Saturday, March 3, 2018

Gems of Divine Mysteries - Study, paragraphs 6 - 12

Continuing this little study, during the Fast, is quite the challenge. I could put some of these articles together ahead of time, but that's just not as much fun. Although I may actually do that for the couple of days when I'm working a booth selling my artwork at an upcoming convention, but hopefully you won't notice.

Anyways, where were we? Oh yes, paragraph 6. Now I'm trying to do a handful of paragraphs a day, but sometimes I move around just a bit, like yesterday, so as to better accommodate a natural break in the text. We'll see how that goes. For now, though, paragraph 6.

Now that the discourse hath reached this exalted and intractable theme and touched upon this sublime and impenetrable mystery, know that the Christian and Jewish peoples have not grasped the intent of the words of God and the promises He hath made to them in His Book, and have therefore denied His Cause, turned aside from His Prophets, and rejected His proofs. Had they but fixed their gaze upon the testimony of God itself, had they refused to follow in the footsteps of the abject and foolish among their leaders and divines, they would doubtless have attained to the repository of guidance and the treasury of virtue, and quaffed from the crystal waters of life eternal in the city of the All-Merciful, in the garden of the All-Glorious, and within the inner reality of His paradise. But as they have refused to see with the eyes wherewith God hath endowed them, and desired things other than that which He in His mercy had desired for them, they have strayed far from the retreats of nearness, have been deprived of the living waters of reunion and the wellspring of His grace, and have lain as dead within the shrouds of their own selves. 6

Ah, yes. "This exalted and intractable theme". Which theme is that? The theme from paragraph 3: Why did the people of the past deny the Manifestations? This is a theme that He returns to time and again in any of His early works, most notably in the Kitab-i-Iqan. And like He does in the Iqan, He does not berate the Muslims, or even hint at any displeasure here. He, instead, points out what the recipient, a good Muslim living in Karbila at the time, would have already known and agreed with: The Jews and the Christians missed Muhammad.

This is a very important point, to me, for He is demonstrating to us the most effective way to teach the Cause. Instead of beginning with something that will likely get the other person's hackles up and put them on the defensive, Baha'u'llah points out something so blindingly obvious that the other person is already agreeing with Him.

There are also a few nice little paths that He hints at here. The first is that these people "have not grasped the intent of the words... and the promises". When this misunderstanding occurs, the people then deny "His Cause". This here is an interesting term, for it distinguishes "the Cause" from "the Faith". They are still, in a sense, Christian or Jewish, but they have denied the overall Cause of God. For more info on this subtle point, just do a search and compare how Shoghi Efffendi uses the two terms differently in his writings. Anyways, once they deny the Cause of God, that divine polity that brings us to an ever-increasing awareness of unity, they will naturally turn aside from the next Manifestation. If they turn away from the Prophet, they will, of course, deny His proofs, too. This is the negative path.

Quite often when Baha'u'llah gives us a negative path, He also gives us a positive path to choose instead. Here it is a bit more obviously a path, given His reference to "the footsteps". If we choose not to follow in the ways of the abject and foolish, we can always take this other path. He begins with this building that houses guidance and virtue, which, incidentally, He labels a treasure. From here we step outside, if you will, and go to the water, which for some reason I picture as a fountain. These waters are found within the city, where presumably these buildings were. But this fountain is not just anywhere in the city, it in a specific garden. You see how it's narrowing down? Can't you just picture this beautiful little garden in the city? And we're not to just settle for the garden, no. We are to find that building in the garden, "the inner reality of His paradise". I always imagine the Ridvan Garden, just outside Akka, and the building where Baha'u'llah used to stay when He was there.

But alas, these poor people have not found Him. Doesn't this just make you want to be sure that you don't fall in that category? Don't you just want to rush out and be certain that you succeed? How, one must wonder, can we ensure that we are not of those that will reject the Manifestation when He appears? Hold that thought.

Through the power of God and His might, I shall now relate certain passages revealed in the Books of old, and mention some of the signs heralding the appearance of the Manifestations of God in the sanctified persons of His chosen Ones, that thou mayest recognize the Dayspring of this everlasting morn and behold this Fire that blazeth in the Tree which is neither of the East nor of the West. Perchance thine eyes may be opened upon attaining the presence of thy Lord and thy heart partake of the blessings concealed within these hidden treasuries. Render thanks then unto God, Who hath singled thee out for this grace and Who hath numbered thee with them that are assured of meeting their Lord. 7
Baha'u'llah has just told us that the Jews and Christians "have not grasped the intent of the words... and promises" in their sacred Books. So what is He going to do? He will show us some of those very passages and make sure that we understand. Why? So that we may recognize. With luck and God's grace, our eyes may be opened, and our hearts may receive these blessings. Then there is a very specific promise and, if you will, command. "Thank God", He tells the recipient. "No, seriously. Thank Him. Why? Because you have been singled out for this great bounty of receiving this book, this guidance. You have even been assured of meeting the Manifestation, whether or not you recognize Him." It's an interesting statement, for remember, He still has not yet announced His own Station.

Here He goes. He is about to quote the Bible, and it is interesting to note what He quotes, how He quotes. He is not just taking random passages. he is specifically going in order, and even telling us. Over the next four paragraphs He will cite "the first Gospel, according to Matthew", "the second Gospel, according to Mark", "the third Gospel, according to Luke", and "the fourth Gospel, according to John". He lays it out for us, nice and orderly, and even in order. To me this is a hint of the concept of progressive revelation, as well as making it as simple as possible for the reader to follow. Let's go on and see what He says, shall we?

This is the text of that which was revealed aforetime in the first Gospel, according to Matthew, regarding the signs that must needs herald the advent of the One Who shall come after Him. He saith: “And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days…”, until the mystic Dove, singing in the midmost heart of eternity, and the celestial Bird, warbling upon the Divine Lote-Tree, saith: “Immediately after the oppression of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet.” 8
Ok. Now let's be clear. He is not just citing this first part to warn the pregnant moms and those with newborns. He is referring to an entire section of Matthew 24, beginning with that passage and ending with this longer quote which He will later explain more fully in the Kitab-i-Iqan. He is quoting all of Matthew 24:19 right on through 24:31, but keeping it brief so that we are not overwhelmed. But I would encourage you to go back and read it all. There are some fascinating pieces in it that are not quoted here. For example, "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets..." The obvious question, when reading this, is how shall we know the difference? And this is why, well at least one of many reasons, Baha'u'llah is writing this book.

For now He is only quoting this passage. There are still many questions about what this all means. For that we need to turn to the Kitab-i-Iqan. It is almost impossible to talk about this book without regularly referencing the Iqan, as you may have noticed. There is so much overlap. But here, it is just the initial reference.

In the second Gospel, according to Mark, the Dove of holiness speaketh in such terms: “For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.” And it singeth later with the same melodies as before, without change or alteration. God, verily, is a witness unto the truth of My words. 9
Here, there is a different beginning, but the latter part of the quote is identical. From the second Gospel, Baha'u'llah draws our attention to the afflictions. Although He mentions it in the previous paragraph, due to its brevity in this one it is even more noticeable here. It is like He is, again, summarizing this amazing passage from Matthew 24. "Pay attention to the sufferings in the beginning of it."

And in the third Gospel, according to Luke, it is recorded: “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; and the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, know that the kingdom of God hath drawn nigh.” 10
Now He seems to be focusing our attention on the second part of that quote from Matthew 24. He is drawing our attention to the actual signs that are so metaphorical in nature. We all know the trials and tribulations we are facing in this day and age, alluded to in the previous paragraph, so now we should look at the signs of His coming.

And in the fourth Gospel, according to John, it is recorded: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness.” And elsewhere He saith: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” And: “But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you…” And yet again: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” And: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.” 11
Now we get to the end of Matthew 24 and the wonderful promise that we are all awaiting.

You see how He so marvelously, in both senses of the word, carries us through not only the four Gospels, but through a single quote within the first one? Over and over, on so many levels, He shows us how to be systematic in both our thinking and our explanations. He has taken a single quote, given us the beginning and the end, leaving out most of the middle, but ensuring that we will go back and read it again, and then carried it through the other Gospels, showing just how consistent this all is. He is well aware of what is in the sacred Books of the past, and helps us grow in our knowledge and understanding of these Books, too.

Such is the text of the verses revealed in the past. By Him besides Whom there is none other God, I have chosen to be brief, for were I to recount all the words that have been sent down unto the Prophets of God from the realm of His supernal glory and the kingdom of His sovereign might, all the pages and tablets of the world would not suffice to exhaust My theme. References similar to those mentioned, nay even more sublime and exalted, have been made in all the Books and Scriptures of old. Should it be My wish to recount all that hath been revealed in the past, I would most certainly be able to do so by virtue of that which God hath bestowed upon Me of the wonders of His knowledge and power. I have, however, contented Myself with that which was mentioned, lest thou become wearied in thy journey or feel inclined to turn back, or lest thou be overtaken by sadness and sorrow and overcome with despondency, trouble and fatigue.
And yes, He is brief. Later, in the Kitab-i-Iqan, He shows us a little more, but even there He is still brief. This book is only 75 pages or so, and the Iqan is over 200, and this is all from a single verse in the Bible. Imagine how much He could write and expound on this one verse. Now imagine just how many more quotes there are that talk about this promised Day? You can see just how much it would be possible for Him to write about these books of the past.

But this is not why He came.

He did not come to have us looking backwards; He came to turn our vision forward. He wants us to be anxiously concerned with the needs of today, and help move all of humanity forward, ever forward, to that promised Kingdom, over the next thousand years.

These early books of His are such a treasure, and I am so grateful that He took the time to write them, for in them we find this blueprint, this map, of how to be effective teachers for those who are still turned around and dwelling on the past. He has shown us how to reflect on the past, instead, and use the reflection to move more steadily towards tomorrow.

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