As you may be able to tell from my signature, I am a Bahá'í. I would love to share with you all a little about today, as it is a special day in the Bahá'í Faith. But first, you may be wondering, what is this "Bahá'í" thing? Well in brief, Bahá'ís believe that Bahá'u'lláh is the latest in a line of "Manifestations of God", speacial souls who perfectly reflect divine attributes, and are sent by God as perfect educators for mankind, souls such as Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, to name a few. At the centre of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings is the concept of unity: the unity of God (that there is one God, and the many different names we have known this God by in human history are reflections of our ability to understand something which is fundamentally beyond our ability to fully understand), the unity of religion (that all the major religions of the world have come from the same God, and are part of an evolutionary development of humankind), and the unity of humankind (that all mean and women are created equal, and that the differences between us in appearance and character are a source of joy and beauty, and shouldn't be made a source of conflict and contention). For more information about what the Bahá'í Faith is, you can check out http://www.bahai.org
Today, 20 March, is Naw-Rúz, the day of the Northern Hemisphere Vernal Equinox, which in the Bahá'í Faith marks the beginning of the new year; this year just beginning is the 174th year of the Bahá'í Era. This observance of Naw-Rúz goes back many thousands of years in Persian history, and has many customs associated with it in that cultural setting. Bahá'u'lláh has ordained that Naw-Rúz be observed as a holy day, one of nine in the Bahá'í Faith on which work and school are suspended.
“O people of the world! We have enjoined upon you fasting during a brief period, and at its close have designated for you Naw-Rúz as a feast.”
Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas
“Happy the one who entereth upon the first day of the month of Bahá, the day which God hath consecrated to this Great Name. And blessed be he who evidenceth on this day the bounties that God hath bestowed upon him; he, verily, is of those who show forth thanks to God through actions betokening the Lord's munificence which hath encompassed all the worlds. Say: This day, verily, is the crown of all the months and the source thereof, the day on which the breath of life is wafted over all created things. Great is the blessedness of him who greeteth it with radiance and joy. We testify that he is, in truth, among those who are blissful.”
Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas
“Soon the whole world, as in springtime, will change its garb. The turning and falling of the autumn leaves is past; the bleakness of the winter time is over. The new year hath appeared and the spiritual springtime is at hand. The black earth is becoming a verdant garden; the deserts and mountains are teeming with red flowers; from the borders of the wilderness the tall grasses are standing like advance guards before the cypress and jessamine trees; while the birds are singing among the rose branches like the angels in the highest heavens, announcing the glad-tidings of the approach of that spiritual spring, and the sweet music of their voices is causing the real essence of all things to move and quiver.”
Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith
As you will have seen from the quotes above, this is a time of joy and celebration for Bahá'ís and their friends, representing the start of a new year, and marking the end of the season of restraint, nineteen says of fasting from sunrise to sunset which occur in the final month of the Bahá'í calendar. While those Bahá'ís in a Persian cultural context might continue to observe some of the traditional Persian elements of Naw-Rúz, for Bahá'ís everywhere it is a time to celebrate in ways distinct to their own realities. For instance at the Holy Day celebration in Auckland today, we had prayers and music in English, Māori, Samoan, Tongan, and Hindi, as well as traditional Tongan dancing, and even line dancing shared by an American friend.
This year, the 174th of the Bahá'í Era, is very special since it will mark the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of Bahá'u'lláh, to be celebrated this October. With that in mind, I plan to share a little bit like this about each Bahá'í Holy Day this year. For now, let me wish everyone a very happy Naw-Rúz; I hope this year will bring joy and peace for all of you no matter where you are or what your background is. Finally, I would like to share this prayer of Bahá'u'lláh:
Praised be Thou, O my God, that Thou hast ordained Naw-Rúz as a festival unto those who have observed the Fast for love of Thee and abstained from all that is abhorrent unto thee. Grant, O my Lord, that the fire of Thy love and the heat produced by the Fast enjoined by Thee may inflame them in Thy Cause, and make them to be occupied with Thy praise and with remembrance of Thee.
Since thou hast adorned them, O my Lord, with the ornament of the Fast prescribed by Thee, do Thou adorn them also with the ornament of Thine acceptance, through Thy grace and bountiful favor. For the doings of men are all dependent upon Thy good-pleasure, and are conditioned by Thy behest. Shouldst Thou regard him who hath broken the Fast as one who hath observed it, such a man would be reckoned among them who from eternity had been keeping the Fast. And shouldst Thou decree that he who hath observed the Fast hath broken it, that person would be numbered with such as have caused the Robe of Thy Revelation to be stained with dust, and been far removed from the crystal waters of this living Fountain.
Thou art He through Whom the ensign “Praiseworthy art Thou in Thy works” hath been lifted up, and the standard “Obeyed art Thou in Thy behest” hath been unfurled. Make known this Thy station, O my God, unto Thy servants, that they may be made aware that the excellence of all things is dependent upon Thy bidding and Thy word, and the virtue of every act is conditioned by Thy leave and the good pleasure of Thy will, and may recognize that the reins of men's doings are within the grasp of Thine acceptance and Thy commandment. Make this known unto them, that nothing whatsoever may shut them out from Thy Beauty, in these days whereon the Christ exclaimeth: “All dominion is Thine, O Thou the Begetter of the Spirit (Jesus)”; and Thy Friend (Muhammad) crieth out: “Glory be to Thee, O Thou the Best-Beloved, for that Thou hast uncovered Thy Beauty, and written down for Thy chosen ones what will cause them to attain unto the seat of the revelation of Thy Most Great Name, through which all the peoples have lamented except such as have detached themselves from all else except Thee, and set themselves towards Him Who is the Revealer of Thyself and the Manifestation of Thine attributes.”
He Who is Thy Branch and all Thy company, O my Lord, have broken this day their fast, after having observed it within the precincts of Thy court, and in their eagerness to please Thee. Do Thou ordain for Him, and for them, and for all such as have entered Thy presence in those days all the good Thou didst destine in Thy Book. Supply them, then, with that which will profit them, in both this life and in the life beyond.
Thou, in truth, art the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.