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

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 15, 1912

Abdu'l-Baha in Kenosha
Chicago--Kenosha; wisdom in intuitive decisions; festival and flowers; two vacant seats; Baha'u'llah holy above directions
Mahmud writes: "In the morning `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke to Dr [William Frederick] Nutt about Kheiralla in such majestic and forcible tones that both the hearer and the translator trembled with fear. Finally, He said:
He wants me to send for him. As a visitor to this country, the great and lowly of this land come to see me. If his intention be good, he also should come with utmost sincerity. [See extended note in Mahmud's Diary and also Roger Dahl's "A History of the Kenosha Baha'i Community" in Hollinger, Community Histories.]
The Blessed Being was very tired after His talk.
The Master had an appointment in Kenosha and was preparing to go there. He was accompanied by Dr Nutt, a Japanese believer and these companions. On the way we had to change trains. Although we hurried, we missed the second train. The friends were saddened but `Abdu'l-Bahá said, `Oh, it matters not. There is a wisdom in this.' We left by the next train and found that the train we had missed was wrecked and some of the passengers injured. It was clear that it had collided with another train. `Abdu'l-Bahá said, `This, too, was the protection of the Blessed Beauty.' He then narrated the episode of His leaving Alexandria for America:
Some proposed that we leave via London by the S. S. Titanic, which sank on the same voyage. The Blessed Beauty guided us to come direct.
The friends were waiting with their automobiles at the railway station to take the Beloved to the hall of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár. The Master went onto the stage of the auditorium and sat on a chair. It was a divine and joyous festival, the people like heavenly angels of the utmost spirituality, prayerfulness and gratitude. `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke briefly but effectively about the victorious power and penetrating influence of the Cause of the Blessed Beauty. He then went to a long table that extended the length of the hall which was covered with a variety of multicolored flowers.
As lunch was being served, the young friends, having received `Abdu'l-Bahá's permission, sang songs of praise to Him, accompanied by a piano. The Master then gave an account of the persecutions and hardships of Bahá'u'lláh, the time spent in the Most Great Prison, the Turkish revolution and the changes that took place after the establishment of a constitutional form of government in Turkey. `God removed all obstacles', He said, `and provided all the necessities, thus enabling `Abdu'l-Bahá to reach this place and have the pleasure of seeing you.'
The friends then brought their children to Him to be blessed. He took the children onto His lap one by one and gave them flowers, fruits and sweets. Mr Jackson said:
Every time we have held a public entertainment for the friends we have left two seats vacant at each end of the table, one in the name of Bahá'u'lláh and the other in that of `Abdu'l-Bahá. We constantly longed to witness a day such as this. We have now attained our highest hopes and our eyes have seen the light of the Master.
Another person said, `When the clergymen were informed of your arrival, they announced in the churches that this evening the prophet of the East will speak at the Kenosha Congregational Church.'
After lunch `Abdu'l-Bahá left the hall of the `Mashriqu'l-Adhkár' and went to Mrs [Henry] Goodale's home, where the friends were overjoyed and uplifted to hear Him speak. He said to them, in part:
The Cause of God has always appeared from the East but it has been more effective in the West. Once Badrí Páshá [a governor of Palestine during a period of the Ottoman Empire] said in an address, `Gentlemen, Westerners have taken everything from us: the sciences, the arts and the laws they took from the East. Now we fear that they may wrest from us the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, as well.' Those were his words. But Bahá'u'lláh is neither of the East nor of the West, neither of the South nor of the North. He is holy above all these directions. He is heavenly and godly.
`Abdu'l-Bahá's address in the evening at the Congregational Church was on the unity of the Manifestations of God, that they are one in essence and that the differences among their followers is due to obsolete imitations. His explanation of the divine teachings gave new life and insights to the audience. After His talk, everyone came to Him to pay Him their respects."
Don't you love the symbolism of the two vacant seats?  I fear we have gotten away from such gestures. 
The children who were blessed probably felt something special the whole of their lives--even if too young to remember.  

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