Final visit to the House of the Master and to|
the Seat of the Universal House of Justice followed by
Pilgrim Farewells and final prayers at the Shrines of the Báb and 'Abdu'l-Bahá
Well, it is nearly ended. And we are already making our farewells.
The morning started much the same as the others, with 686 steps and another 150 or so down the Shifra steps, later.
But first I have a private duty and must say prayers for a very dear friend who is not at all well. And for his wife too. And then I have to run down the Shifra Steps to the house of the beloved Master, there to perform that well establish Bahá'í ritual, the taking of the group photographs.
The Master's house became, in turn, the home of Shoghi Effendi and Amatu'l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum, and there she still lives so we are really her guests. We visit only four of the rooms. The first is the room where the Master met with his visitors, from kings to paupers. Then in the opposite side of the house is the one where the Master lived and passed away from this earthly existence. Next door was the room in which that wonderful exemplar, Bahíyyih Khánum (the Greatest Holy Leaf), lived and passed away. Both these rooms have been kept as they were when the Master and the Greatest Holy Leaf lived in them, gentle in their simplicity and totally unostentatious. One by one we withdrew and passed into a sitting room where we waited for those who wished to linger longer. As I sit, below the portrait of the beloved Master, I gaze into the eyes of the Greatest Holy Leaf, whose portrait is hung opposite me, and reflect on the spiritual beauty and strength of that small figure, a haven of peace amongst the storms that broke around her.
As we were leaving my friend and I were delighted to be asked to come to lunch in the apartment of two Bahá'ís who work here at the World Centre. Their apartment was small but beautiful, just off Ben Gurion Street and with a clear view of the unfolding development on the side of Mount Carmel.
And then it is stairs and more stairs back to the Pilgrim House. At 1430 we gather for our last visit of our Pilgrimage – to be shown round the Seat of the Universal House of Justice. There is so much that one could write about this elegant building, the heart of the Administration of our Faith. It is a palace – but not the palace of kings, proud in their wealth and power and possessions. This palace has simplicity in its grandeur. It is the nerve centre of the Faith and yet it has that quiet dignity that one has come to expect. 5½ storeys high it faces Bahjí across the bay of Haifa and, together with the Shrine of the Báb, dominates the view from lower Haifa.
Amongst the things we see are several models of the terraces of the Shrine of the Báb and the arc of the World Centre buildings as they will be when they are complete, it will be an incredible site once it is complete. We keep climbing and climbing, passing through beautiful rooms and offices to emerge ("please mind your head") eventually onto the roof of the building, from whence we are free to contemplate the beauty of the gardens and the wonderful views over the city of Haifa and the bay beyond.
And there, on both sides, are the construction sites – the Terraces and the Centre for the Study of the Texts to the south and the new seat of the International Teaching Centre to our right. Once more, I become a tourist, and snap away happily! Then, all too soon, it is over and we start our descent back to ground level. But there is one more item on our programme, not mentioned in our – we enter the auditorium of the lecture theatre for a final talk, not by a member of the House, nor the ITC, but from the architect of the Indian Temple and site manager for all the construction work on Mount Carmel.
He tells us stories of the construction work – its ups and downs, the problems and their solutions. It is an inspiring address, illustrated with slides of the construction work, architects drawings, and, finally, photographs of the Indian Temple.
After returning to the Pilgrim House we make our final visit to the Shrines, a perfect ending to a wonderful Pilgrimage. And then we are served tea, or coffee, and biscuits by members the World Centre staff and we start to make our farewells to those who are leaving that night. Then I make my way up to my hotel with some of the friends. And that is it. The Pilgrimage is over – well so I thought.