Who was `Abdu'l-Bahá, and why did He come to the West?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

November 8, 1912 In the center of divine signs

Washington, DC: gaining strength, causing hearts to throb, proofs of Christianity and Islam 
Mahmud writes: "`Abdu'l-Bahá spoke in the morning to a gathering of the friends:
I am very happy to have met you. I hope that through the favors of the Blessed Beauty you shall become the instruments for the glorification of the divine Cause and the spread of the Word of God so that this city may take precedence over all the other cities of America. As this city is the capital of America, so shall it, God willing, become the center of divine signs. When you arise to teach the Cause of God it will soon be firmly established and will spread because this city has capacity, as there is resistance and some ministers are opposing the Cause. It has been established by experience that when the cry of opposition is raised by leaders of religion the Cause of God gains strength. I always beg assistance for you and my heart is ever with you. You must trust in the favors of the Blessed Beauty which can change a gnat into a phoenix, a drop into an ocean, a stone into a diamond and an atom into a world-illuminating sun. You must not look to your own capacities but to the bounties of the Abhá Kingdom.
In the afternoon `Abdu'l-Bahá took a stroll along the boulevard and remarked that `The city of Washington is better planned and laid out than the other cities of America.' In His view the plan of this city was very pleasing because in other cities the buildings were too high and the population too congested. The buildings in Washington were mostly of four to five stories and its boulevards straight, well-proportioned and exquisitely landscaped. Each house has a front yard with flowers and bushes so that in the springtime the entire city becomes like a beautiful garden. All of the squares there have beautiful parks and gardens. In contrast, some of the streets and boulevards of New York and Chicago, with their tall buildings looming like steep mountain peaks, seem like narrow gorges or deep mountain passes and the crowd of humanity like the files of an army. It is difficult to pass through some of those streets either on foot or in a vehicle.
To resume. The Master's address at the Jewish synagogue in Washington created a commotion among the listeners and the force of His argument caused the hearts of many to throb. On His arrival He said: I shall repeat the same subjects I spoke on in the Jewish synagogue of San Francisco, and I shall illustrate more clearly the evidences to prove the reality of Christ and the strength and truth of Islam. It is therefore not necessary to repeat them here.
Such was the force of His explanations that both friends and seekers felt that some might take exception and object. `If the Jews will not speak,' they said, `the Christians, at least, will not remain silent.' Some of the Jews sitting near the pulpit actually made signs to the interpreter that the time was over. But the Master ignored this and went on to give detailed, decisive proofs and plain arguments to prove the truth of Christianity and Islam.
After the address, the chairman of the meeting, a person of much integrity and one of the fair-minded rabbis, came to the pulpit to thank the Master for His admonitions and exhortations. He then asked the audience not to become agitated or excited. `We must not', he said, `be perplexed at what goes against our own convictions and beliefs. Rather, we must, with perfect composure and sincerity, investigate the truth so that we may discover the reality of everything.'
In brief, the firmness and courage of `Abdu'l-Bahá and the force of His argument were noted by everyone both inside and outside the synagogue."


Don't you love the description of causing the hearts to throb?

Agnes has her own spin on the day: She writes that He came for luncheon, and there were 8 of them at her table. Then, she urged Him to rest, but he remembered an engagement and went off, returning in time for a private interview with a "colored clergyman."  At 4:30 there was the usual talk, and He spoke on evolution. Then at 5:30 there were more people who gathered, and He spoke about the Balkan situation and other things.

After He rested, they left for the Temple, around 6:30. After much music, the Rabbi gave a long description of a Jewish play.  Then the Master spoke about the oneness of religions. When He mentioned "His Holiness Jesus Christ!" there was a stir among the people and an effort was made to stop the address by the Rabbi, "but 'Abdu'l-Bahá went blandly on, asking for their closest attention. After having finished His message, He went quickly out of the Tabernacle, and the Rabbi arose to make a few closing remarks." (Diary of Agnes Parsons, 130–31) Agnes notes that many people left during the Master's address and some were restless, but "it was a very wonderful demonstration of the power of God that 
'Abdu'l-Bahá was able to stay and finish His message" (132)

Well, there's a teaching example for us! 

Interesting history of the synagogue: 

Sixth & I Historic Synagogue was built by Adas Israel Congregation, which occupied the building from 1908-1951. Designed by Baltimore architect Louis Levi and built by local builder Arthur Cowsill, it was one of the first buildings in the District of Columbia to substitute reinforced concrete columns and poured-in-place concrete floors for traditional iron columns and wood floors. When Adas Israel moved to Connecticut Avenue and Quebec Street
in 1951, the building was sold to Turner Memorial A.M.E. Church, whose members worshipped in it for half a century before moving 
to a new sanctuary in Maryland. Three local Jewish developerspurchased the building in late 2002 and undertook its restoration and 
renovation in order to return it to use by the Washington community.

"Sixth & I is a non-denominational, non-membership, non-traditional synagogue that hosts outstanding programming and dialogue opportunities for Washingtonians."

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