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|Visit to the International Archives Building|
I have just had 30 minutes absolutely alone in the Shrine of the Báb – what a bounty to be able to pray unrestrainedly in the presence of the Most Exalted, the Return of Christ Himself. I know it is the wrong Tablet but it was very much "with tears".
At four o'clock we were taken to the Archives building. Now I am not really interested in "museums" so had expected not to get as much from this visit as much as I should. And, in a way, my fears were realised, though that is my problem. Passing through the grand front entrance one enters the darkened, air conditioned interior of the building – and then the lights are turned on to show a most wonderful chamber, lined on the two longer sides with galleries. At the far end, there are three cabinets with their doors closed (all the cabinets are closed to protect their contents from light). It is to these that we are first led. They contain, from left to right, a photograph of Bahá'u'lláh, a triptych of paintings of Bahá'u'lláh (painted by a Christian artist) and a portrait of the Báb. For 30 minutes we are allowed to gaze on these portraits before the doors are, once again, closed to protect them.
What was my reaction? I really cannot say. In a way, it was a disappointment. The photograph, if one did not know better, could have been of any ordinary person. Granted it was taken only two weeks after an attempt on the life of the Blessed Beauty using poison. But it is, after all, just a photograph and cannot convey the full majesty of its subject. To my mind, the triptych said more of the artist than of the Subject. The main portrait had the Blessed Beauty in a typical "Christ pose" with one hand raised, pointing heavenwards, and the other indicating the earth. The (painted) portrait of the Báb was, on the other hand, exquisite. He is very slim, looks older than I imagined but very handsome with his green turban and bearded face.
What was it that impressed me most? It is difficult to say really, there was so much it was impossible to take it all in. But what I do recall quite vividly was the blood-stained fragment of the shirt that the Báb was wearing at the time of His martyrdom. Also, a rendering in Arabic script of the final lines of the Tablet of Visitation, the letters of which were made up from a minute script which was the whole of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Yes, it is a museum and, at times, I did feel I was just another visitor on yet another guided tour, looking at an array of precious artefacts from the past, but then something amazing would appear, such as the sword of Mullá Husayn, and it all seemed so real again. The other abiding memory will be, of course, the original Tablets of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, many of them exquisitely illuminated, at the request of the Greatest Holy Leaf, and the superb calligraphy of Mishkín-Qalam.