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

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December 25, 1912 Gifts on Christmas day; "Yankee ingenuity"

Earl Redman writes:

"Many people brought gifts for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on Christmas Day. One person brought an expensive gift which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá accepted lovingly. He then handed the gift back, saying, ‘And now, you see I have accepted your beautiful present, and it has made me very happy. I thank you for it. And now I am going to give it back to you. Sell it, and give the money to the poor. The rich in England are too rich, and the poor too poor’. As the man left, he seemed to have a new understanding of the world.
            ‘Abdu’l-Bahá laughed at gifts that showed ‘Yankee ingenuity’. When one American girl heard the Master say that on His travels He had learned to wash His handkerchiefs and to sew, she quickly dashed to a nearby shop, bought a small leather sewing kit and laughingly presented it to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá saying she found it impossible to visualize a prophet sewing on His buttons.  ‘I will accept the sewing case with gratitude, and will keep it’, He said, but then added with a laugh the same words He had spoken to Emmeline Pankhurst, ‘I am not a prophet. I am a man – like you’. All laughed at that since the girl was also known as a suffragette. ‘He accepted it!’ she exclaimed, as she left overjoyed.[i]
            That night, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited the Salvation Army Shelter in Westminster. The shelter provided food and shelter for the homeless of London and each year provided a Christmas dinner ‘for those who have no homes and no friends, and but for the shelter would have no lodgings . . . many of the hungry men forgot to eat and listened intently’. That night there were 1,000 men present.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s message was particularly uplifting:

"I feel tonight great joy and happiness to be in this place, because my meetings and callings have ever been mostly with the poor, and I call myself one of them. My lot has ever been with those who have not the goods of this world. When we look at the poor of humanity, we behold a world of brothers. All are the sheep of God; God is the real shepherd. The poor have ever been the cause of the freedom of the world of humanity; the poor have ever been the cause of the upbuilding of the country; the poor have ever laboured for the world’s production; the morals of the poor have ever been above those of the rich; the poor are ever nearer to the threshold of God; the humanitarianism of the poor has ever been more acceptable at the threshold of God.
Consider His Holiness Christ: He appeared in the world as one of the poor. He was born of a lowly family; all the apostles of Christ were of humble birth and His followers were of the very poorest of the community . . .
All the prophets of God were poor, His Holiness Moses was a mere shepherd . . . All the tyranny and injustice in this world comes from accumulation. The poor have ever been humble and lowly; their hearts are tender. The rich not so.
Sorrow not, grieve not. Be not unhappy because you are not wealthy. You are the brothers of Jesus Christ. Christ was poor; Baha’o’llah was poor. For forty years he was imprisoned in poverty. The great ones of the world have come from a lowly station. Be ever happy; be not sad! Trust in God and if in this world you undergo dire vicissitudes I hope that in the Kingdom of God you will have the utmost happiness.[ii]

As He left, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left twenty golden sovereigns and many handfuls of silver with Colonel Spencer for a similar dinner on New Year’s Eve. When the Colonel announced this, the men leaped to their feet ‘and waving their knives and forks gave a rousing farewell cheer.'"

[i] ‘Christmas Day With Abdul Baha in London’, in The Christian Commonwealth, United Kingdom Bahá’í Archives.
[ii] Star of the West, vol. III, no. 18 (7 February 1913), pp. 8–9.

An equivalent of the Bowery Mission in NY!  And how fitting, on Christmas day! 

Today we are going to Scotland--amazingly--to commemorate the Master there, at a small arts conference just a week before the larger commemoration. We are so lucky to be following the journey, still! 

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