Thornton Chase, the First Western Baha'i, in his Study
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmete, Used With Permission

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why Do We Make Home Visits?


Why does the Universal House of Justice wish the believers to visit one another's homes to share prayers and discuss them, to share readings on various themes and share their insights, and to share stories about the lives of the Bab and Baha'u'llah?  Surely there are many reasons for the divine wisdom, and I would like to share a few thoughts.

Abdu'l-Baha wrote "O peoples of the world! The Sun of Truth hath risen to illumine the whole earth, and to spiritualize the community of man." 

The House of Justice has written that the believers visit one anothers' homes to enter into a deep conversation on spiritual matters (paragraph 42.34), to deepen their fellow believers in the fundamentals of the Faith (paragraphs 30.9 and 44.42), to reinforce the ties of fellowship that bind the members of the community together (35.11), and to encourage those who are not participating in study circles (35.24). (All paragraph references are to letters in the publication "Turning Point: Selected Messages of the Universal House of Justice" which can be downloaded free here.)

When mentioning that the purpose of such home visits is to "enter into a deep conversation on spiritual matters," the House of Justice also expressed the hope that such visits "not be reduced to a mere social call in which the Faith is not even mentioned."  (42.34)

This calls to mind Abdu'l-Baha's admonition that the believers' conversations should be holy discussions on matters of moment:

The attracted leaves should not, when associating with each other, talk merely about the temperature of the weather, the coldness of the water, the beauty of the flowers and gardens, the freshness of the grass and the flowing water. They should rather restrict their discussions to glorification and praise and the uttering of proofs and reasons, to quoting verses and traditions and putting forth clear testimonies, so that all the homes of the loved ones will be converted into gathering places for lessons on teaching the Cause. If ye do so, in a short while the outpourings of the Kingdom will be so manifested that each one of the handmaidens of the Merciful will become a perspicuous book revealing the mysteries of the Lord of Mercy. 
(Abdu'l-Baha, from a Tablet translated from the Persian, Compilation on Women)


This is again similar to the focus on spirituality the Master describes in His great Tablet of the Divine Plan addressed in April 1916 to the believers in the United States and Canada:  


In short, in all the meetings, whether public or private, nothing should be discussed save that which is under consideration, and all the articles be centered around the Cause of God. Promiscuous* talk must not be dragged in and contention is absolutely forbidden. (Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 55)


It seems to me that this is related to the Guardian's call for the believers to live a "holy life" ** which must be the "controlling principle" in the believers' "social relations with the members of their own community," and its implication of an "abandonment of a frivolous conduct;" as well as being an opportunity for development of the "wonderful trait" of "reverence" which the Guardian advised that the western believers can learn from the Eastern believers.

So these visits are a tool for the spiritualizing of the relationships of the believers.  Too often, our visits with one another are ordinary in their content, and do not rise above the conventional in tone and spirit.  The House of Justice wants us to change Baha'i culture, so that all of our conversations, even those about mundane necessities, are animated by the power of the Word of God.  

Writing about participation in Baha'i meetings, Abdu'l-Baha wrote: 

At these meetings, there should be no extraneous conversation whatever. Rather, the assemblage should confine itself to reading and reciting the Holy Words, and to the discussion of matters relating to the Cause of God: expounding, for example, conclusive proofs and arguments, and the Writings of the Best Beloved of mankind.

He also wrote:  
 
"...when you present yourselves in the meetings, before entering them, free yourselves from all that you have in your heart, free your thoughts and your minds from all else save God, and speak to your heart. That all may make this a gathering of love, make it the cause of illumination, make it a gathering of attraction of the hearts, surround this gathering with the Lights of the Supreme Concourse, so that you may be gathered together with the utmost love.
(Both quotes are from the compilation "Baha'i Meetings/ the Nineteen-Day Feast prepared by the Baha'i World Centre)

Through these home visits, the House of Justice is moving the Baha'i community a step closer to the exalted standard of Baha'i friendship enunciated by Baha'u'llah:

They who are the beloved of God, in whatever place they gather and whomsoever they may meet, must evince, in their attitude towards God, and in the manner of their celebration of His praise and glory, such humility and submissiveness that every atom of the dust beneath their feet may attest the depth of their devotion. The conversation carried by these holy souls should be informed with such power that these same atoms of dust will be thrilled by its influence.
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 7








* The original word here translated as "promiscuous" is "mutafarriqih" which comes from a root word meaning "different."  The significance is diverse conversations, straying from the topic, distracted from the focus of the discourse. (Thanks to the members of the Tarjuman list who shared this with me)

** The Guardian actually uses the phrase "a chaste and holy life" here. In my own experience, when discussing this phrase, believers tend to exclusively focus on the word "chaste" to imply abstinence from sexual immorality, overshadowing the significance of the rest of the phrase -- a "holy life" -- which is a much broader term and emphasizes additional spiritual traits I wished to bring to mind here.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for the post, it helped a lot!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Some really helpful thoughts you've shared here. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete