy hearts, the North American Bahá’ís made repeated visits to the house of the Master in His final weeks in America. During this time, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá shared much encouragement and guidance with them. But perhaps history will someday reveal the pivotal influence ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s journey to this continent had far beyond what we know and understand today.
Shoghi Effendi, in His book God Passes By, sets the tone for the significance of the ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s trip to this continent. He cites many milestones in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit to America including: the laying of the dedication stone at the House of Worship in Wilmette; the reading of the Tablet of the Branch in New York and designating it as the “City of the Covenant”; His special pilgrimage to the grave of the first American believer, Thornton Chase, in Inglewood, California; the symbolic Feast He held for a large gathering in New Jersey; the blessings He bestowed on Green Acre which evolved into the first Bahá’í summer school of the Western Hemisphere; His address to hundreds attending the last session of the Bahá’í Temple Unity in Chicago; and the act of uniting in wedlock an African American man, Louise Gregory, and a white woman, Louisa Mathews, in a country fraught with racism at the time.
Regarding these significant events, the Guardian explained, “…these must rank among the outstanding functions associated with His visit to the community of the American believers, functions designed to pave the way for the erection of their central House of Worship, to fortify them against the tests they were soon to endure, to cement their unity, and to bless the beginnings of that Administrative Order which they were soon to initiate and champion.”
The Guardian further explained that while ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s journey to the West was unprecedented, it reached a climax in America: “It was reserved, however, for the North American continent to witness the most astonishing manifestation of the boundless vitality ‘Abdu’l-Bahá exhibited in the course of these journeys.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá spent the final few weeks in America giving numerous talks to theBahá’ís and stressing the importance of love and unity as the American believers embarked on establishing the Cause on this new continent.
In a talk on December 2, three days before His departure, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:
You must manifest complete love and affection toward all mankind. Do not exalt yourselves above others, but consider all as your equals, recognizing them as the servants of one God. Know that God is compassionate toward all; therefore, love all from the depths of your hearts, prefer all religionists before yourselves, be filled with love for every race, and be kind toward the people of all nationalities. Never speak disparagingly of others, but praise without distinction. Pollute not your tongues by speaking evil of another.
In brief, let each one of you be as a lamp shining forth with the light of the virtues of the world of humanity. Be trustworthy, sincere, affectionate and replete with chastity. Be illumined, be spiritual, be divine, be glorious, be quickened of God, be a Bahá’í.
Mahmud‘s Diary makes many references to the agony of the friends who reluctantly said farewell to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. At one point Mahmud said, “Today the believers were so overcome by emotion that even a stone would be affected. The anguish of their hearts was so great that all were affected.”
Photo by Sholeh Loehle, www.nineteenmonths.com
Promulgation of Universal Peace
Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 287