A collection of Holy Day stories

Posted: 2021/12/13

The stories below are from individuals and communities across the country, documenting the special ways in which friends observed the celebration and commemoration, respectively, of the Day of the Covenant on 25 November and the 100th Anniversary of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on 27 November.

More stories will be added as they are received.

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North Cowichan, B.C.

Friends in North Cowichan, on Vancouver Island, were somewhat disappointed when they learned of the many restrictions they would have to follow to have in-person commemorations for the Day of the Covenant and the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. They settled on holding them online but were determined to make the gatherings extra special. The Local Assembly held a home visit campaign during the month of November, encouraging the community to use the Visits with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá booklets to have conversations with friends about the person of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the qualities He possessed.

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Friends received a lovely, mailed invitation to the gatherings and boxes of homemade treats were delivered to forty homes to be shared during the social portion of the Day of the Covenant. Much care, love and laughter went into the planning, baking and delivery process and friends were thrilled with their gift. A few members of the community also delivered treats to their neighbors, which allowed them to extend invitations to the events. Neighbours were delighted and touched to be remembered in connection to the Holy Day commemorations. They were keen to learn about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and His life of example. These conversations will lead nicely to invitations to showings of the Exemplar film in our homes.

An extra effort was made, using various art forms, to create lovely programs for each Holy Day. Our love for the Master has been deepened and we are anxious to make Him happy by rededicating ourselves to fulfill our goals for the end of the One Year Plan.

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Orillia, Ont.

In the year leading up to the commemoration of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, our community began including stories, special music, and other recognitions of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá into each Feast. This helped our community members prepare to reflect on the value of the Covenant and about the ways that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was the example we could follow in our spiritual lives.

The Local Assembly added the newly translated works of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to our library, both Light of the World and Pearls of Bounty, and incorporated their writings into Feasts and Devotional meetings. The Assembly also purchased copies of the booklets about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for distribution in the community. Each Assembly member received one copy for personal use, and some shared these with family and friends. These beautiful booklets were an excellent way to reach out to others in sharing the story of the Covenant.

We had planned to have a community concert to mark this special occasion but were unable to proceed with our plans because of immunization requirements for a public event.

Our community activities during the week from November 20th to 27th began by viewing the video Exemplar online and reflecting on it on November 20th. Members of our community joined the cluster-wide celebration of the Day of the Covenant on the evening of November 24th online. We invited members of our cluster to join us and we observed the commemoration of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing at 12:30 a.m. on November 27th, also online. This event was ended with a sacred silence as we listened to the hymn, Nearer My God to Thee – a special hymn that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had often requested from the Western pilgrims.

Glenora, B.C.

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In a rural community on Vancouver Island on the evening of Thursday November 25th, a friend and I hosted an event in our home to celebrate the Day of the Covenant. Due to sensitivity about numbers of people gathering at present, we tried to keep the numbers down.  In the end, 13 people gathered in our living room, 11 of whom were friends of the Faith and 2 were Bahá’ís. We decorated a table beneath an image of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with beeswax candles and 19 roses and provided refreshments of Persian-inspired finger foods, a sparkling pomegranate drink and herbal tea.

We had a selection of ideas loosely planned and decided to let the evening’s flow unfold organically. We began with an explanation of what the Covenant is and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s centrality to it and how it will, in time, create unity. We also spoke about some of His many exemplary qualities. We then went around and discussed what unity means to each of us. The collection of words and images beautifully captured the essence of unity.

We then sang the following words of Baha’u’lláh set to music: “Verily I say, this is the day, in which mankind can behold the face and hear the voice of the promised one.”

The other Bahá’í who was present and I each told a story about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, which was well received. As we enjoyed some live piano music, we drifted to the food table and partook of the delicious food. We all came back together for the reading of one of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s prayers to close and we gifted guests with one of the new little booklets Visits with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to take home, along with some of the abundance of roses.

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The most wonderful thing about this celebration for me was that my friend was the driving force behind the event. She read books, listened to podcasts, watched videos and asked questions and began composing a piano piece about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, part of which she played during the evening. Her artistic creativity never slept and she inspired me to go beyond my limits of ‘making do’ and to really endeavour to make it as beautiful as possible. Her appreciation and love for The Master grew so much during the time of preparation over the months, as did mine and peoples all over the world, I’m sure. A number of the people who came were her best friends from her early school days. Some of them told her that they loved the evening and could tangibly feel the quality of unity during the gathering. Others who attended were a neighbourhood family who also said they felt the evening was very special. The mom was keen to have the link for the film, Exemplar.

Kingston, Ont.

Tree Planting

In honour of the significance of this year’s Holy Days and in order to pay special tribute to the 100th Anniversary of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Kingston Bahá’í Community took advantage of the city’s Memorial Tree program.  This program allows the community to have a tree planted in a public park as a beautiful way to memorialize a loved one or commemorate an event, while also helping to build Kingston’s urban forest, reducing its carbon footprint and offering cooling shade to Kingstonians for generations to come. The Memorial Tree was planted in October at Lake Ontario Park and will be cared for by the city’s Forestry Division. In front of the tree a plaque was mounted on a pedestal for all those passing to read the sacred words spoken by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

The plaque reads:Tree

“Love all religions and all races with a love that is true and sincere.”
‘Abdul’l-Bahá
On the 100th anniversary of His Ascension
The Bahá’ís of Kingston

Friends gathered at the park on November 27th at 1 p.m. to officially unveil the plaque and say prayers.

In addition, the community took a number of initiatives leading up to these holy day commemorations to honour this significant year, including:

  • The community Book Club read and discussed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: The Centre of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh by H.M. Balyuzi.
  • Several friends formed a study circle of Ruhi Book 8: The Center of His Covenant, Unit 1: His Will and Testament.
  • The purchase of, and making available to the community for use and distribution, the Visits with ‘Abdul’l-Bahá booklet sets,
  • Summer gatherings in the park on Friday evenings as a means of inviting our friends, where stories and writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá could be shared
  • A call to all of the friends to encourage them to arise and carry out service projects in honour of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The friends arose to this call and provided service and volunteering with Loving Spoonful, an organization in Kingston that provides programs and champions policies affecting food security, poverty, social inclusion, and community health.  The two that the Bahá’í community focused on were:
    • Weekly volunteering as Market Ambassadors during the summer by collecting fresh healthy produce at the Downtown Kingston Public Market and the Memorial Centre Farmers Market.
    • Volunteering with the Gleaning Project, which works with local farmers to harvest surplus crops, and deliver the healthy produce to over 40 shelters, meal programs, and Fresh Food Market Stands across Kingston.
  • The community also focused on increasing its efforts to support the local Food Bank.

Like many Bahá’í communities across Ontario and Canada, the Kingston Bahá’í community commemorated both the Day of the Covenant and 100th Anniversary of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with programs that were open to friends of the Faith.

Although the Community made valiant attempts to host the Day of the Covenant as an in-person event, the unfortunate severity of the pandemic and number of cases facing Kingston led to the difficult decision of continuing with virtual gatherings as the safest platform for hosting events.

Red Deer, Alta.

It was a beautiful, sunny, warm day for November and the first face to face gathering for our community in over a year. Fifteen friends from most of the Central Alberta area gathered at the Sylvan Lake Bahá’í Centre to celebrate the Day of the Covenant. The flowers were lovely and the atmosphere full of love. The chairs were well spaced and masks were worn. A friend had put together a wonderful program of music, photos, and prayers. Afterwards, we were treated to the film about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá titled Exemplar.

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We have so many Writings that speak to the power of gathering together. We are not meant to isolate and worship alone. Gatherings make communities and create the bonds of unity the world so desperately needs today. The excitement of being able to celebrate together electrified the air.

Praise be to God! that ye are gathered in one assembly like unto the stars of the Pleiades, are illumined with the light of the knowledge of God and through the outpouring of the cloud of the love of God, ye are the fresh flowers of the meadow and plain; ye are intimate and familiar with infinite unity and love.

Therefore, this meeting is blessed. But if it is firmly established and become constant, it will bring forth great results and most weighty developments will be attained. Consequently, persevere ye in renewing your meetings and display utmost magnanimity in firmness and steadfastness. When the root of the tree of the garden is well established and its protection is safeguarded, it will bring forth luscious fruits.” – Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás, p. 690

Longueuil, Que.

Almost two years ago, a group of believers studying the first unit of Ruhi Book 8: The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, decided to memorize some sacred Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. One of the friends, who is a musician, offered to set a passage to music. The following week, as we heard our voices intertwined and moved by the love and beauty of the Writings, the desire to prepare a CD with a choir, piano and string quartet became obvious.

Preparing a tribute to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for the hundredth anniversary of His ascension by including as many souls as possible, and making it a community project with the aim of bringing us closer to our beloved Master, and tapping into everyone’s potential for love, that is what this was all about.

We invited all interested friends to work with us. About sixty people worked very hard over these past two years to offer to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá a box containing recordings of thirteen passages from the Writings that were put to music. The music was sung by about forty loving hearts, with accompaniment by a string quartet, a flute and a piano. In addition, there were two prayers sung in a cappella in Persian, as well as a bilingual booklet.

This project involved new believers from Quebec, long-time Bahá’ís, friends of the Faith and professional musicians. The CD booklet contains, in both French and English, short biographies of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh and ’Abdu’l-Bahá; a description of the Master’s ascension; the words to the songs; and a brief introductory commentary. We have also produced a booklet in French about the connection of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to the Báb and to His beloved Father, written by our friend Monique Fortin and our wonderful editing team.

Because of the pandemic, we had to record all the participants individually one by one. Each one came to work alone or in a team over Zoom, my small recording studio. I saw so much love for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá pass before me in this time. The bonds of true friendship that developed during this project will remain incalculable for me. Each voice added a new colour, a new warmth, a new dimension to our display of love for God and His Covenant. So many times I felt the joy of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as we collectively expressed our gratitude to Him.Picture2

We used the CD and the booklet to prepare the program for the commemoration of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Longueuil. We gathered in-person with as many people as restrictions allowed (only 25 people were allowed to gather indoors) and shared this humble and noble gift of music. We shed tears of joy, gratitude and love for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and relished the privilege of being physically together on that holy night. In addition, some friends from the Coeur-de-l’Est neighbourhood of Montreal were able to join the commemoration through zoom. The Spiritual Assembly of Longueuil decided to offer a CD and a booklet to all the families in its community, the friends present at the commemoration also received this gift.

Our goal for this project was to create a community art tool. The CD and booklet have been used several other times already, and we hope to continue to use them throughout this special year to help us share our love for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. We will do this by organizing evenings of listening to the CD, and by continuing to use and these art tools as means to share with others about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s life, just as the nine beautiful booklets prepared by the National Assembly are being used for this historic year. If the world situation permits, we hope to be able to sing side-by-side wherever and whenever it is possible to do so.

Maritimes

In the spring of 2020, in the midst of the pandemic with its accompanying lockdowns, a group of artists and craftspeople from across the Maritime Provinces decided to collaborate on a textile project to honour ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on the Centenary of His Ascension.

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Because they were not able to get together in person, the group members used social media and online meetings to facilitate the project, to which, in the end, seventeen individuals contributed a total of sixteen fabric blocks that were painted, quilted, cross-stitched, embroidered, beaded, and hooked. Each block depicts a story about the Master as recounted in Annamarie Honnold’s collection, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The blocks were assembled into the final design by the project manager into a 1.9 m x 1.8 m wall hanging. A catalogue was assembled to accompany the finished work that contained high-quality images of the blocks, the stories on which they were based and some comments by the artists.

The project was submitted to and accepted by Green Acre’s hybrid online and in-person art show, “‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Champion of Justice, Promoter of Unity, Exemplar of Service,” which runs from November 20th until mid-January. The online show can be accessed at: https://www.greenacre.org/shows/abdul-baha-champion-online-art-show/. The YouTube video of the project that was produced for the show as well as for use in locations where it would not be possible for people to view the wall hanging itself can be viewed here:

https://www.greenacre.org/shows/abdul-baha-champion-online-art-show/gallery/#show-gallery-28.

So far, the wall hanging itself has been displayed in Halifax and Charlottetown during events held in conjunction with the Centenary.

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