|Day 3||Dawn Prayers (6:30)|
First visit to the house of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and
Meeting with the members of the International Teaching Centre
Before you ask, no, I did not make it to Dawn Prayers.
Well, it is not just the Bahá'ís that are carving up the mountain! There are new roads and houses everywhere. Anyway, I finally manage to get to the Pilgrim House and to join my fellow pilgrims, Roderick and Brynhild, while we wait for the day's activities to start. Then it's down the Shifra Stairs (more steps – about 150 of them) and a short walk to the house of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, a small attractive house with steps leading up to the front door and surrounded by a beautiful garden. (Actually, small is somewhat comparative. You would be able to fit my croft cottage into the central room, probably twice over).
Inside it is cool and peaceful. We are to meet with 'Amatu'l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum, Hand of the Cause of God and wife of the beloved Guardian. At 86 years old, she is still an indomitable lady. She speaks to us of the privilege of the Pilgrimage we are on and how, in years to come, there will be no visits to the insides of the Shrines. How tens of thousands of Bahá'ís will converge on Haifa every day. She speaks of teaching. How all we need to know to teach is that a new teaching has come, that it is good and comes from God, and that it was brought to us by Bahá'u'lláh. She speaks of her mother, May Maxwell, who was the first western martyr and who, praying for a son, was told by 'Abdu'l-Bahá that she would have a famous son. And she did – the son being her son-in-law, Shoghi Effendi. After her talk, she answered questions from the pilgrims and then, quite suddenly, it is over and we collect our belongings and are back out into the town and eat Shwarmi.
After our meal, we returned to the Pilgrim House and then set off to walk down the seven completed terraces below the Shrine of the Báb. These terraces are beautiful in their cleanness and their simplicity, and, of course, are also holy ground. We are able walk down and back up those steps which, some time in the future, will carry the kings and rulers of the world – and, my, they are some climb, those kings will need to be fit! From the steps we can see the start of the work on realigning Ben Gurion Street at the bottom of the mountain, a small effort compared with the work on the terraces. (I was told later that such is the way of the members of the House of Justice that the first people to walk down the terraces when they first opened were pilgrims, and that as they were leaving, they met the members of the House on their way down for their first look – where else would you find such humility in men who hold so much power?)
When we arrived back in the Pilgrim House we found the members of the International Teaching Centre waiting to talk with us. And then, almost as soon as they had gone Mr Furútan and Dr Varqá (the two other remaining Hands of the Cause of God) arrive and regale us with stories about Pilgrimage past and the Four Year Plan. Both speak with a strength which belies their age (Mr Furútan is 91). It is a privilege to be able to meet with these spiritual giants who are yet so humble.