The opening years of the second century of the Bahá'í Era are witnessing the launching of yet another stage of an enterprise the range of whose unfolding processes we can, at the present time, but dimly visualize. However familiar we may be with its origin, however conscious of its magnitude and bold character, however cognizant of the signal success that has attended its initial operation, in the Western Hemisphere, we find ourselves nevertheless incapable of either grasping the import of its tremendous potentialities, or of correctly appraising the significance of the present phase of its development. Nor can we assess its reaction, as the momentum of the mysterious forces driving it onward augments, on the fortunes of the divers communities whose members are consciously laboring for the achievement of purposes akin to the high aims that animate its promoters, or estimate its impact, as its scope is further enlarged and its fruition is accelerated, on the immediate destinies of mankind in general.
The impulse from which this historic world-embracing crusade, which, alike in the character of its Founder and the nature of the tasks committed to its participants, is unprecedented in religious history, derives its creative power may be said to have in a sense originated with the mandate issued by the Báb in His "Qayyúmu'l-Asma," one of His earliest and greatest works, as far back as the opening years of the first Bahá'í century, and directed specifically to the "peoples of the West," to "issue forth" from their "cities" and aid His Cause.
To this initial impulse given by the Herald of our Faith, whilst confined in the heart of far-away Asia, a still greater force was communicated, and a more specific direction given, when the Author of our Faith Himself, having already set foot on the fringes of the continent of Europe, addressed, in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, from behind the walls of the prison-city of `Akká, some of the most celebrated passages of that Book to the Chief Magistrates of the entire American continent, bidding them "bind with the hands of justice the broken," and "crush the oppressor" with the "rod of the commandments" of their Lord. Unlike the kings of the earth whom He had so boldly condemned in that same Book, unlike the European Sovereigns whom He had either rebuked, warned or denounced, such as the French Emperor, the most powerful monarch of his time, the Conqueror of that monarch, the Heir of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Caliph of Islam, the Rulers of America were not only spared the ominous and emphatic warnings which He uttered against the crowned heads of the world, but were called upon to bring their corrective and healing influence to bear upon the injustices perpetrated by the tyrannical and the ungodly. To this remarkable pronouncement, conferring such distinction upon the sovereign rulers of the Western Hemisphere, must be added not only the passages in which the Author of our Faith clearly foreshadows the revelation of the "signs of His dominion" in the West, but also the no less significant verbal affirmations which, according to reliable eye-witnesses, He more than once made in regard to the glorious destiny which America was to attain in the days to come.
That same impulse was markedly accelerated when the Center of the Covenant Himself, through a series of successive acts, chose to disclose, to an unprecedented extent, the character of the Mission reserved for the followers of Bahá'u'lláh in that continent, and to delineate the tasks whereby that God-given design was to be fulfilled. No sooner had He mounted the helm of the Faith than He unmistakably revealed to His followers His purpose of making the establishment of that Faith in the West, and particularly in the New World, one of the chief objectives of His ministry. No sooner had that great feat been accomplished than He undertook to visit those centers which His disciples had labored to establish, and, through a number of symbolic acts and weighty pronouncements, to pave the way for the inauguration of the collective undertaking He was preparing those disciples to carry out. In the Tablets of the Divine Plan, revealed at a later stage, and in circumstances almost as critical as those which had accompanied the inception of the Faith in the West, and which may be designated as the Charter of the Plan with which He was to entrust them in the evening of His life, He, in a language still more graphic and in terms more definite than those used by either the Báb or Bahá'u'lláh, revealed the high distinction and the glorious work which America, and particularly the United States and Canada, was to achieve in both the Formative and Golden Ages of the Bahá'í Dispensation.
His references to the "extraordinary brilliancy" of the light which His Father's Revelation was to shed in the West; His prediction that "the West will have replaced the East" "through the splendor" of that Faith; His specific prophecies regarding the future of the American continent, as the "land wherein the splendors of His light shall be revealed" and "the mysteries of His Faith shall be unveiled," and which "will lead all nations spiritually"; His even more specific tribute to the Great Republic of the West which He proclaims to be "worthy of being the first to build the Tabernacle of the Most Great Peace and proclaim the oneness of mankind," to be "equipped and empowered to accomplish that which will adorn the pages of history, to become the envy of the world, and be blest in both the East and the West"; His yet more startling words addressed to the followers of the Faith in that Republic, referring to them as "apostles of Bahá'u'lláh," characterizing their mission as "unspeakably glorious," and assuring them that "should success crown your enterprise ... the throne of the Kingdom of God will, in the plenitude of its majesty and glory, be firmly established"; and finally, His soul-stirring assertion that "the moment this Divine Message is carried forward by the American believers from the shores of America, and is propagated through the continents of Europe, of Asia, of Africa and of Australasia, and as far as the islands of the Pacific, this community will find itself securely established upon the throne of an everlasting dominion," and that "the whole earth" will "resound with the praises of its majesty and greatness"--all these, in conjunction with the explicit and detailed instructions embodied in His Tablets, in connection with the execution of their mission, may be regarded as having fixed the pattern, and revealed a measure of the glory, of the Plan itself, which, after His ascension, was to be collectively and formally prosecuted.
The creation of the administrative machinery of the Faith, according to the precepts laid down in `Abdu'l-Bahá's Will and Testament, and on which, during the opening years of its Formative Age, the resources and attention of the trustees of the Plan were chiefly concentrated, provided, after several years of assiduous labor, the agencies for its proper and systematic execution. The first stage of that enterprise, which had been held in abeyance, for well nigh twenty years, while the administrative institutions of the Faith were slowly taking shape and were being perfected, was finally launched during the last decade of that same century whose opening years will be associated with the earliest though veiled intimation of the phenomenal destiny which the followers of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in the New World are to fulfill. The successful consummation of the first stage of that long-deferred Mission, made possible through the brilliant execution of a Seven Year Plan, embracing the entire Western Hemisphere, synchronized with, and was befittingly commemorated through, the historic celebrations that marked the termination of that century.
The opening decade of the second Bahá'í century coincides with the launching of the second Seven Year Plan, destined alike to consolidate the exploits that have shed such lustre on the last years of the preceding century, and to carry the Plan a stage further across the ocean to the shores of the Old World, and to communicate, through the operation of its regenerative power, its healing influence to the peoples of the most afflicted, impoverished and agitated continent of the globe. We who stand on the threshold of this gigantic and two-fold undertaking are unable to discern the exact course which its immediate operation, both on the home front and in fields far from the scene of its earliest victories, is destined to take, the setbacks it may suffer, or the triumphs it must ultimately achieve. The objectives, however, which must orientate its prosecutors, and arouse them to a higher pitch of concerted endeavor, are clearly defined, and by no means beyond their collective power to achieve.
The double task already undertaken to enlarge the basis of the administrative structure of the Faith throughout the states and provinces of the North American continent and throughout Latin America, and to proclaim its truths and principles to the masses, should be relentlessly pursued, whilst the range of the operation of the Plan is being steadily enlarged. The administrative centers--foci at which the ever expanding activities of a rising Order must converge--whose total number had not exceeded forty at the time of `Abdu'l-Bahá's visit to America, which at the inception of the first Seven Year Plan had risen to three hundred, and had swelled to over a thousand ere the expiry of the first Bahá'í century, should through resolute effort and careful planning, be continually and speedily multiplied. Particular care should be constantly exercised to enable the groups scattered throughout the length and breadth of the states and provinces of the United States and Canada to attain Assembly status, and assume gradually the responsibilities and functions assigned to them in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Tablets of `Abdu'l-Bahá. A corresponding increase in the number of such centers throughout both Central and South America should likewise be aimed at. Bolder measures designed to proclaim the verities of the Faith, its tenets, its claims and the purpose of its institutions, through the press and radio, through displays, exhibits and conferences, and through a wider dissemination of its literature in English, Spanish and Portuguese, as well as a more convincing presentation of its aims and teachings to the leaders of public opinion, should, moreover, be seriously and systematically undertaken not only in the mother country but also throughout the Latin Republics where the structural basis of Bahá'u'lláh's embryonic Order has already been established.
Collateral with this process of consolidation in North, Central and South America, a special effort should be exerted to bring to a final conclusion the construction of the most holy Temple which will ever be erected by the followers of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, and whose inception, forty-three years ago, synchronized with the erection in the city of Ishqabad of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkár of the Bahá'í world. The completion of the interior ornamentation of the Temple, following upon its exterior decoration, and fitting it for the purposes for which it was ordained, and coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of its inception, will, in itself, pave the way for the gradual erection of those Dependencies which are designed to supplement the functions which the Central Edifice is destined to perform, and whose future development must needs be provided for during successive stages in the unfoldment of the Divine Plan itself.
Parallel with this double process of consolidation and construction particular attention should be devoted to the provision of the necessary means whereby the newly fledged centers in the Dominion of Canada and throughout the Republics of Latin America can be coordinated and further consolidated, through the formation of three National Spiritual Assemblies, designed to participate in time in the international elections that must precede the constitution of the First Universal House of Justice. The erection of these three pillars, raising to eleven the number of existing National Spiritual Assemblies, which are to be designated in future as Secondary Houses of Justice, and are designed to support the highest legislative body in the administrative hierarchy of the Faith, will, as the Divine Plan continues to unfold, be supplemented by the formation of similar bodies which, as they multiply, will, of necessity, broaden the basis and reinforce the representative character, of the supreme elective institution which, in conjunction with the institution of Guardianship, must direct and coordinate the activities of a world-encircling Faith. Through the formation of these National Spiritual Assemblies, as the implications of the Divine Plan gradually unfold in the coming years, the American Bahá'í Community will, in addition to its missionary activities throughout five continents and the islands of the seven seas, be contributing directly to the laying of the foundation, and hastening the formation, of an institution which, when constituted, will have consummated the threefold process involved in the erection of the total structure of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.
In conjunction with these afore-mentioned objectives, and in a sense, more far-reaching in its repercussions and of greater urgency, is the task of extending the ramifications of the Divine Plan to a continent which not only stands in dire need of the ennobling, the reinvigorating, and spiritualizing influence of a world-redeeming Faith, but must serve as a stepping-stone to the spiritual conquest of the vast and numerous territories, lying as yet beyond the scope of the plan, in both the Asiatic and African continents, and which must, in the course of successive epochs, be warmed and illuminated by the rays of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation as prescribed in the Tablets revealed by the Center of His Covenant and the Authorized Interpreter of His teachings.
In the western extremity of that continent, in the Iberian Peninsula, the parent land and fountain-head of the culture of those Republics which have already been quickened by the first stirrings of the Plan conceived by `Abdu'l-Bahá; in the extreme North, among the Scandinavian peoples, and further south, amidst their Flemish and French neighbors, whose conversion will considerably enrich the diversity of the races to be included within the orbit of its operation; in the extreme South, in the Italian Peninsula, the cradle of a far-famed civilization and the seat and stronghold of the most powerful Church in Christendom; in the very heart of that continent, amidst a freedom-loving, peace-pursuing, high-minded people, the prosecutors of the second Seven Year Plan must, preferably in the capitals of these countries, arise to establish, on an unassailable foundation, the structural basis of the nascent institutions of their Faith, which future promoters of the Divine Plan must, in the course of succeeding epochs, enlarge, and thereon erect the mightiest edifices of that Faith. Any assistance which the National Spiritual Assemblies of the Bahá'ís of the British Isles and of Germany can, through the instrumentality of their Publishing Committees and other agencies, extend, any facilities which the establishment of an Office, acting as an adjunct to the International Bahá'í Bureau in Geneva can provide, should be promptly and fully utilized for the speedy accomplishment of the initial tasks to be undertaken in Europe under the present Seven Year Plan.
Through the prompt settlement of nine wholly dedicated souls, aglow with enthusiasm and keenly aware of the plight of the peoples for whose sake they are abandoning the comfort and security of their homeland, and who will head the Roll of Honor as the curtain rises on this new and glorious phase of American Bahá'í enterprise; through the dispatch of itinerant teachers who, either delegated by the American National Spiritual Assembly or of their own accord, will cross and re-cross the vast distances, now providentially shrunk, which separate the old and new worlds, who will assiduously water the seeds sown by these pioneers, consolidate the work already started by isolated believers, and act as intermediaries between the various groups which, as the present Plan develops, must evolve into Spiritual Assemblies; through the vigorous dissemination of literature, properly translated, promptly printed, and comprehensive in range, in French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch and each of the Scandinavian languages; through a steady process of concentration on a few receptive souls, who can be relied upon to embrace, wholeheartedly and with alacrity, the truth of the Faith, identify themselves unreservedly with its tenets, actively support its institutions, and join in forming its initial Assemblies; through the persistent efforts, at a later stage, of a considerable number of settlers who, joining forces with the original pioneers and the native and newly enrolled believers, will provide the necessary requisites for the constitution of properly functioning local Assemblies; through the participation, as the situation on the continent improves and the restrictions are relaxed, of these settlers, itinerant teachers, native and isolated believers in conferences and organizations, humanitarian, educational and otherwise designed to promote ends akin to our own; through the liberal supply of funds to those who have forsaken their homes and kindred in the new world, and journeyed so far afield in the service of both their Faith and their fellowmen; through the exertion of a special effort, as the present Plan approaches its close and the general condition in most European countries improves, aimed at securing, through the radio and the press, the widest possible publicity for the Faith, its tenets and institutions, to serve as a means of reinforcing the number of its avowed promoters and of consolidating the basis of its evolving institutions--through these, and similar measures which the American National Spiritual Assembly and its European Teaching Committee may initiate and promote, the American Bahá'í Community must demonstrate, in this new field of their inter-continental enterprise, an initiative, a tenacity, a resourcefulness, a self-sacrifice and an audacity comparable to, and even exceeding, the qualities evinced by those who, ever since the inception of the Faith in the West, have, haphazardly, single-handed and with no organization to sustain them, labored with such fidelity and devotion in various countries throughout that continent.
The first century of the Bahá'í Era witnessed in darkest Persia the birth of the Faith, as well as the establishment of the Administrative Order--the Child of that Faith--an Order which, cradled in the heart of the North American continent, has already succeeded, in less than a decade and in direct consequence of the initial operation of `Abdu'l-Bahá's Plan, and through the concerted, the sustained, and richly blessed efforts of the champion builders of that Order, in spreading out its roots and in rearing its institutions in no less than twenty Republics throughout the length and breadth of the Western Hemisphere. The second century is destined to witness a tremendous deployment and a notable consolidation of the forces working towards the world-wide development of that Order, as well as the first stirrings of that World Order, of which the present Administrative System is at once the precursor, the nucleus and pattern--an Order which, as it slowly crystallizes and radiates its benign influence over the entire planet, will proclaim at once the coming of age of the whole human race, as well as the maturity of the Faith itself, the progenitor of that Order. As the Plan bequeathed by `Abdu'l-Bahá unfolds, through successive decades of the present century, its measureless potentialities, and gathers within the field of its operations nation after nation in successive continents of the globe, it will be increasingly recognized not only as the most potent agency for the development of the world Administrative System, but also as a primary factor in the birth and efflorescence of the World Order itself in both the East and the West.
The first Seven Year Plan, ushered in on the eve of the greatest conflict that has ever shaken the human race, has, despite six years of chaos and tribulation, been crowned with a success far exceeding the most sanguine hopes of its ardent promoters. Within so short a period, during such troublous years, such exploits were achieved as will forever illuminate the pages of Bahá'í history. The exterior ornamentation of the House of Worship was completed sixteen months before the appointed time. The administrative basis of the Faith was laid in every virgin state and province of the North American continent. The number of Spiritual Assemblies in the United States and Canada was almost doubled. No less than fourteen Republics of Latin America were provided with such Assemblies. Active groups began to function in the remaining Republics, raising thereby the number of sovereign states within the pale of the Faith to sixty. Extension work in which the newly constituted Assemblies were vigorously participating was initiated. Two of the newly fledged Assemblies in Latin America, as well as a considerable number in the United States, were incorporated. An International School to provide training for Bahá'í teachers in Central and South America was founded. Considerable literature in Spanish and Portuguese was disseminated. Newspaper and radio publicity, teacher training courses, and Bahá'í Youth Symposiums were inaugurated. A distributing center of Bahá'í literature for Latin America was established in the capital of Argentina, and the outposts of the Faith, in the Western Hemisphere, were pushed as far north as Anchorage in Alaska, in the vicinity of the Arctic Circle, and as far as the extremity of Chile, to Magellanes, the world's southernmost city.
The second Seven Year Plan, set in motion on the morrow of that universal and cataclysmic upheaval, must, despite the great confusion that still prevails, the spiritual torpor, the disillusionment, the embitterment, the political and social restlessness that still afflict the human race, meet, as it gathers momentum and multiplies its agencies across the ocean, in lands and amidst races that have borne, for the most part, the brunt of this dire and bloody contest, with a success no less startling and complete than that which rewarded the self-sacrifice, the vigilance and the strenuous labors of those who inaugurated the initial phase of this glorious Mission. Might not this second and still greater adventure, undertaken by the trustees of a God-Given Mandate, demonstrate in both hemispheres, despite the prodigious scale on which it is launched, such prodigies of service as will carry its prosecutors far beyond their avowed objectives, and eclipse, through the wisdom, the valor and the exploits of those pioneers and administrators immediately responsible for its planning and execution, the splendor of every previous collective enterprise undertaken by the followers of Bahá'u'lláh in the West?
Let them as they gird up their loins, as they deliberate in their council chambers, as they embark on their bold and holy mission, as they encounter the hazards, and suffer the setbacks, and are confronted with the formidable obstacles, which so vast, so complex, so arduous an enterprise must necessarily involve, call to mind the illuminating, the comforting, the sustaining words enshrined for all time in those epoch-making Tablets wherein the unerring pen of their Master has traced the course of their mission: "May America become the distributing center of spiritual enlightenment, and all the world receive this heavenly blessing! For America has developed powers and capacities greater and more wonderful than other nations... May the inhabitants of this country ... rise from their present material attainments to such a height that heavenly illumination may stream from this center to all the peoples of the world." And again: "O ye apostles of Bahá'u'lláh! May my life be sacrificed for you!... Behold the portals which Bahá'u'lláh hath opened before you. Consider how exalted and lofty is the station you are destined to attain; how unique the favors with which you have been endowed... The full measure of your success is as yet unrevealed, its significance still unapprehended. Ere long ye will, with your own eyes, witness how brilliantly every one of you, even as a shining star, will radiate in the firmament of your country the light of Divine Guidance, and will bestow upon its people the glory of an everlasting life.... The range of your future achievements still remains undisclosed. I fervently hope that in the near future the whole earth may be stirred and shaken by the results of your achievements. The Almighty will no doubt grant you the help of His grace, will invest you with the tokens of His might, and will endue your souls with the sustaining power of His Holy Spirit." And again: "Be not concerned with the smallness of your numbers, neither be oppressed by the multitude of an unbelieving world... Exert yourselves; your mission is unspeakably glorious. Should success crown your enterprise, America will assuredly evolve into a center from which waves of spiritual power will emanate, and the throne of the Kingdom of God will, in the plenitude of its majesty and glory, be firmly established.... The hope which `Abdu'l-Bahá cherishes for you is that the same success which has attended your efforts in America may crown your endeavors in other parts of the world, that through you the fame of the Cause of God may be diffused throughout the East and the West and the advent of the Kingdom of the Lord of Hosts be proclaimed in all the five continents of the globe.... Thus far ye have been untiring in your labors. Let your exertions henceforth increase a thousandfold. Summon the people in these countries, capitals, islands, assemblies and churches to enter the Abhá Kingdom. The scope of your exertions must needs be extended. The wider its range, the more striking will be the evidence of Divine assistance." And finally, this apocalyptic vision of the consummation of the task entrusted to the American Bahá'í community, as evoked by that same Pen in those same Tablets: "The moment this Divine Message is carried forward by the American believers from the shores of America, and is propagated through the continents of Europe, of Asia, of Africa and of Australasia, and as far as the islands of the Pacific, this community will find itself securely established upon the throne of an everlasting dominion. Then will all the peoples of the world witness that this community is spiritually illumined and divinely guided. Then will the whole earth resound with the praises of its majesty and greatness."
What greater reward can crown the labors of that community, now launched on the second stage of its world mission, than that the consummation of the second Seven Year Plan should coincide with the celebrations commemorating the centenary of the "Year Nine," the year which alike marked the termination of the Bábí Dispensation, and signalized the birth of Bahá'u'lláh's prophetic Mission? It was at a time when the Faith for which the Báb had suffered and died was hovering on the brink of extinction, when Bahá'u'lláh lay wrapped in the gloom of the Siyáh-Chál of Tihrán, His feet in stocks, His neck freighted with chains, and surrounded by vile and wretched criminals, that the auspicious year 1269 A.H., acclaimed by the Báb as the "Year Nine," dawned upon the world, ushering in the most glorious and momentous stage in the Heroic Age of the greatest religious Dispensation in the spiritual history of mankind. To that year He had referred as the year in which "the realities of the created things" will "be made manifest," the year in which mankind "will attain unto all good," in which the "&Bayan," as yet "in the stage of seed," will manifest "its ultimate perfection," in which the "embryo of the Faith will attain the station of `the most comely of forms,'" and in which "a new creation" will be beheld. It was in that same year that the "third woe," as anticipated by St. John the Divine, quickly succeeded the second. To that same year &Shaykh-Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i, who had heralded the Faith of the Báb, had alluded as the year "after Hin" (68), when, according to his written testimony, the "mystery" of the Cause of God would be "manifested," and the "secret" of His Message "divulged." It was in that same year that, according to Bahá'u'lláh Himself, "the requisite number of pure, of wholly consecrated, and sanctified souls" had been "most secretly consummated."
It was in such dramatic circumstances, recalling the experience of Moses when face to face with the Burning Bush in the wilderness of Sinai, the successive visions of Zoroaster, the opening of the heavens and the descent of the Dove upon Christ in the Jordan, the cry of Gabriel heard by Muhammad in the Cave of Hira, and the dream of the Báb, in which the blood of the Imam Husayn touched and sanctified His lips, that Bahá'u'lláh, He "around Whom the Point of the Bayan hath revolved," and the Vehicle of the greatest Revelation the world has yet seen, received the first intimation of His sublime Mission, and that a ministry which, alike in its duration and fecundity, is unsurpassed in the religious history of mankind, was inaugurated. It was on that occasion that the "Most Great Spirit," as designated by Bahá'u'lláh Himself, revealed itself to Him, in the form of a "Maiden," and bade Him "lift up" His "voice between earth and heaven" --that same Spirit which, in the Zoroastrian, the Mosaic, the Christian, and Muhammadan Dispensations, had been respectively symbolized by the "Sacred Fire," the "Burning Bush," the "Dove," and the "Angel Gabriel."
"One night in a dream," Bahá'u'lláh Himself, recounting His soul-shaking experience of the first stirrings of His prophetic Mission, in the Year Nine, in that abominable pit, has written, "these exalted words were heard on every side: `Verily, We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself and by Thy Pen. Grieve Thou not for that which hath befallen Thee, neither be Thou afraid, for Thou art in safety. Ere long will God raise up the treasures of the earth--men who will aid Thee through Thyself and through Thy Name, wherewith God hath revived the hearts of such as have recognized Him'." And again, "During the days I lay in the prison of Tihrán, though the galling weight of the chains and the stench-filled air allowed Me but little sleep, still in those infrequent moments of slumber I felt as if something flowed from the crown of My head over My breast, even as a mighty torrent that precipitateth itself upon the earth from the summit of a lofty mountain. Every limb of My body would, as a result, be set afire. At such moments My tongue recited what no man could bear to hear."
What still greater reward could await those who, inspired by the success achieved by the prosecutors of the second Seven Year Plan, will have arisen to carry forward to a triumphant conclusion the third phase of the Mission entrusted to them by `Abdu'l-Bahá, than that their prodigious labors, having embraced territories far beyond the confines of the continents of Europe and of America, should climax in, and be worthily commemorated through, the world-wide celebrations of the "Most Great Festival," the "King of Festivals," the "Festival of God" Himself--the Festival associated with the accession of Him Who is the Lord of the Kingdom to the throne of everlasting glory, and with the formal assumption by Him of His prophetic office? What greater reward than that the consummation of the third Seven Year Plan, marking the close of the first, and signalizing the opening of the second, epoch in the evolution of the Divine Plan, should synchronize with that greatest of all Jubilees, related to the year 1335, mentioned by Daniel in the last Chapter of His Book, and associated by `Abdu'l-Bahá with the world triumph of His Father's Faith? What greater glory than that those who have brought this initial epoch in the resistless march of a world-embracing Plan to a triumphant termination should be made to feel that they, and those gone before them, have, through their collective, their sustained, and heroic endeavors, organized through three successive stages, and covering a span of almost a quarter of a century, been vouchsafed by the Almighty the privilege of contributing, more than any other community consciously laboring in the service of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, to this blissful consummation, and to have played a preponderating role in the world triumph of its institutions?
Dearly-beloved friends! It is not for us, at this crucial hour, to delve into the future, to speculate on the possibilities of the Plan and its orientation, to conjecture on its impact on the unfoldment of an embryonic World Order, or to dwell on the glories and triumphs which it may hold in store, or to seek to delineate the mysterious course which a God given Mission, impelled by forces beyond our power to predict or appraise, may pursue. To try to obtain a clear view of the shape of things to come would be premature inasmuch as the glittering prizes to be won are directly dependent on the measure of success which the combined efforts that are now being exerted must yield. Ours is the duty to fix our gaze with undeviating attention on the duties and responsibilities confronting us at this present hour, to concentrate our resources, both material and spiritual, on the tasks that lie immediately ahead, to insure that no time is wasted, that no opportunity is missed, that no obligation is evaded, that no task is half-heartedly performed, that no decision is procrastinated. The task summoning us to a challenge, unprecedented in its gravity and force, is too vast and sacred, the time too short, the hour too perilous, the workers too few, the call too insistent, the resources too inadequate, for us to allow these precious and fleeting hours to slip from our grasp, and to suffer the prizes within our reach to be endangered or forfeited. So much depends upon us, so pregnant with possibilities is the present stage in the evolution of the Plan, that great and small, individuals, groups and Assemblies, white and colored, young and old, neophytes and veterans, settlers, pioneers, itinerant teachers and administrators, as isolated believers, as organizers of groups, and as contributors to the formation of local or national Assemblies, as builders of the Temple, as laborers on the home teaching front, or in Latin America, or in the new transatlantic field of service--all, without exception and in every sphere of activity, however modest, restricted, or inconspicuous, must participate and labor, assiduously and continually, until every ounce of our energy is spent, until, tired but blissful, our promised harvest is brought in, and our pledge to our Beloved fully redeemed.
However dark the outlook, however laborious the task, however strange and inhospitable the environment, however vast the distances that must be traversed, however scarce the amenities of life, however irksome the means of travel, however annoying the restrictions, however listless and confused the minds of the peoples and races contacted, however trying the setbacks that may be suffered, we must, under no circumstances, either falter or flinch. Our reliance on the unfailing grace of an all-loving, all-preserving, ever-sustaining, ever-watchful Providence, must, however much we may be buffeted by circumstances, remain unshaken until the very end. Shall we not, when hardships seethe about us, and our hearts momentarily quail, recall the ardent desire so poignantly voiced by `Abdu'l-Bahá in those immortal Tablets that enshrine forever His last wishes for His chosen disciples: "Oh! that I could travel, even though on foot and in the utmost poverty, to these regions, and, raising the call of Ya-Baha'u'l-Abha in cities, villages, mountains, deserts and oceans, promote the Divine teachings! This, also, I cannot do. How intensely I deplore it! Please God, ye may achieve it."
To be privileged to render, in His stead, on so colossal a scale, at such a challenging hour, and in the service of so sublime a Plan, so great and enduring a service, is a bounty which we can never adequately appraise. We stand too close to the noble edifice our hands are rearing, the din and tumult into which a war-devastated world is now plunged are too distracting, our own share in the furtherance of those global aims, task and problems that are increasingly absorbing the attention of mankind and its leaders is as yet too circumscribed, for us to be in a position to evaluate the contribution which we, as the executors of `Abdu'l-Bahá's Mandate, as the champion-builders of Bahá'u'lláh's Order, as the torch-bearers of a civilization of which that Order is the mainspring and precursor, are now being led, through the inscrutable dispensations of an almighty Providence, to make to the world triumph of our Faith, as well as to the ultimate redemption of all mankind.
Great have been the blessings, and divers the bestowals, vouchsafed to this Community ever since the compelling will of a loving Master called it into being, and raised it up for the glory and honor of His Father's Faith. Unnumbered have been the marks of solicitude which, down the years, He showered upon it, as He nursed it in its infancy, as He fostered its growth, as He sent forth His messengers and communicated His written instructions to initiate it into the mysteries of His Cause, as He vitalized it through personal contact with His own dynamic and vibrant personality, as He consecrated, through a series of significant acts, the initial activities which He Himself had enabled it to inaugurate, as He invested it, at a later stage, in the evening of His life, with that primacy that was to empower it to launch the Plan which He had conceived for its future development, as He, through the sustaining power of His spirit from on high, assisted it to erect the framework of those institutions that were to safeguard its unfoldment and canalize its energies, as He led it forward to embark upon the first stage of His own revealed Plan which was to enable it to achieve such exploits and garner such a harvest in the virgin territories of the New World, and as He, with that same watchful and loving care, is now marshalling its forces and sounding the signal for a still greater and more brilliant deployment of those forces, at a time of great commotion and distress, in one of the most agitated storm centers of the world.
Strange, indeed, as we look back over the last fifty years that have witnessed the creation and unfoldment of so powerful an agency for the execution of Bahá'u'lláh's purpose for mankind, that he who had first raised his voice in public on behalf of so mighty a Faith should have sprung from the ranks and been recognized as one of the leading representatives of that narrow and hostile ecclesiastical order which, as the Faith advances and storms still greater heights, will increasingly launch against it its determined attacks. Stranger still that he whom posterity will recognize to have been the founder of that Faith in the Western Hemisphere, whom the Center of the Covenant, in recognition of so signal a service, had acclaimed as "Bahá's Peter" and "the Second Columbus", should have, in his vanity and ambition, deserted the Fold he had labored to gather, should have allied himself with the Arch-Breaker of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, and remained until the end of his life, a sworn and bitter enemy of the One Who had entrusted him with such a holy and historic errand, and conferred upon him such glowing tributes. More extraordinary still that he who had been instrumental in carrying the Tablets of the Divine Plan from the One Who had revealed them to those into whose care they were to be committed, who had enjoyed, for so long and so intimately, near access to his Master as amanuensis, companion and interpreter, should have been blinded by his inordinate ambition, and should have arisen, with all the resources at his disposal, to attack and undermine the institutions of an Order which, springing from the authentic Will of `Abdu'l-Bahá, had been designed by Him to be the chief instrument for the vigorous prosecution of that Plan and the fulfillment of its ultimate purpose.
Such reflections, far from engendering in our minds and hearts the slightest trace of perplexity, of discouragement or doubt, should reinforce the basis of our convictions, demonstrate to us the incorruptibility, the strange workings and the invincibility of a Faith which, despite the assaults which malignant and redoubtable enemies from the ranks of kings, princes and ecclesiastics have repeatedly launched against it, and the violent internal tests that have shaken it for more than a century, and the relative obscurity of its champions, and the unpropitiousness of the times and the perversity of the generations contemporaneous with its rise and growth, has gone from strength to strength, has preserved its unity and integrity, has diffused its light over five continents, reared the institutions of its Administrative Order and spread its ramifications to the four corners of the earth, and launched its systematic campaigns in both the Western and Eastern Hemispheres.
For such benefits, for such an arresting and majestic vindication of the
undefeatable powers inherent in our precious Faith, we can but bow our
heads in humility, awe and thanksgiving, renew our pledge of fealty to it, and,
each covenanting in his own heart, resolve to prove faithful to that pledge,
and persevere to the very end, until our earthly share of servitude to so
transcendent and priceless a Cause has been totally and completely fulfilled.
June 15, 1946.