Sunday, November 30, 2008

A walk through the City of the Covenant

Yesterday a dear friend of mine, Ram, and I set out on a little pilgrimage of sorts to visit a few of the places associated with the sojourn of 'Abdu'l-Baha in New York City which He named as the City of the Covenant. The trip seemed significant in its proximity to the Day of the Covenant (November 26) and November 28 which is the anniversary of the "ascension" of 'Abdu'l-Baha.

There are many spots in New York city that have been made blessed and sanctified by 'Abdu'l-Baha. Our tour yesterday focused on those spots in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I came up with the tour using the booklet 'Abdu'l-Baha in New York: The City of the Covenant which gives a chronological account of the time that 'Abdu'l-Baha spent there complete with sweet vignettes of occurrences at the time. I use excerpts from this book in this post.

We began our tour at the Hotel Ansonia where 'Abdu'l-Baha stayed when he first arrived on April 11, 1912.

"‘Abdu’l-Bahá and His entourage were driven from the ship to the Hotel Ansonia, Broadway and 73rd Street, His headquarters for the next nine days of incredibly intense activities." (p. 8)

Of the mornings at the hotel, Juliet Thompson wrote: “Oh, those mornings at the Ansonia in the Master’s white sunny rooms, filled with spring flowers and roses! People poured in to see Him in droves, sometimes a hundred and fifty in one morning! Exhausted, He received the late arrivals in bed…I would watch them go into His bedroom and come out changed, as though they had had a bath of Life.” Charles Rand Kennedy, author of “The Terrible Meek,” [a play depicting the crucifixion of Christ that 'Abdu'l-Baha had gone to watch] was there one morning, and deeply moved said: “I was in the presence of God.” (p. 14)

Yesterday, we sat in the lobby of the Ansonia reading some of the stories associated with 'Abdu'l-Baha's stay there. We imagined the droves of people pouring into that lobby to visit him. We also read stories of the next places on our mini-itinerary: Riverside Park, 309 W. 78th St, the American Museum of Natural History, the Church of the Divine Paternity, and Times Square.

After a refreshing and simple lunch at the Fairway Cafe across the street from the Ansonia we walked westwards along 75th street over to Riverside Park.

"He loved the Riverside Park area. He had selected a secluded spot there where He liked to go daily and walk by Himself or “sleep on the grass” a few minutes to rest. “When I am alone, exhaustion is removed and I am relaxed,” He said. Sometimes, He allowed the friends to go with Him to this "hallowed spot,” “His Garden,” as the friends named the place and a recurring name in Juliet’s and Mahmud’s diaries." (p.16)

We continued our pleasant walk to 309 78th St where Abdu'l-Baha also resided for sometime.

The American Museum of Natural History was next on our walking tour of points of interest in the Upper West Side.

"Juliet relates that on July 8th, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá expressed the desire to visit the American
Museum of Natural History. The Master laughed at the size of a huge whale, saying that “…he could hold seventy Jonahs!” He was very interested in the Mexican exhibit, pointing out the relationship of glyphs with Persian and Egyptian art..." (p. 31)

We made a special point to go to see the replica of the blue whale. It was indeed huge and is apparently the largest model of the largest creature that has lived on earth. It was just such an interesting and delightful thought that one could come to observe an exhibit at a museum and have it so infused with sweet and sacred connotations. Intriguing. I love museums anyway because my father loved museums so much and in particular museums of natural history. Ram's father is also a geologist. We spent some time enjoying the geology exhibits in the museum.

Onward two blocks down Central Park West to the Church of the Divine Paternity, one of the many many venues where 'Abdu'l-Baha spoke during his time in New York.

"On Sunday, May 19, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke at the Church of the Divine Paternity on Central Park West. The church’s Byzantine architecture seemed a natural frame for the Master who was often referred to as “the Patriarch of the East” because of His Eastern robes and headdress. The people attending were touched by the beauty of the scene as well as captivated by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s address on progressive revelation and the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh." (p. 17)

Here is an excerpt of that talk:

"Religions are many, but the reality of religion is one. The days are many, but the sun is one. The fountains are many, but the fountainhead is one. The branches are many, but the tree is one."

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 126)

Our tour had taken us into the early evening and it was time to make our way down to midtown to get some dinner and catch our Broadway musical "The Phantom of the Opera."

Even Times Square has been sanctified by a celebratory comment of 'Abdu'l-Baha!!

"Returning to the hotel by taxi, the Master was amused by the glittering of Broadway ‘s electric signs, and was reminded that Bahá’u’lláh loved light, recommending that His household economize on everything except light." (p. 14)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

all the world's afflictions can in no wise alarm me

Devon Gundry - "Armed" from Justin Baldoni on Vimeo.

Baha'i prayer set to music and a moving little music video:

"Armed with the power of Thy name nothing can ever hurt me and with Thy love in my heart all the world's afflictions can in no wise alarm me." Baha'u'llah