Posted by Brett Zamir (184.108.40.206) on May 16, 2003 at 16:33:30:
In Reply to: Nineteen day feasts posted by simon on May 15, 2003 at 18:38:22:
Anything done repetitively and in a certain form could be considered a ritual. The obligatory prayer is a ritual. Holding Feast itself is a kind of ritual. I believe the operative phrase is a "minimum of ritual", where the connotation of ritual is, I would venture, excessive, encrusted dogma with no real spiritual significance or divine sanction, which instead of allowing us to better focus through a moderate amount of repetition or fixed form, rather constrains us unduly by everything becoming a meaingless obligation. This lack of ritual can be seen both in the lack of prescribed rites for the individual besides just one short daily obligatory prayer and some recitations, and in group ceremonies, where no congregational prayer is permitted except for funerals and where public gesticulations, use of artifacts, clergy, etc. have no place.
Personally, I feel the structure of the devotional portion of the Feast lends itself well to upliftment and contemplation. The supplications of prayers enables us to ask for God's assistance that we may become open channels of His Spirit. The meditations follow that we may have specific guidance to consider and possibly implement in our lives. Moreover, the initial focus on "sacred verses" or words of the Manifestations do convey more power, and also I think, along with 'Abdu'l-Baha's prayers, generally have a different tone, so I think it avoids disruptions to meditation and spiritual communion to have them progress in the given order.
The content and order is indicated in the following which are from "Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities" section 9.22, Online at http://www.bahai-library.org/nsa/distinctive.communities.txt
"During the devotional part of the 19 Day Feast any part of the writings of the Bab, Baha'u'llah and the Master can be read, also from the Bible and Qur'an, as these are all sacred scriptures. This part of the meeting need not be confined to prayers, though prayers can and should be read during it."
Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, in Baha'i Meetings/The Nineteen
Day Feast, p. 29
"The Feast is opened with devotional readings, that is to say prayers and meditations, from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, the Bab and the Master. Following this, passages may be read from other Tablets, from the Holy Scriptures of previous Dispensations, and from the writings of the Guardian. It is clear, however, that the beloved Guardian would not wish his own words to be read as part of an arranged devotional program in which they would be interspersed among the words of Holy Scriptures. In other words, at the Nineteen Day Feast, where the words of the Guardian are to be read they should follow any selections from the Scriptures and not be mixed with them."
Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, dated
August 25, 1965
Also for your information, readings inside the auditorium of the House of Worship are further constrained in that unlike at the Feast, musical instruments (besides the human voice) cannot be used, nor as I recall are even Talks or Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Baha to be read (though His prayers may be) (and Writings from the Guardian are then of course not read either). I cannot find a quotation at the moment on the latter statement on 'Abdu'l-Baha's Tablets, however, so if you were interested in this also, you might try to confirm this independently, unless someone else could find such a quotation.
As far as restrictions to readings at devotional meetings, the precursors to the Houses of Worship, I have not heard of such restrictions as above, though it would be interesting, I think, to know whether there are any.
What is meant by limiting ritual, again, I think, is the accumulation of rituals not prescribed in the Writings. For example, the Guardian was quite insistent that National Assemblies or individuals did not add unprescribed restrictions such as requiring certain prayers to be read at certain times or for a number of times, in certain languages only, etc. etc. He said for example that no one had the power to add any obligatory prayer to those prescribed by Baha'u'llah.
Although there are numerous references in the Writings to specific conditions where rituals being added are discouraged, here is just one example:
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