post-pilgrimage four

shrine of baha'u'llahPraise be to Thee, O my God, that Thou hast aided me to remember Thee and to praise Thee, and hast made known unto me Him Who is the Dayspring of Thy signs… (Bahá’u’lláh)

When I visited the Bahá’í Shrine in Montreal this past summer—I was on my way to Moncton by train and stopped over at the Shrine moments before it closed—I had a singular experience. Believe it or not, it was my first experience in any sort of Bahá’í holy place; I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t know what to do. So I just sat by the window in the room of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, trying to close my one eye to “the world and all that is therein” and open the other eye to “the hallowed beauty of the Beloved”[1], and wordlessly asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to help me pray. And oddly enough, as I opened one of the available prayer books and began to pray, I seemed to hear the voice of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá saying the words with me, helping me pray.

I admit that, as I first set foot into the Holy Shrines in Haifa and in Bahji, I expected the same sort of experience, and was quietly surprised (and disappointed) when it didn’t happen. If I had to try and describe what happened instead, I would say that it was as if I was gradually aided to understand just what the heck I was saying while praying. Through the loving guidance of, among others, Hand of the Cause Dr. Varqa and the members of the Universal House of Justice who spoke to us at the nightly talks in the Auditorium of the International Teaching Centre, I came to believe that one’s highest duty when visiting the Shrines is simply to offer praise and worship to those Blessed Figures who are the centres of our adoration. So I tried it. I entered the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and simply remembered and praised ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. I entered the Shrine of the Báb and remembered and praised Him. I entered the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh and, powerless to do much else, I remembered His sacrifice and offered what little praise I could offer, asking for God’s grace in accepting it. And, well, I guess it worked.

Whenever I recite the long obligatory prayer now, I remember saying it in the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, two rooms over from the Qiblih—from the Point of Adoration towards which Bahá’ís offer their obligatory prayer every day.

[1]: Bahá’u’lláh, Persian Hidden Words, no. 12.

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