As sure as spring follows winter, better times are ahead
by Ted Slavinpublished in St. Catharines Standard
St. Catharines, Ontario: 2011
Though the day in April on which I'm writing this column could only be described as chilly, we've already had a sweet taste of the warm spring and summer days before us. These days of warmth give obvious signs of awakening and renewal wherever we look.
We can take the classic perspective of the season's beauty, marvelling over new shoots of green pushing up, birds singing with full force and the smell of life in the air. We can also take the more pedestrian view of the season, gawking over a classic Camaro with the windows rolled down, tunes beating from homes with full force and the smell of barbecued honey-garlic ribs in the air.
Though everyone has different tastes, spring seems to offer something for everyone. Spring's hook for me is the first breeze it offers that no longer makes you brace yourself for the cold bite it carried in winter. Once that breeze hits, my positive thoughts seem to come more easily, greetings more cordial and inspiration for thoughts and action start to flow more freely. It's a season that calls for celebration.
Many celebrate festivals in spring in connection with the traditions of our respective faith. Is the timing of this season of renewal and religious festivals simply a coincidence?
The Bahá'í Writings have many references to the physical world being a reflection or symbol of spiritual reality. For example, the sun is responsible for the light energy and heat that sustains physical life on the planet. The relationship is a symbol for the sustenance and bounties we receive from God as we orient our souls toward Him for our spiritual life.
The season of spring, too, can reflect the spiritual renewal that takes place when Messengers of God appear in stages of humanity's growth. Just as there was a renewal of spiritual energies released with the appearance of Messengers such as, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Christ, Muhammad and Bahá'u'lláh, so too was there an advance in scientific and social progress.
'Abdu'l-Bahá, a central figure deeply revered by Bahá'ís, wrote the following on the spiritual springtime that comes with a Messenger's appearance: "... just as the solar cycle has its four seasons, the cycle of the Sun of Reality has its distinct and successive periods. Each brings its vernal season or springtime. When the Sun of Reality returns to quicken the world of mankind a divine bounty descends from the heaven of generosity. The realm of thoughts and ideals is set in motion and blessed with new life. Minds are developed, hopes brighten, aspirations become spiritual, the virtues of the human world appear with freshened power of growth and the image and likeness of God become visible in man. It is the springtime of the inner world."
Every April 21, Bahá'ís celebrate the Festival of Ridván (meaning paradise) that marks the anniversary that Bahá'u'lláh declared His mission in 1863. For Bahá'ís, this festival marks the most recent spiritual renewal for humanity. How the celebrations are observed around the world vary due to the various cultures and traditions, but a constant is that they are filled with joy.
Though this year's celebration will be joyful again, there will remain a concern for the Bahá'ís currently imprisoned in Iran -- imprisoned simply for being Bahá'ís. After nearly three years in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, Iranian Bahá'í leaders have been subjected to absurd allegations (including "corruption on Earth") and a tortuous judicial process. Their most recent trial session, a closed hearing, took place on April 12 with no details available at the time of writing this column.
With the joys of our Ridván celebration, we will be praying for the immediate reunification of the imprisoned Iranian Bahá'ís with their families so that they, too, may once again enjoy their freedom in the beauty of spring.
We'll also be anticipating brighter days, not only for Iranian Bahá'ís but for all people under the yoke of oppression around the world -- an oppression that will end with the recognition of the human race as one family with rich diversity.
Better times are ahead; just as sure as the spring follows winter.