‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s “Feast of Unity” 1
THE ORIENTAL PASSENGER WAVED his arms on the steps of the train parked at Lackawanna station. He had to stall the train. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s attendants, “ten fez-wearing Persians,” as The New York Times put it, had already loaded their baggage on the train headed northeast from Montclair to West Englewood, New Jersey. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had not yet arrived. Missing the train could mean missing the event he had organized in nearby Englewood.
The distressed passenger pulled the bell rope, a job usually reserved for the conductor of the train to indicate an unplanned stop. Then one of the Persians – perhaps accidentally – knocked off the train conductor’s hat, distracting him. At last ‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived in his car, the train halted, and his friends hustled him into the coach …
New Jersey: The Unity Feast 2
On Friday [June 28], when He [Abdu’l-Bahá ] took a group of the friends by streetcar to the park in Montclair, He led them to the empty bandstand, and seated them saying, “‘factious persons … are trying to imprison Me again on My return to the Holy Land,.” When the friends suggested it would be better for Him not to return, He replied, “‘My Source is the Holy Threshold. What I have is from that Threshold. And ,my return, too, is to the same. Had to not been for His aid and assistance, would these people sitting on your right and left have had any care for you and Me … What are we and why are we showered with these favors? Where is Persia and where is America? …’”
Friday, June 28, 1912
As the Master had previously invited the friends in New York to a Unity Feast in Englewood, He prepared to leave Montclair in the morning. Although most Americans do not awaken until after sunrise, some friends and their children were waiting an hour before dawn to see Him and to receive His blessings. Then another group arrived and received His bestowals.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá left Montclair at half past eight in the morning, passed through New York, and after changing trams four times and passing twice by the river, He reached Englewood. Tired from the journey and the warm weather, having traveled from morning to noon, He briefly rested at the home of Mr [Roy] Wilhelm. Meanwhile, the friends began to arrive from the surrounding areas and gathered on the lawn adjoining the house. The meeting was arranged in a circle under the trees, with almost two hundred people seated at the table and being served by the Bahá’ís. Everyone enjoyed the delicacies and was extremely happy.
The green lawn under the shade trees was strewn with flowers so that it seemed as if an embroidered carpet had been spread, every design indicative of the power of the Covenant of the Ancient Beauty. To see the Master walking in this green, flower-covered garden, with a gentle breeze blowing, the purity of the air, the cleanliness of the surroundings and the rejoicing of the friends, was most pleasing; all seemed to vie with one another to please the Master.
When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá entered the circle, He delivered a very eloquent address on the greatness of the Cause, the influence of the Word of God, the importance of the meetings of the friends and the need for unity among the friends of God. He counseled them to be truthful and faithful. Afterwards He strolled in the rose garden. “Abdu’l-Bahá gave His permission for His photograph to be taken and was photographed in two groups. In one He is seated in the garden with His Persian servants standing around Him and in the other He is seen with the friends, some of whom are seated while others are standing.
A minister and another important personage came to visit ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He invited them into Mr Wilhelm’s house and spoke with them until dinner was ready. He later left the house to take a brief stroll. When the friends were seated at the table, He took vials of attar of rose in His hand and anointed, perfumed and blessed them all, one by one. He thus made them the anointed of the Court of Servitude and the recipients of the spirit of devotion to the Threshold of God, for the bounties of the Holy Spirit had descended and the favors of God encompassed all. Standing in the center of this assemblage of lovers, He spoke to them in a voice that was sweeter than honey then returned to Mr Wilhelm’s house.
That the friends were ecstatic today need not be stated, since their Host was the Beloved of the Covenant; their meeting was an assembly of love and amity, and the surroundings were green and verdant with trees in full bloom perfuming the air. There was a pilaf, a very delicious Persian dish that had been prepared for the occasion, sherbet, a Persian drink and many sweets. Everyone was happy at the unity of the gathering. The Master said:
“This meeting will be productive of great results. It will be the cause of attracting a new bounty. This day in which we have come together is a new day, and this hour a new hour. These meetings will be mentioned in the future and their results will be everlasting in all the divine worlds.”
There were two more meetings: one in the afternoon and the other in the evening in Englewood for some of the friends who were not able to take part in the first meeting. They took their seats in the garden adjoining Mr Wilhelm’s house, sitting on chairs and benches in rows. After a short walk, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá joined the visitors, sat down among them and requested the chanting of a prayer. He then spoke eloquently, encouraging the friends to spread the fragrances of God. As He was about to leave, one of the seekers asked Him, ‘What are the new teachings of this Cause that are not to be found in the other great religions?’ The Master stood in the center of the garden and summoned all to come near. They came and stood in two rows. The Master walked between the rows and spoke. His explanation was so magnificent that everyone was astonished. During His discourse a carriage and automobile passed near by. As they neared the gathering and saw ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the carriage passengers stopped, alighted and they, too, heard His speech and were attracted to the teachings. The Master described, one by one, the teachings of the Manifestation: the unity of humankind, universal peace, association with all religions, forgiveness of enemies, the prohibition of cursing foes, the equality of rights of men and women, the establishment of the House of Justice and the International Tribunal, compulsory education for both boys and girls, the prohibition of wars between nations and governments, and the harm of all forms of prejudice, be they racial, religious, sectarian, patriotic, political and so on. He spoke on these teachings extensively and in detail. At the end, He asked the audience whether these principles had been brought by past religious dispensations and recorded in their books. They all responded ‘No’. The inquirer was so overwhelmed that he clapped his hands in delight, expressing his joy and gratitude.
Because it was a moonlit night, this talk was given in the garden, so it was not recorded but these explanations can be found in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s other addresses. After the meeting, He remarked, ‘If these persons were to be confronted with the question, what new teachings did Christ bring other than changing the laws of the Sabbath and divorce, they would be utterly confounded.’
‘Abdu’l-Bahá stayed in Englewood for the night. 3
Talk at Bowery Mission, 227 Bowery, New York, 19 April 1912
When Jesus Christ appeared, it was the poor who first accepted Him, not the rich. Therefore, you are the disciples of Jesus Christ; you are His comrades, for He outwardly was poor, not rich. Even this earth’s happiness does not depend upon wealth. You will find many of the wealthy exposed to dangers and troubled by difficulties, and in their last moments upon the bed of death there remains the regret that they must be separated from that to which their hearts are so attached. They come into this world naked, and they must go from it naked. All they possess they must leave behind and pass away solitary, alone. Often at the time of death their souls are filled with remorse; and worst of all, their hope in the mercy of God is less than ours. Praise be to God! Our hope is in the mercy of God, and there is no doubt that the divine compassion is bestowed upon the poor. Jesus Christ said so; Bahá’u’lláh said so. While Bahá’u’lláh was in Baghdád, still in possession of great wealth, He left all He had and went alone from the city, living two years among the poor. They were His comrades. He ate with them, slept with them and gloried in being one of them. He chose for one of His names the title of The Poor One and often in His Writings refers to Himself as Darvísh , which in Persian means poor; and of this title He was very proud. He admonished all that we must be the servants of the poor, helpers of the poor, remember the sorrows of the poor, associate with them; for thereby we may inherit the Kingdom of heaven. God has not said that there are mansions prepared for us if we pass our time associating with the rich, but He has said there are many mansions prepared for the servants of the poor, for the poor are very dear to God. The mercies and bounties of God are with them. The rich are mostly negligent, inattentive, steeped in worldliness, depending upon their means, whereas the poor are dependent upon God, and their reliance is upon Him, not upon themselves. Therefore, the poor are nearer the threshold of God and His throne. 4
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ‘Feast of Unity.’” 239 Days in America, 28 June 2012, https://239days.com/2012/06/28/the-souvenir-of-abdul-baha/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 100. ↩
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=4#section96 ↩
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 11.https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/2#141496815 ↩