Film poster

Film poster

Friday, November 14, 2014

Program for Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Bahá


A Program for the Observance of 
the Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Bahá

This program to observe the anniversary of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is designed to be uplifting and inspiring, providing an appreciation of the life and station of the Master. The steps below are meant as a guide and can be modified to meet your community’s needs. With a little effort and a lot of love you can create an experience your community will not soon forget.

A. Music to download: (Select the titles you wish to include. Click title to be redirected to website to purchase)

B. Get an audio playback device (boombox, stereo, etc) capable of playing music.
C. Find a projector and connect to your DVD / Blu-Ray Player.  Aim projector at a white wall or screen where everyone will face to watch excerpts from the film. Alternatively, set up seating so that everyone can face a television connected to a DVD / Blu-Ray player.
D. Print out the program with quotations, which will be passed around or read by pre-selected readers.
E. Get a number of candles and place them around the room and dim the lights
F. If desired, get some rose water or oil to offer to guests as they arrive. 
G. Provide refreshments for after the program


MC Welcome & Greeting:  Good evening, dear friends.  Thank you for coming to this important and special observance of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.  We will begin with a prayer, followed by music.  Readings, and excerpts from a film about Master:  
Persian Chant – Please select a community member to offer this prayer or use a  recorded chant of your choice

Reading 1:  'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's oldest son, occupies a unique position in religious history. Bahá'u'lláh conferred upon Him three closely-related distinctions that had never before been conferred upon anyone by God's appointed Messenger:

  • 'Abdu'l-Bahá was Bahá'u'lláh's appointed successor, the "center" of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant with His followers
  • He was the authorized interpreter of His Father's Writings
  • He was the perfect exemplar of His Father's teachings, whom all Bahá'ís are called to emulate

Such is 'Abdu'l-Bahá's distinction that, although not a Prophet in His own right, His Writings form an important part of the Bahá'í Holy Writings. Such is the reverence in which He is held that Bahá'ís refer to Him as "the Master." It is fitting, therefore, that two of our Holy Days [November 26 and 28] commemorate and celebrate the life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. These two Holy Days are, however, distinct from the other nine in that work is not to be suspended. This is primarily because the Master held Himself to be, in all things, nothing more than His Father's servant, and would never have countenanced anything that put Him on an equal footing with Bahá'u'lláh. But we might reflect upon how fitting it is that we work on these days, given that 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself worked tirelessly for the advancement of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings.

Reading 2:  Yet it was not for Himself that He sought any honor or glory. He was first, last and always His Father's servant. That, indeed, is what "'Abdu'l-Bahá" means: “the Servant of Bahá.”  He wrote:  “My name is 'Abdu'l-Bahá, my identity is 'Abdu'l-Bahá, my qualification is 'Abdu'l-Bahá, my reality is 'Abdu'l-Bahá, my praise is 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Thraldom to the Blessed Perfection [Bahá'u'lláh] is my glorious and refulgent diadem; and servitude to all the human race is my perpetual religion." (Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 430)
MC:  The following film excerpt from Luminous Journey: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912 describes the relationship of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  to Bahá’ulláh. 

Film excerpt:  1. Prologue through the Covenant section (Total: 11:04)  OR  Just the Covenant section (cue it up just past the part on Vivekananda/Dharmapala, starting with:  “‘Abdu’l-Bahá entered this compelling scene as the leader of an emerging independent religion. Born in Persia in 1844, He was given the name Abbas Effendi, yet preferred to be known as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, servant of glory.” 

Reading 3:  “He [‘Abdu’l-Bahá] is, and should for all time be regarded, first and foremost, as the Center and Pivot of Bahá'u'lláh's peerless and all-enfolding Covenant, His most exalted handiwork, the stainless Mirror of His light, the perfect Exemplar of His teachings, the unerring Interpreter of His Word, the embodiment of every Bahá'í ideal, the incarnation of every Bahá'í virtue, the Most Mighty Branch sprung from the Ancient Root, the Limb of the Law of God, the Being "round Whom all names revolve," the Mainspring of the Oneness of Humanity, the Ensign of the Most Great Peace, the Moon of the Central Orb of this most holy Dispensation - styles and titles that are implicit and find their truest, their highest and fairest expression in the magic name 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He is, above and beyond these appellations, the "Mystery of God" - an expression by which Bahá'u'lláh Himself has chosen to designate Him, and which, while it does not by any means justify us to assign to Him the station of Prophethood, indicates how in the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá the incompatible characteristics of a human nature and superhuman knowledge and perfection have been blended and are completely harmonized.”  (Shoghi Effendi, from a letter of 8 February 1934, published in "The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh - Selected Letters", p. 134)

(repeat) . . . the incompatible characteristics of a human nature and superhuman knowledge and perfection have been blended and are completely harmonized. 

Reading 4:  Though we can never measure up to the standard ‘Abdu’l-Bahá set, we are encouraged to follow  in his footsteps.  He himself says:   “ must conduct yourselves in such a manner that ye may stand out distinguished and brilliant as the sun among other souls. Should any one of you enter a city, he should become a centre of attraction by reason of his sincerity, his faithfulness and love, his honesty and fidelity, his truthfulness and loving-kindness towards all the peoples of the world, so that the people of that city may cry out and say: "This man is unquestionably a Bahá'í, for his manners, his behavior, his conduct, his morals, his nature, and disposition reflect the attributes of the Bahá'ís." Not until ye attain this station can ye be said to have been faithful to the Covenant and Testament of God. For He hath, through irrefutable Texts, entered into a binding Covenant with us all, requiring us to act in accordance with His sacred instructions and counsels.”  ("Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá"), p. 71)

Music:  Everyone participate and sing “Look at Me , Follow Me” or another song of your choosing

MC:  The following film excerpt from Luminous Journey describes the Master’s last days in America and gives us a glimpse of the majesty of His funeral. 

Film Excerpt:  23. New York, Departure, Epilogue (includes a segment about His passing) (Total: 9:45)  

Reading 5:  THE PASSING OF 'ABDU'L-BAHÁ:   [From Balyuzi’s biography of the Master]
The night of July 10th 1921 'Abdu'l-Bahá was on Mount Carmel by the Shrine of the Báb. There, He revealed a Tablet and a prayer in honor of a 'kinsman of the Bab', who had died recently. 'Abdu'l-Bahá beseeched God, in that prayer, for His own release from this world. He spoke of His 'loneliness', of being 'broken-winged', 'submerged in seas of sorrows': 'O Lord! My bones are weakened, and the hoar hairs glisten on My head . . . and I have now reached old age, failing in My powers . . . No strength is there left in Me wherewith to arise and serve Thy loved ones . . . O Lord, My Lord! Hasten My ascension unto Thy sublime Threshold . . . and My arrival at the Door of Thy grace beneath the shadow of Thy most great mercy . . .'

That prayer was answered less than five months later. He passed away in the early hours of November 28th. The physician, who was summoned to His bedside at that hour, and closed His eyes, was Dr Florian Krug of New York, the same man who once bitterly resented the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, and wanted alienists to examine his wife because of her intense devotion to it. He had now come, a pilgrim, with his wife, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá had allocated them a room in the compound of His own house.

A special announcement, issued in the morning, by the family of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the Bahá'ís of Haifa, gave the public the news of His passing and of the funeral arrangements for the following day. However, early on Monday morning . . . the news of this sudden calamity had spread over the city, causing an unprecedented stir and tumult, and filling all hearts with unutterable grief. (252)

Reading 6:  In the afternoon this statement appeared: “We all belong unto God and unto Him do we all return. The Islamic Association announces with much regret the passing of the highly-learned, greatly-erudite, generous benefactor, His Eminence 'Abdu'l-Bahá 'Abbas. His bier will be carried from His home, to-morrow, Tuesday, at 9 o'clock in the morning. You are requested to accept this announcement as a special invitation to assemble for His funeral procession. May God immerse Him in His boundless mercy, and grant solace unto His family and His people.”

In the land that we know as the Holy Land, in all its turbulent history of the last two thousand years, there had never been an event which could unite all its inhabitants of diverse faiths and origins and purposes, in a single expression of thought and feeling, as did the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Jews and Christians and Muslims and Druzes, of all persuasions and denominations; Arabs and Turks and Kurds and Armenians and other ethnic groups were united in mourning His passing, in being aware of a great loss they had suffered.

In a 'Private Memorandum' sent from 61, St James's Street, London, S.W.1, Major Tudor-Pole wrote: “On Tuesday 29th of November, 1921, at 9.30 a.m., a cablegram addressed 'Cyclometry London' reached this office. It had been despatched from Haifa at 3 p.m. on 28th November, 1921, and contained the following momentous news: 'His Holiness Abdul Baha ascended to the Kingdom of Abha. Please inform friends.' (signed) 'Greatest Holy Leaf'. Friends in London were notified immediately by wire, telephone and letter, and a cablegram was dispatched to the Holy Family at Haifa expressing the sorrowing loving sympathy of all the Friends in this country.

Readers 7 & 8 will alternate these paragraphs: 

Cables were sent to the High Commissioner and Sir Wyndham Deedes at Jerusalem, and every step was taken by the British Authorities in Palestine to show respect
 or the memory of the Beloved Departed, and to render any services required by the Family and the Bahai Community at Haifa and Acre.

At the suggestion of Ziaoullah Asgarzade, a cable was despatched to the Bahai community at Askarabad [obviously refers to 'Ishqabad] in Central S. Asia (near the
Persian Frontier) notifying the Friends of the Master's ascension and conveying the love and sympathy of Friends in every part of the world.

In order to ensure the delivery of this cable, arrangements were made with the American Red Cross Authorities and the British Trade Mission at Moscow, to persuade the Soviet Foreign Minister to allow this important message to be telegraphed on to Askarabad.

Lord Lamington, when wiring his condolences, advised this office that he had asked the Colonial Office to arrange for British representation at the Master's funeral. General Sir Arthur Money, K.C.B., K.B.E., C.S.I., formerly Chief Administrator of Palestine, writing on 2/12/21, said: 'I am grieved to learn of the death of Abdul Baha. I had a strong regard and admiration for him and always valued his advice. He exercised all his influence in Palestine for good, and was always ready to assist the Administration toward the establishment of law and order.   

In New York, Roy Wilhelm received this cable from Haifa, on November 28th: Wilhelmite N.Y. His Holiness Abdul Baha ascended to
Abha Kingdom. Inform friends, Greatest Holy Leaf.

And from the United States this message went out to the Holy Land, on behalf of the Executive Board of the Bahá'í Temple Unity: He doeth whatsoever He willeth. Hearts weep at most great tribulation. American friends send through Unity Board radiant love, boundless sympathy, devotion. Standing steadfast, conscious of his unceasing presence
and nearness.

The Bahá'ís of Tihran sent the following message through their Spiritual Assembly to the Bahá'ís of America and Britain: Light of Covenant transferred from eye to heart. Day of teaching, unity, self-sacrifice.

The valiant Bahá'ís of Germany sent this cable to the Greatest Holy Leaf: All believers deeply moved by irrevocable loss of our Master's precious life. We pray for heavenly protection of Holy Cause and promise faithfulness and obedience to Centre of Covenant.

Winston Churchill, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, cabled the High Commissioner for Palestine. . . to convey to the Bahai Community, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, their sympathy and condolence on the death of Sir 'Abdu'l-Bahá Abbas K.B.E.   

Viscount Allenby, the High Commissioner for Egypt, wired the following message, on November 29th: Please convey to the relatives of the late Sir 'Abdu'l-Bahá
'Abbas Effendi and to the Bahai community my sincere sympathy in the loss of their revered leader.

Another message which came through the office of the High Commissioner for Palestine was from the Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force: General Congreve begs that you will convey his deepest sympathy to the family of the late Sir 'Abbas al-Bahai.

The Council of Ministers in Baghdad forwarded this message, dated December 8th:
His Highness Sayed Abdurrahman, the Prime Minister, desires to extend his sympathy to the family of His Holiness 'Abdu'l-Bahá in their bereavement.

'For the Holy Family Theosophical Society send affectionate thoughts' was another message which came from London.

A leading figure of the town of Nazareth wired: With the profoundest sorrow and regret we condole with you on the occasion of the setting of the Day-Star. 
(from H.M. Balyuzi, Abdu'l-Baha - The Centre of the Covenant, p. 451)

Prayer:   "O my God! O my God! Verily Thy servant, humble before the majesty of Thy divine supremacy, lowly at the door of Thy oneness, hath believed in Thee and in Thy verses, hath testified to Thy word, hath been enkindled with the fire of Thy love, hath been immersed in the depths of the ocean of Thy knowledge, hath been attracted by Thy breezes, hath relied upon Thee, hath turned his face to Thee, hath offered his supplications to Thee, and hath been assured of Thy pardon and forgiveness. He hath abandoned this mortal life and hath flown to the kingdom of immortality, yearning for the favour of meeting Thee.

"O Lord, glorify his station, shelter him under the pavilion of Thy supreme mercy, cause him to enter Thy glorious paradise, and perpetuate his existence in Thine exalted rose garden, that he may plunge into the sea of light in the world of mysteries. "Verily, Thou art the Generous, the Powerful, the Forgiver and the Bestower."  (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 196)

TABLET of VISITATION for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—Live or one of the two recorded versions listed in the ‘music to be downloaded’ section above

Music:  “Ya Baha” by Bruce Grover listed in the ‘Music to be downloaded’ section above.

[MUSIC TO FOLLOW THE PROGRAM — optional, please choose whatever feels appropriate]

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