The brief interval separating the hard-pressed, valiantly struggling, resistlessly expanding American Bahá'í Community from the anticipated consummation of the second, fate-laden collective enterprise launched so auspiciously by its national elected representatives is speedily drawing to a close. The sixteen months that still lie ahead constitute in view of the tasks that still remain to be achieved, and the sacrifices still to be made, a period at once critical and challenging. This memorable period commemorates, if we pause and call to mind the stirring events and bloody episodes linking the Dispensation of the Báb with the dawning Mission of the Founder of our Faith, the centenary of what may be truly regarded as the darkest, the most tragic, the most heroic, period in the annals of a hundred-year-old Revelation. This period, moreover, affords the last and irretrievable chance to a ceaselessly striving, repeatedly victorious community of setting the seal of triumph upon a momentous undertaking, on whose fate hinges the launching of yet another glorious Crusade, the consummation of which will mark the successful conclusion of the initial epoch in the unfoldment of `Abdu'l-Bahá's Divine Plan--an evolution that must continue to blossom and fructify in the course of successive epochs of the Formative Ages of the Faith, and yield its fairest fruit in the Golden Age that is yet to come.
A PERIOD OF HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE
The historic significance of this period cannot indeed be overestimated. For it was a hundred years ago that a Faith, which had already been oppressed by a staggering weight of untold tribulations; which had sustained shattering blows in Mazindaran, Nayriz, Tihrán and &Zanjan, and indeed throughout every province in the land of its birth; which had lost its greatest exponents through the tragic martyrdom of most of the Letters of the Living, and particularly of the valiant Mullá Husayn and of the erudite Vahid and which had been afflicted with the supreme calamity of losing its Divine Founder; was being subjected to still more painful ordeals--ordeals which robbed it of both the heroic &Hujjat and of the far-famed Tahirih; which caused it to pass through a reign of terror, and to experience a blood-bath of unprecedented severity, which inflicted on it one of the greatest humiliations it has ever suffered through the attempted assassination of the sovereign himself, and which unloosed a veritable deluge of barbarous atrocities in Tihrán, Mazindaran, Nayriz and Shiráz before which paled the horrors of the siege of Zanjan, and which swept no less a figure than Bahá'u'lláh Himself--the last remaining pillar of a Faith that had been so rudely shaken, so ruthlessly denuded of its chief buttresses--into the subterranean dungeon of Tihrán, an imprisonment that was soon followed by His cruel banishment, in the depths of an exceptionally severe winter, from His native land to Iraq. To these tribulations He Himself has referred as "afflictions" that "rained" upon Him, whilst the blood shed by His companions and lovers He characterized as the blood which "impregnated" the earth with the "wondrous revelation" of God's "might."
Nor should the momentous character of the unique event, that may be regarded as the climax and consummation of this tragic period, be overlooked or underestimated, inasmuch as its centenary synchronizes with the termination of the sixteen-month interval separating the American Bahá'í Community from the conclusion of its present Plan. This unique event, the centenary of which is to be befittingly celebrated, not only in the American continent but throughout the Bahá'í world, and is destined to be regarded as the culmination of the Second Seven Year Plan, is none other than the "Year Nine," anticipated 2,000 years ago as the "third woe" by St. John the Divine, alluded to by both &Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim--the twin luminaries that heralded the advent of the Faith of the Báb--specifically mentioned and extolled by the Herald of the Bahá'í Dispensation in His Writings, and eulogized by both the Founder of our Faith and the Center of His Covenant. In that year, the year "after Hin" (68), mentioned by &Shaykh Ahmad, the year that witnessed the birth of the Mission of the promised "Qayyúm," specifically referred to by Siyyid Kazim, the "requisite number" in the words of Bahá'u'lláh "of pure, of wholly consecrated and sanctified souls" had been "most secretly consummated." In that year, as testified by the pen of the Báb, the "realities of the created things" were "made manifest," "a new creation was born" and the seed of His Faith revealed its "ultimate perfection." In that year, as borne witness by `Abdu'l-Bahá, a hitherto "embryonic Faith" was born. In that year, while the Blessed Beauty lay in chains and fetters, in that dark and pestilential pit, "the breezes of the All-Glorious," as He Himself described it, "were wafted" over Him. There, whilst His neck was weighted down by the Qara-Guhar, His feet in stocks, breathing the fetid air of the Siyáh-Chál, He dreamed His dream and heard, "on every side," "exalted words," and His "tongue recited" words that "no man could bear to hear."
There, as He Himself has recorded, under the impact of this dream, He experienced the onrushing force of His newly revealed Mission, that "flowed" even as "a mighty torrent" from His "head" to His "breast," whereupon "every limb" of His body "would be set afire." There, in a vision, the "Most Great Spirit," as He Himself has again testified, appeared to Him, in the guise of a "Maiden" "calling" with "a most wondrous, a most sweet voice" above His Head, whilst "suspended in the air" before Him and, "pointing with her finger" unto His head, imparted "tidings which rejoiced" His "soul." There appeared above the horizon of that dungeon in the city of Tihrán, the rim of the Orb of His Faith, whose dawning light had, nine years previously, broken upon the city of Shiráz--an Orb which, after suffering an eclipse of ten years, was destined to burst forth, with its resplendent rays, upon the city of Baghdád, to mount its zenith in Adrianople, and to set eventually in the prison-fortress of `Akká.
Such is the year we are steadily approaching. Such is the year with which the fortunes of the Second Seven Year Plan have been linked. As the tribulations, humiliations and trials inflicted on the Cause of God in Persia, a century ago, moved inexorably towards a climax, so must the present austerity period, inaugurated a hundred years later, in the continent of America, to reflect the privations and sacrifices endured so stoically by the dawn-breakers of the Heroic Age of the Faith witness, as it approaches its culmination, a self-abnegation on the part of the champion-builders of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, laboring in the present Formative Age of His Faith, which, at its best, can be regarded as but a faint reflection of the self-sacrifice so gloriously evinced by their spiritual forbears.
OBJECTIVES OF SECOND SEVEN YEAR PLAN LARGELY ATTAINED
The objectives of the Second Seven Year Plan, the concluding phase of which has synchronized with this period of nation-wide austerity, have, it must be recognized, been in the main, attained. The pillars which must needs add their strength in supporting the future House of Justice have, according to the schedule laid down, been successively erected in the Dominion of Canada and in Latin America. The European Teaching Campaign--the second outstanding enterprise launched, beyond the confines of the North American continent, in pursuance of the Mandate, issued by `Abdu'l-Bahá to Bahá'u'lláh's valiant "Apostles"--has not only achieved its original aims, but exceeded all expectations through the formation of a local spiritual assembly in the capital city of each of the ten goal countries included within its scope. The interior ornamentation of the Mother Temple of the West has, before its appointed time, been completed. Other tasks, no less vital, still remain to be carried, in the course of a fast shrinking period, to a successful conclusion. The landscaping of the area surrounding a structure whose foundations and exterior and interior ornamentation have demanded, for so many years, so much effort and such constant sacrifice, must, under no circumstances, and while there is yet time, be neglected, lest failure to achieve this final task mar the beauty of the approaches of a national shrine which provide so suitable a setting for an edifice at once so sacred and noble. The responsibilities solemnly undertaken to consolidate and multiply the administrative institutions throughout all the states of the Union--a task that has of late been allowed to fall into abeyance, and has been eclipsed by the spectacular success attending the shining exploits of the American Bahá'í Community in foreign fields--must be speedily and seriously reconsidered, for upon the constant broadening and the steady reinforcement of this internal administrative structure, which provides the essential base for future operations in all the continents of the globe, must depend the vigor, the rapidity and the soundness of the future crusades which must needs be launched in the service, and for the glory of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, and in obedience to the stirring summons issued by the Center of His Covenant in some of His most weighty Tablets. Above all, the accumulating deficit which has lately again thrown its somber shadow on an otherwise resplendent record of service, must, through a renewed display of self-abnegation, which, though not commensurate with the sacrifice of so many souls immolated on the altar of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, may at least faintly reflect its poignant heroism, be obliterated, once and for all, from the record of a splendid stewardship to His Faith.
There can be no doubt--and I am the first to proudly acknowledge it--that, ever since the launching of the Second Seven Year Plan, and in consequence of unexpected developments both in the Holy Land and elsewhere, the American Bahá'í Community, ever ready to bear the brunt of responsibility, under the stress of unforeseen circumstances, has considerably widened the scope of its original undertakings and augmented the weight shouldered by its stalwart members. At the World Center of the Faith, in response to the urgent call for action, necessitated by the imperative needs of the rising Sepulcher of the Báb, the formation of the Bahá'í International Council, and the establishment of the State of Israel, as well as in the continent of Africa, where the appointed, the chief trustees of a divinely conceived, world-encompassing Plan could not well remain unmoved by the sight of the first attempts being made to introduce systematically the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and to implant its banner amongst its tribes and races, the American Bahá'í Community have assumed responsibilities well exceeding the original duties they had undertaken to discharge. This twofold opportunity that providentially presented itself to them, to contribute to the rise and consolidation of the World Center of their Faith, and to the spiritual re-awakening of a long-neglected continent, must, however, be exploited to the fullest extent, if the early completion of the most sacred edifice, next to the Qiblih of the Bahá'í world, is to be assured, and if the executors of `Abdu'l-Bahá's Plan are to retain untarnished the primacy conferred upon them by its Author.
That primacy will be demonstrated and re-emphasized as the representatives of this privileged community take their place, and assume their functions, at each of the four Intercontinental Bahá'í Teaching Conferences which are to be convened in the course of, and which must signalize, the world-wide celebrations of the Centenary of the Year Nine. Playing a preponderating role, as the custodians of a Divine Plan, in the global crusade which all the Bahá'í national spiritual assemblies, without exception, must, in various degrees and combinations, launch on the morrow of the forthcoming Centenary, and during the entire course of the ten-year interval separating them from the Most Great Jubilee, they must, upon the consummation of their present Plan, deliberate, together with their ally the Canadian National Assembly, and their associates, the newly formed National Spiritual Assemblies of Central and South America, on the occasion of the convocation of the approaching All-American Teaching Conference, on ways and means whereby they can best contribute to the establishment of the Faith, not only throughout the Americas and their neighboring islands, but in the chief sovereign states and dependencies of the remaining continents of the globe.
SCOPE OF THIRD SEVEN YEAR PLAN WIDENED
For unlike the First and Second Seven Year Plans, inaugurated by the American Bahá'í Community, the scope of the Third Seven Year Plan, the termination of which will mark the conclusion of the first epoch in the evolution of the Master Plan designed by `Abdu'l-Bahá, will embrace all the continents of the earth, and will bring the central body directing these widely ramified operations into direct contact with all the national assemblies of the Bahá'í world, which, in varying degrees, will have to contribute their share to the world establishment of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, as prophesied by `Abdu'l-Bahá and envisioned by Daniel--a consummation that, God willing, will be befittingly celebrated on the occasion of the Most Great Jubilee commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the formal assumption by Bahá'u'lláh of His Prophetic Office.
The vision now disclosed to the eyes of this community is indeed enthralling. The tasks which, if that vision is to be fulfilled, must be valiantly shouldered by its members are staggering. The time during which so herculean a task is to be performed is alarmingly brief. The period during which so gigantic an operation must be set in motion, prosecuted and consummated, coincides with the critical, and perhaps the darkest and most tragic, stage in human affairs. The opportunities presenting themselves to them are now close at hand. The invisible battalions of the Concourse on High are mustered, in serried ranks, ready to rush their reinforcements to the aid of the vanguard of Bahá'u'lláh's crusaders in the hour of their greatest need, and in anticipation of that Most Great, that Wondrous Jubilee in the joyfulness of which both heaven and earth will partake. `Abdu'l-Bahá, the Founder of this community and the Author of the Plan which constitutes its birthright, to Whose last wishes its members so marvelously responded; the Báb, the Centenary of Whose Revelation this same community so magnificently celebrated, and to the building of whose Sepulcher it has given so fervent a support; Bahá'u'lláh Himself, to the glory of Whose Name so stately an edifice it has raised, will amply bless and repay its members if they but persevere on the long road they have so steadfastly trodden, and pursue, with undimmed vision, with unrelaxing resolve and unshakable faith, their onward march towards their chosen goal.
That this community, so young in years, yet withal so rich in exploits, may, in the months immediately ahead, as well as in the years immediately following this coming Jubilee, maintain, untarnished and unimpaired, its record of service to our beloved Faith, that it may further embellish, through still nobler feats, its annals, is the dearest wish of my heart, and the object of my constant supplications at the Holy Threshold.
[November 23, 1951]