A night to remember
I’d been babysitting until almost midnight on Saturday evening, so it was already a late night. I dived straight into bed and was fast asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. I was deeply immersed in some crazy dream when the radio alarm went off. I was sleeping so heavily that it took me a few seconds to realise that the crazy, squawking voices on the radio weren’t actually part of my dream. Opening my eyes reluctantly, I saw that it was 2.25 am. Time to get up!
Why was I getting up after less than two and a half hours sleep? May 29 is a holy day marking the death of Baha’u’llah in 1892. Baha’is commemorate this momentous event at the exact time of his passing: 3am.
With considerable effort, I dragged myself out of bed, threw on some clothes, grabbed my beanie for its first outing of the winter and set off into the cold night.
Wandering home in the early hours was a normal Saturday night occurrence in my youth. I loved the deserted streets of the sleeping city. But now , years of family responsibility and total lack of all-night party invites made the deserted early-morning streets a lot less inviting.
It was just a short drive to some friends’ house for the commemoration and my lack of sleep and unfamiliarity with the early-morning world beyond my bedroom fortress was worth the effort.
The house was the only one in the long street with lights on and cars parked outside. I was almost the last to arrive. Everyone was squashed into the front room, sitting in respectful silence, some on the floor, with the heater simmering defiantly at the crisp night air outside. One more person arrived after me and then we started.
The program consisted of a couple of songs on CD, both setting Baha’i scriptures to music, and a series of readings — both prayers and accounts of Baha’u’llah’s passing. The readings were passed from hand to hand as we each took it in turns to read.
I testify that through Thee the sovereignty of God and His dominion, and the majesty of God and His grandeur, were revealed, and the Daystars of ancient splendor have shed their radiance in the heaven of Thine irrevocable decree, and the Beauty of the Unseen hath shone forth above the horizon of creation.*
As the readings rolled out around the room, the sense of occasion grew. We were commemorating that night in 1892 when Baha’u’llah, the Prophet of Messenger of God for our age departed this life at the age of 74 in a house in Bahji near Acre, Palestine (now Israel). He had spent the last 40 years in exile from his native Persia (Iran). Palestine was the final destination to which he was banished.
I bear witness that he who hath known Thee hath known God, and he who hath attained unto Thy presence hath attained unto the presence of God.*
I thought back to 1992 when I attended the centenary commemoration of Baha’u’llah’s death (referred to as “Ascension”) in the gardens at Bahji where Baha’u’llah died and his shrine now stands, the holiest place on Earth for Baha’is.
May my spirit be a sacrifice to the wrongs Thou didst suffer, and my soul be a ransom for the adversities Thou didst sustain.*
The early morning event this year was a much smaller, more informal gathering but there was that same potent air as we marked what is an event of huge significance both for Baha’is and for the world to whom Baha’u’llah, the divine physician, brought a remedy from God.
*From The Tablet of Visitation by Baha’u’llah