Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Virtue and the Fast

"These are, o my God," writes Baha'u'llah, "the days whereon Thou didst enjoin Thy servants to observe the fast. With it Thou didst adorn the preamble of the Book of Thy Laws revealed unto Thy creatures, and didst deck forth the Repositories of Thy commandments in the sight of all who are in Thy heaven and all who are on Thy earth. Thou hast endowed every hour of these days with a special virtue, inscrutable to all except Thee, Whose knowledge embraceth all created things. Thou hast, also, assigned unto every soul a portion of this virtue in accordance with the Tablet of Thy decree and the Scriptures of Thine irrevocable judgment. Every leaf of these Books and Scriptures Thou hast, moreover, alloted to each one of the peoples and kindreds of the earth."

Marielle and I were reading this prayer this morning and noticed something interesting in this first paragraph. Of course, there are many interesting things in these prayers, but this one really struck us this morning.

First of all, we noticed that fasting is enjoined in the "preamble" of the Book of Laws. It is so important a law that it actually comes before the laws themselves. Interesting.

When we looked in the Kitab-i-Aqdas we noticed that it is first mentioned in paragraph 10, along with prayer. Now this is not to say that it isn't the preamble, for He may be referring to a metaphorical Book above. But it is interesting that after the introductory 5 paragraphs, and following immediately upon the obligatory prayers, Baha'u'llah next commands us to "pray and fast". They are intimately joined here.

And in fact, if you look through the Kitab-i-Aqdas, there are many times that fasting is mentioned. It is almost as if He wants to keep reminding us of this very important law.

But then, in this prayer, He says that every hour of these days of the Fast are endowed "with a special virtue". And while the temptation is there, at least for me, to read it as if each specific hour has a particular virtue assigned to it, I don't think that's the case. Virtue can  refer to a particular moral quality, as in "the virtues of compassion, kindliness, trustworthiness, and so forth", or it can refer to moral excellence in general.

Either way, we noticed that it is singular in this instance. "A special virtue".

Oh, and please remember that this is only my own view, and not anything official. You can take it or leave it, as you will. (I promise not to be offended.)

So, each hour is endowed with special virtue: this is not the same as "the virtues", but each has virtue. Virtue, we realized, is singular, in its essence, and we have separated it into the various virtues in order to better understand it. Perhaps this is why they cannot act on their own. A good thief, for example, shows forth great patience, but is not trustworthy. Many great soldiers have shown tremendous steadfastness, but may have not shown compassion or mercy.

We often say that God is one, but perhaps virtue is one, also. And whereas we call upon God by many Names, such as the All-Compelling, we do not think that each of these names are a different God.

Perhaps we may want to think of the virtues, or virtue, in the same way.

Now, He says that not only is each hour special at this time, but that each person has been given a portion of this virtue, too. So, not only are these hours during the Fast special, but so is each person. Maybe that is why teaching takes on a special significance, and has a special potency, at this time.

Oh, and finally, these teachings, these leaves from the divine Books of God, are not just for us, or given only to us. They are portioned out to everyone. And personally, I think that's wonderful. For it means that everyone has a piece of the truth, and I can learn about that truth from everyone.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful post about a quotation I have often wondered about. Hope the fast is going well for you.