Friday, April 22, 2011

A Thought on Ridvan

It still seems kind of weird to me, seeing lots of flowers in bloom at this time of year. I walk outside, amongst the rocks and forest, and see little clusters of daffodils everywhere. Hyacinths, too. And lilies, as well as countless other mountainous flowers that I don't recognize, but love.

Everywhere, amidst the greens, there are little pockets of whites, yellows, purples, and reds. The cherry trees have gotten and lost their blooms. The apple trees are covered with their flowers. Even the strawberries, cloudberries, and Oregon grapes have their flowers out right now.

When I look at the wildlife, the deer are all prancing around as only deer can do. The garter snakes are out, squiggling along their merry way. The bald eagles, blue herons and ospreys are flying overhead. We have even seen the ruby heads of the turkey vultures and emerald wings of the hummingbirds.

Life is abundant. And it seems to be celebrating.

It is also a time of extremes. At night the temperature drops quite a bit, necessitating a sweater and jacket in the morning, but by noon many of those layers come off and still you feel as if you are going to break out in a sweat despite the very chill wind.

Last year's plant growth is all brown and rotting while this year's growth is green. You wouldn't even notice the brown unless you look for it, which I occasionally do.

Why? Because it is a reminder.

It is a reminder of things past, and the fact that all eventually decays. It is also a reminder of the constant change and growth that occurs.

But none of that is what I look at today. Today I am looking forward.

Not only is today the second day of Ridvan, that most holy of all festivals, but it is also Good Friday, the day that Jesus gave up His breath. It is the day of which Baha'u'llah said, "Know thou that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. Its evidences, as witnessed in all the peoples of the earth, are now manifest before thee...."

As Baha'is, we can see the decay all around us, the sorrow that is reminiscent of those first followers of Jesus, but we can also see the glory that is coming. We know that the promised resurrection is fast approaching. We have been given a vision of where we, and all of humanity, is going.

In Canada this year, it is particularly evident, as we witness the contrast between the election we just had on the first day of this most glorious festival, and the upcoming federal election on the last day of Ridvan. These two elections bracket this time so well in my mind. And then, as if this wasn't evident enough, the Universal House of Justice, in this year's Ridvan message, reminded us of Baha'u'llah's counsel to those leaders of nations: "Your people are your treasures. Beware lest your rule violate the commandments of God, and ye deliver your wards to the hands of the robber."

As a family, this year's festival is also different than it has been in the past. Last year, at this time, we were in a community of over 300. This year, a community of over 30. The celebrations in these two communities are quite different, as you would expect in communities of such different size.

This also brings to mind that one phrase that made me jump when I read the 28 December 2010 message. I'm sure you know the one I mean. In paragraph 15 when they say, "If, in a cluster, those shouldering responsibility for expansion and consolidation number in tens, with a few hundred participating in the activities of community life, both figures should rise significantly so that by the end of the Plan, one or two hundred are facilitating the participation of one or two thousand."

My wife and I have been overwhelmingly blessed to have been given a vision of what life is like in a community 10 times the one in which we currently live. We have been privileged to see a glimpse of where we are heading in our community, by seeing a community that is already a magnitude larger. Oh, and not that we know the vision that follows that, but just that we can see a tiny glimpse of where we are going.

It feels as if we are looking at those last remnants of last year's growth, and seeing those priceless flowers just beginning to peek through. We can clearly see the growth that is happening, and that is so encouraging.

But closer to home for us is the sense of celebration that is now evident amongst our own family. Shoghi is now old enough that he is beginning to really develop his sense of identity as a Baha'i. He looks forward with eager expectation to this celebration, and is regularly reminding us to turn on our Ridvan lights each evening.

Oh, and just the other day, at a Feast, he wanted to say "The King" prayer during the devotions. As you may recall, that is the first part of the Tablet of Ahmad. And say it he did. But, as you would expect, he had a bit of trouble. Fortunately the community came to his aid. Whenever he stumbled, someone would gently and lovingly offer the next word or phrase. Beautiful as this was to watch, it had an effect that we did not expect: it encouraged Shoghi to try harder to commit it to memory. Every night now, he asks us to help him with this prayer, and with others.

Yes. This really is a time of promises fulfilled. This is a time of expectations realized. This is a time in which we can parttake of the glory of that garden promised so long ago.

It is, in truth, the festival of Ridvan.

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