The virtual termination of the interior ornamentation of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkár of the West; the forthcoming formation of the twin national spiritual assemblies of Latin America, following upon the establishment of a corresponding institution in the Dominion of Canada; the full attainment of the prescribed goals on the European continent in accordance with the provisions of the Second Seven Year Plan and the consolidation already achieved in the North American continent, do not, under any circumstances, imply that the vast responsibilities shouldered by a valiant, an alert and resolute community, have been fully and totally discharged, or that its members can afford, as the plan draws to its conclusion, to sink into complacency or relax for one moment in their high endeavors.
The hour destined to mark the triumphant conclusion of the second stage in their historic, divinely conferred, world-encircling mission has not yet struck. Rumblings, loud and persistent, presaging a crisis of extreme severity in world affairs, confront them with a challenge which, in spite of what they have already accomplished, they cannot and must not either ignore or underrate. The rise of the World Administrative Center of their Faith, within the precincts and under the shadow of its World Spiritual Center, a process that has been kept in abeyance for well nigh thirty years, whilst the machinery of the national and local institutions of a nascent Order was being erected and perfected, presents them with an opportunity which, as the champion-builders of that Order and the torchbearers of an as yet unborn civilization, they must seize with alacrity, resolution and utter consecration. The initiation of momentous projects in other continents of the globe, and particularly in Africa, as a result of the growing initiative and the spirit of enterprise exhibited by their fellow-workers in East and West, cannot leave unmoved the vanguard of a host summoned by `Abdu'l-Bahá, its Divine Commander, and in accordance with the provisions of a God-given Charter, to play such a preponderating role in the spiritual conquest of the entire planet. Above all, the rapid prosecution of an enterprise transcending any undertaking, whether national or local, embarked upon by the followers of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, destined to attain its consummation with the erection of the dome of the Báb's holy Sepulcher, imposes an added obligation, owing to unforeseen circumstances, on the already multitudinous duties assumed by a community wholly absorbed in the various tasks it shoulders. In fact, as the Centenary of the birth of Bahá'u'lláh's prophetic Mission approaches, His American followers, not content with the successful conclusion, in their entirety, of the tasks assigned to them, must aspire to celebrate befittingly this historic occasion, as becomes the chosen recipients, and the privileged trustees, of a divinely conceived Plan, through emblazoning with still more conspicuous exploits, their record of stewardship to a Faith whose Author has issued such a ringing call to the rulers of the American continent, and the Center of Whose Covenant has entrusted the American Bahá'í Community with so glorious a mission. Indeed the present stage in the construction of the superstructure of so holy a shrine imperatively demands a concentration of attention and resources commensurate with the high position occupied by this community, with the freedom it enjoys and the material means at its disposal. The signing of two successive contracts, for the masonry of the octagon, the cylinder and the dome of the edifice, necessitated by a sudden worsening of the international situation, which might cut off indefinitely the provision of the same stones used for the erection of the arcade and the parapet of that Sepulcher, and amounting to no less than one hundred and ninety thousand dollars; the subsidiary contracts for the provision of steel and cement for the erection of the wrought iron balustrade and the metal window frames of both the octagon and the cylinder, involving an additional expenditure of no less than twenty thousand dollars, to which must be added the cost of the excavation for and the sinking of the eight piers designed to support the weight of the dome and the immediate construction of the octagon--these call for a stupendous effort on the part of all Bahá'í communities and a self-abnegation unprecedented in Bahá'í history. A drastic reduction of national and local budgets; the allocation of substantial sums by all national assemblies; the participation of individuals through sustained and direct donations to the first international and incomparably holy enterprise synchronizing with the birth of the International Bahá'í Council at the very heart and center of a world-encircling Faith can alone insure the uninterrupted progress of an undertaking which, coupled with the completion of the Mother Temple of the West, cannot fail to produce tremendous repercussions in the Holy Land, in the North American continent and throughout the world. A period of austerity covering the two-year interval separating us from the Centenary celebrations of the Year Nine, prolonging so unexpectedly the austerity period already traversed by the American Bahá'í Community, and now extended to embrace its sister communities throughout the Bahá'í world, is evidently not only essential for the attainment of so transcendent a goal, but also supremely befitting when we recall the nature and dimensions of the holocaust which a hundred years ago crimson-dyed the annals of our Faith, which posterity will recognize as the bloodiest episode of the most tragic period of the Heroic Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation, which involved the martyrdom of that incomparable heroine Tahirih, which was immediately preceded by the imprisonment of Bahá'u'lláh in the subterranean dungeon of Tihrán, and which sealed the fate of thousands of men, women and children in circumstances of unspeakable savagery and on a scale unapproached throughout subsequent stages of Bahá'í history.
NO SACRIFICE TOO GREAT
No sacrifice can be deemed too great, no expenditure of material resources, no degree of renunciation of worldly benefits, comfort and pleasures, can be regarded as excessive when we recall the precious blood that flowed, the many lives that were snuffed out, the wealth of material possessions that was plundered during these most tumultuous and cataclysmic years of the Heroic Age of our Faith.
Nor will the sacrifices willingly and universally accepted by the followers of the Faith in East and West for the sake of so noble a Cause, so transcendent an enterprise, fail to contribute their share towards the upbuilding of the World Administrative Center of that Faith, and the reinforcement of the ties already linking this Center with the recognized authorities of a state under the jurisdiction of which it is now functioning, ties which the newly formed International Bahá'í Council are so assiduously striving to cement.
Already the completion of the construction of the arcade of this majestic Sepulcher and of its ornamental parapet has excited the admiration, stimulated the interest, and enlisted the support, of both the local authorities and of the central government, as evidenced by the series of acts which, ever since the emergence of that state, have proclaimed the good will shown and the recognition extended by the various departments of that state to the multiplying international institutions, endowments, laws and ordinances of a steadily rising Faith.
The recognition of the sacred nature of the twin holy Shrines, situated in the plain of `Akká and on the slopes of Mount Carmel; the exemption from state and civic taxes, granted to the mansion of Bahjí adjoining the Most Holy Shrine, to the twin houses, that of Bahá'u'lláh in `Akká, and `Abdu'l-Bahá in Haifa, to the twin archives, adjoining the Shrine of the Báb and the resting-place of the Greatest Holy Leaf, and the twin pilgrim houses constructed in the neighborhood of that Shrine, and of the residence of `Abdu'l-Bahá; the delivery of the mansion of Mazra'ih by the authorities of that same state to the Bahá'í Community and its occupation after a lapse of more than fifty years; the setting apart, through government action, of the room occupied by Bahá'u'lláh in the barracks of `Akká, as a place of pilgrimage; the recognition of the Bahá'í marriage certificate by the District Commissioner of Haifa; the recognition of the Bahá'í holy days, in an official circular published by the Ministry of Education and Culture; the exemption from duty accorded by the Customs Department to all furniture received for Bahá'í holy places as well as for all material imported for the construction of the Báb's Sepulcher, the exemption from taxes similarly extended to all international Bahá'í endowments surrounding the holy tomb on Mount Carmel, stretching from the ridge of the mountain to the Templar colony at its foot, as well as to the holdings in the immediate vicinity of the resting-place of the Greatest Holy Leaf and her kinsmen--all these establish, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the high status enjoyed by the international institutions of a world Faith, in the eyes of this newborn state.
The construction of the mausoleum of the Báb, synchronizing with the birth of that state, and the progress of which has been accompanied by these successive manifestations of the good will and support of the civil authorities will, if steadily maintained, greatly reinforce, and lend a tremendous impetus to this process of recognition which constitutes an historic landmark in the evolution of the World Center of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh--a process which the newly formed Council, now established at its very heart, is designed to foster, which will gather momentum, with the emergence in the course of time of a properly recognized and independently functioning Bahá'í court, which will attain its consummation in the institution of the Universal House of Justice and the emergence of the auxiliary administrative agencies, revolving around this highest legislative body, and which will reveal the plenitude of its potentialities with the sailing of the Divine Ark as promised in the Tablet of Carmel.
I cannot at this juncture over emphasize the sacredness of that holy dust embosomed in the heart of the Vineyard of God, or overrate the unimaginable potencies of this mighty institution founded sixty years ago, through the operation of the Will of, and the definite selection made by, the Founder of our Faith, on the occasion of His historic visit to that holy mountain, nor can I lay too much stress on the role which this institution, to which the construction of the superstructure of this edifice is bound to lend an unprecedented impetus, is destined to play in the unfoldment of the World Administrative Center of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and in the efflorescence of its highest institutions constituting the embryo of its future World Order.
THE CENTER OF NINE CONCENTRIC CIRCLES
For, just as in the realm of the spirit, the reality of the Báb has been hailed by the Author of the Bahá'í Revelation as "The Point round Whom the realities of the Prophets and Messengers revolve," so, on this visible plane, His sacred remains constitute the heart and center of what may be regarded as nine concentric circles, paralleling thereby, and adding further emphasis to the central position accorded by the Founder of our Faith to One "from Whom God hath caused to proceed the knowledge of all that was and shall be," "the Primal Point from which have been generated all created things."
The outermost circle in this vast system, the visible counterpart of the pivotal position conferred on the Herald of our Faith, is none other than the entire planet. Within the heart of this planet lies the "Most Holy Land," acclaimed by `Abdu'l-Bahá as "the Nest of the Prophets" and which must be regarded as the center of the world and the Qiblih of the nations. Within this Most Holy Land rises the Mountain of God of immemorial sanctity, the Vineyard of the Lord, the Retreat of Elijah, Whose return the Báb Himself symbolizes. Reposing on the breast of this holy mountain are the extensive properties permanently dedicated to, and constituting the sacred precincts of, the Báb's holy Sepulcher. In the midst of these properties, recognized as the international endowments of the Faith, is situated the most holy court, an enclosure comprising gardens and terraces which at once embellish, and lend a peculiar charm to, these sacred precincts. Embosomed in these lovely and verdant surroundings stands in all its exquisite beauty the mausoleum of the Báb, the shell designed to preserve and adorn the original structure raised by `Abdu'l-Bahá as the tomb of the Martyr-Herald of our Faith. Within this shell is enshrined that Pearl of Great Price, the holy of holies, those chambers which constitute the tomb itself, and which were constructed by `Abdu'l-Bahá. Within the heart of this holy of holies is the tabernacle, the vault wherein reposes the most holy casket. Within this vault rests the alabaster sarcophagus in which is deposited that inestimable jewel, the Báb's holy dust. So precious is this dust that the very earth surrounding the edifice enshrining this dust has been extolled by the Center of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant, in one of His Tablets in which He named the five doors belonging to the six chambers which He originally erected after five of the believers associated with the construction of the Shrine, as being endowed with such potency as to have inspired Him in bestowing these names, whilst the tomb itself housing this dust He acclaimed as the spot round which the Concourse on high circle in adoration.
To participate in the erection of the superstructure of an edifice at once so precious, so holy; consecrated to the memory of so heroic a Soul; whose site no one less than the Founder of our Faith has selected; whose inner chambers were erected by the Center of His Covenant with such infinite care and anguish; embosomed in so sacred a mountain, on the soil of so holy a land; occupying such a unique position; facing on the one hand the silver-white city of `Akká, the Qiblih of the Bahá'í world; flanked on its right by the hills of Galilee, the home of Jesus Christ, and on its left, by the Cave of Elijah; and backed by the plain of Sharon and, beyond it, Jerusalem and the Aqsa mosque, the third holiest shrine in Islam--to participate in the erection of such an edifice is a privilege offered to this generation at once unique and priceless, a privilege which only posterity will be able to correctly appraise.
THE CHOSEN TRUSTEES OF A DIVINE PLAN
In this supreme, this sacred and international undertaking in which the followers of Bahá'u'lláh, in all the continents of the globe, are summoned to show forth the noblest spirit of self-sacrifice, the members of the American Bahá'í Community must by virtue of the abilities they have already demonstrated and of the primacy conferred upon them as the chosen trustees of a Divine Plan, play a preponderating role, and, together with their brethren residing in the cradle of their Faith, who are linked by such unique ties with its Herald, set an example of self-abnegation worthy to be emulated by their fellow-workers in every land.
Whilst the members of this privileged community, laboring so valiantly in the Western Hemisphere, are widening the range of their manifold activities, and thereby augmenting their responsibilities, in both the Holy Land and the African continent, the original tasks, associated with the prosecution of the Second Seven Year Plan, must, simultaneously with this added and meritorious effort which is being exerted, in memory of the beloved Báb, and for the spiritual emancipation of the downtrodden races of Africa, be carried to a triumphant conclusion. Though the present deficit in their National Fund may, in a sense, register a failure on their part to meet their pressing obligations, and may arouse in their hearts feelings of self-reproach and anxiety, I can confidently assert that the supplementary duties they have discharged, and the material support they have extended, and are now extending, for the conduct of activities, not falling within the original scope of their Plan, not only fully compensate for an apparent shortcoming, but constitute, instead of a stain on their record of service, additional embellishments to the scroll already inscribed with so many exploits for the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh.
Assured that no blot has marred so splendid a record of service; confident of their destiny; reliant on the unfailing guidance of the Founder of their Faith as well as on His sustaining power, let them address themselves, with unrelaxing vigilance and undiminished vigor, to the task of rounding off the several missions undertaken by them in Latin America, and in the North American and European continents.
The extension of the necessary material support and administrative guidance to the forthcoming national assemblies of Central and South America that will enable them to develop along sound lines and without any setback in the course of their unfoldment; the steady consolidation of the victories already won in the ten goal countries of Europe; the maintenance, at its present level and at whatever cost, of the status of the assemblies and groups so laboriously built up; the provision of whatever is required to fully complete the interior of the Temple and beautify the grounds surrounding it, in preparation for its formal inauguration and its use for public worship--these should be regarded as the essential objectives of the American Bahá'í Community during the two-year interval separating us from the Centenary celebrations of the prophetic mission of the Founder of our Faith.
Time is running short. The effort required to discharge the manifold responsibilities now challenging the members of a lion-hearted community is truly colossal. The issues at stake, demanding every ounce of their energy, are incomparably glorious. An ominous international situation emphasizes this challenge and reinforces the urgency of these issues. In the Holy Land, amid the tribes of a dark continent, over the wide expanses stretching from Panama to the extremity of Chile, in the heart of its own homeland, as well as in the new European field, marking the projection of its world mission across the seas, the American Bahá'í Community must deploy its forces, hoist still higher its pennants, and erect still more glorious memorials to the heroism, the constancy and the devotion of its members. `Abdu'l-Bahá, Whose Plan they are executing in both hemispheres, and to Whose summons they are now responding in the African continent; the Báb, Whose Sepulcher they are helping to erect; above all Bahá'u'lláh, Whose embryonic World Order they are building in the Holy Land and in other continents of the globe, look down upon them from Their retreats of glory, applauding their acts, guiding their footsteps, vouchsafing Their blessings, and laying up, in the storehouses of the Abhá kingdom such treasures as only They can bestow.
May the members of this community prove themselves, as they forge ahead and approach yet another milestone on the broad highway of their mission, worthy of still greater prizes, and fit to launch still mightier enterprises, for the glory of the Name they bear, and in the service of the Faith they profess.
[March 29, 1951]