art ~ spirit ~ transformation
e*lix*ir

e*lix*ir   #8
spring 2019
 

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Editorial

  • Forms of Exaltation: New Art for a New Age

  • Poetry

  • Poems
    by Imelda Maguire
  • e*lix*ir poets on the Kilkenny Poetry Trail

  • Translations

  • “I Tremble” by Rumi
    translated by Anthony A. Lee and Nesreen Akhtarkhavari

  • The Writing Life

  • Telling the Story of a Queen
    by Della Marcus

  • Memoir

  • Red
    by Lauren Laisying Turner

  • Personal Reflections on Bahá’í Texts

  • The Mystery of Proximity and Remoteness
    by A. Philip Christensen
  • A Night Never Before Witnessed
    by Patricia Verge

  • Art

  • Paintings
    by Brad Pokorny

  • Comic

  • “Ruhi & Riaz”
    by Solmaz Haghighat

  • Voices of Iran

  • The Love Bird
    by Zarrin Kasiri

  • Looking Back on Books

  • Glimpses of Hope, Selected Poems by Michael Fitzgerald
    by Rhonda Palmer
  • Point by Point: An Anthology of Poems...
  • State of the Art: Books for Children
    by Allison Grover


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    A Night Never Before Witnessed:

    Personal Reflections on Tablet # 44, Days of Remembrance

    (Bahá’í World Centre, 2017) *

    by Patricia Verge

    Introduction

    In this tablet, Bahá’u’lláh reflects on the unique and world-transforming moment in human history when the Manifestation of God for this age, was born. From the beginning of the tablet to its end, He implores us, His ardent lovers, in verses replete with metaphors and allusions, to recognize the uniqueness of this night and to rejoice in its coming. This tablet is sublimely poetic and uplifting, and the more we immerse ourselves in its words, the more its joy and promise will penetrate our hearts.

    Part One

    In this tablet, Bahá’u’lláh addresses His readers by means of various uplifting salutations: for example, “O Concourse of ardent lovers!” “O companions of the All-Merciful!” “O denizens of Paradise!” And He reiterates His call to rejoice throughout the tablet, with the words, “rejoice,” “joy,” and “joyful tiding” being used eleven times in the course of its 22 verses.

    The tablet opens with this announcement: “This is a night the like of which hath never been witnessed in the world of creation.” As the second verse affirms, not only has the entire creation been moved by this night, but the life of the world and of all its people have been thoroughly revolutionized by its advent: “This is a night wherein the Spirit intoned such a melody as to throw into commotion the inner realities of all men....”

    The third verse elaborates on the significance of the night, alluding to a truth at the heart of Bahá’í theology: that the reality of God can never be understood by human beings except through His Manifestation. It is through knowing His Manifestation that we know God. And to know God is to obey the commandments of His Manifestation as set down in His book, in which “every eternal command hath been expounded”:

    Whereupon did the Voice of God call out from within the Tabernacle of holiness and bounty: “This, indeed, is the night wherein He Who is the reality of the All-Merciful hath been born, the night wherein every eternal command hath been expounded by the Pen of the All-Glorious. Rejoice, then, with exceeding gladness, O concourse of the Bayan!”

    From verses five to nine, various metaphors are used to invoke the magnitude of the renewal that has taken place as a result of the advent of the Manifestation of God. We read that “the veils of glory were parted before the eyes of the people of certitude,” that “the oceans of forgiveness surged and the breezes of providence were wafted abroad,” “the trespasses of all that dwell on earth were forgiven,” and “the assigned measures of bounty and grace were inscribed upon the scrolls of might and assurance,” and all this so that “every trace of sorrow might thereby be banished forever from all things.” Should we, as a result of our unworthiness, be inclined to waver, these verses assure us of the great mercy of God.

    Part Two

    From verses 10 to 22, a second refrain closes each of the verses and serves to underline the majesty of this night: “And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the All-Glorious, the Most Bountiful.” It is a night celebrated by “the Spirit,” “the Voice of God,” “the Mystic Dove,” “the Bird of Heaven,” and “the Herald of the Spirit.” The Word of God is described here by means of the image of wine. It is “musk-scented wine” we are offered by Bahá’u’lláh, who, in fulfillment of the prophecies of the Bab in His book, the Qayyumu’l-Asma (Surih of Joseph) identifies Himself with the divine Joseph:

    And cups of crimson-coloured wine are being borne round by the hand of the divine Joseph and raised to the beauty of the All-Glorious. And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the Most Exalted, the Most Bountiful.

    As the tablet unfolds, we witness the progressive unveiling of the reality of the One whose Birth we are invited to commemorate: “The beauty of the Desired One hath shone forth in its naked glory,” Bahá’u’lláh writes. Like the sun, which illuminates the earth, the spiritual beauty of the Manifestation, the Best Beloved, is visible to all who have eyes to see: “The countenance of the Best-Beloved hath dawned above the horizon of holiness.”

    In the next verse of the tablet, Bahá’u’lláh alludes to the mystery of resurrection, viewed here as a symbolic rather than literal event in which the Spirit appears in a new Manifestation of God, and He declares that the proof that this event has taken place is the appearance of the Manifestation:

    The proof hath been fulfilled and the testimony established, inasmuch as the Resurrection hath come to pass through the appearance of God in the Manifestation of His own Self, the Ever-Abiding. And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the All-Glorious, the Most Bountiful.

    Next, Bahá’u’lláh affirms the promise enshrined in the Greater Covenant of God: namely, that humanity has never been and will never be abandoned. The time of expectation has come to an end, and spiritual truths and realities previously obscure are now manifest: “The veils have been burned away, the clouds have been rent asunder, the signs have been revealed and the allusions unravelled....”

    As the tablet builds toward its conclusion, the magnificence of this day, a day on which “every luminary hath beamed with delight” is evoked by a familiar symbol of renewal and growth in Bahá’í scripture: the tree. This day is one on which “God hath shed the splendor of His glory upon every tree adorned with verdant twigs...” and on which “the voices of eternity have rung out from every flourishing tree.”

    There is a gathering of the spiritual forces around this new epicenter of spiritual energy that is the Manifestation of God: “...the spirits have been gathered together, the divine breezes have wafted, the fleeting fancies have been dispelled....”

    While our hearts should be filled with joy that this night, never before witnessed, has come, Bahá’u’lláh sounds a note of caution in the final verses of the tablet. In order to protect the sacred gift of this knowledge, we are enjoined to “conceal this closely guarded, this most hidden secret, lest the stranger become apprised of that which ye have quaffed of the wine that imparteth rapture and delight.”

    Here the tablet reaches its crescendo, becoming a fully realized paean to the All-Merciful God: “O concourse of the Bayan! God beareth Me witness that His favour is complete, His mercy is perfected, and His countenance is beaming with joy and radiance.”

    As the tablet ends, we might wonder what else there is to do but partake of this great bounty given us by the grace of God? And so Bahá’u’lláh enjoins us as follows: “Drink your fill, O My companions, from this sparkling and luminous stream, and rejoice therein, O my Friends! And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the Most Exalted, the Most Bountiful.”

    * Tablet 44 is reproduced in full below (Days of Remembrance, Bahá’í World Centre, 2017).


    A Night Never Before Witnessed
    (Tablet 44)

    He is God.

    1.     O concourse of ardent lovers! By the righteousness of God, this is a night the like of which hath never been witnessed in the world of creation. And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the All-Glorious, the Most Bountiful.

    2.     This is the night wherein the Spirit intoned such a melody as to throw into commotion the inner realities of all men, proclaiming: “Rejoice, O Concourse on high, within your retreats of Paradise!”

    3.     Whereupon did the Voice of God call out from within the Tabernacle of holiness and bounty: “This, indeed, is the night wherein He Who is the reality of the All-Merciful hath been born, the night wherein every eternal command hath been expounded by the Pen of the All-Glorious. Rejoice, then, with exceeding gladness, O concourse of the Bayan!”

    4.     This is the night wherein the Mystic Dove raised its call upon the branches and boughs of heaven, saying: “Rejoice, O denizens of Paradise!”

    5.     Say: This is the night wherein the veils of glory were parted before the eyes of the people of certitude, and the Bird of Heaven warbled its melody in the midmost heart of the celestial realm. Rejoice, then, O embodiments of sanctity in the Everlasting City!

    6.     This is the night wherein God shed abroad the splendour of all His most excellent names and established Himself upon the throne of every pure and radiant heart. Rejoice, then, O concourse of the Bayan!

    7.     This is the night wherein the oceans of forgiveness surged and the breezes of providence were wafted abroad. Rejoice, then, O companions of the All-Merciful!

    8.     This is the night wherein the trespasses of all that dwell on earth were forgiven. This, verily, is a joyful tiding unto all who have been created in the contingent realm!

    9.     Say: This is the night wherein the assigned measures of bounty and grace were inscribed upon the scrolls of might and assurance, that every trace of sorrow might thereby be banished forever from all things. Rejoice, then, O ye that have stepped forth into the realm of being!

    10.     At this moment the Herald of the Spirit crieth out from the midmost heart of eternity, the seat of loftiness and exaltation — and this, verily, is from the grace of God, the All-Glorious, the Most Bountiful —

    11.     Saying: By God! The musk-scented wine hath been unsealed by the mighty hand of Him Who is the source of sovereignty and power. And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the Most Exalted, the Most Bountiful.

    12.     And cups of crimson-coloured wine are being borne round by the hand of the divine Joseph and raised to the beauty of the All-Glorious. And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the Most Exalted, the Most Bountiful.

    13.     Hasten then, O concourse of men, and drink your fill from this stream of everlasting life! And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the Most Exalted, the Most Bountiful.

    14.     Say: O assemblage of true lovers! The beauty of the Desired One hath shone forth in its naked glory. And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the Most Exalted, the Most Bountiful.

    15.     O concourse of His loved ones! The countenance of the Best-Beloved hath dawned above the horizon of holiness. Bestir yourselves and hasten unto it with all your hearts, O people of the Bayan! And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the Most Exalted, the Most Bountiful.

    16.     The proof hath been fulfilled and the testimony established, inasmuch as the Resurrection hath come to pass through the appearance of God in the Manifestation of His own Self, the Ever-Abiding. And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the All-Glorious, the Most Bountiful.

    17.     The ages have passed, and the cycles have been stirred up, and every luminary hath beamed with delight, for God hath shed the splendour of His glory upon every tree adorned with verdant twigs. And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the Most Exalted, the Most Bountiful.

    18.     Bestir yourselves, O chosen ones of God, for the spirits have been gathered together, the divine breezes have wafted, the fleeting fancies have been dispelled, and the voices of eternity have rung out from every flourishing tree. And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the Most Exalted, the Most Bountiful.

    19.     By God! The veils have been burned away, the clouds have been rent asunder, the signs have been revealed and the allusions unravelled by Him Whose might is equal to all things. And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the Most Exalted, the Most Bountiful.

    20.     Let your hearts be filled with joy, but conceal this closely guarded, this most hidden secret, lest the stranger become apprised of that which ye have quaffed of the wine that imparteth rapture and delight. And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the Most Exalted, the Most Bountiful.

    21.     O concourse of the Bayan! God beareth Me witness that His favour is complete, His mercy is perfected, and His countenance is beaming with joy and radiance. And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the Most Exalted, the Most Bountiful.

    22.     Drink your fill, O My companions, from this sparkling and luminous stream, and rejoice therein, O My friends! And this, verily, is from the grace of God, the Most Exalted, the Most Bountiful.


    Patricia Verge

    Bio:   Patricia Verge’s books about indigenous peoples and the Bahá’í Faith include Equals and Partners: A Spiritual Journey Towards Reconciliation and Oneness, Wazin Îchinabi (2018) and Return to Tyendinaga: The Story of Jim and Melba Loft, Bahá’í Pioneers (2011, co-written with Evelyn Loft Watts).