A Nation Shaped by Sacrifice 1

“NO AFFAIR IN THE world succeeds without sacrifice,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told a gathering on December 1, 1912, in New York’s Upper West Side, while explaining the role America must play in leading the world to peace. Sacrifice was a theme he returned to often during his final days in America, telling the American people that they would be called upon to make great sacrifices in the upcoming decades. …

“Observe how rarely human souls sacrifice their pleasure or comfort for others,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told an overflowing lecture hall at Green Acre in Eliot, Maine, on the evening of August 16. At Coronation Hall in Montreal, Canada, on September 5, he noted “how the greatest men in the world — whether among prophets or philosophers — all have forfeited their own comfort, have sacrificed their own pleasure for the well-being of humanity. They have sacrificed their own lives for the body politic. They have sacrificed their own wealth for that of the general welfare. They have forfeited their own honor for the honor of mankind.” …

On the evening of November 29, 1912, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Kinney in New York, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá discussed the meaning of Jesus Christ giving his life for humanity. “There is no doubt,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, “that one who put forth such a claim as Christ announced would arouse the hostility of the world and be subjected to personal abuse.” But without having accepted that, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told his audience, Jesus “would not have been able to guide a single soul.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá then explained that human development consists in sacrificing of one’s lower nature in order to acquire the characteristic of our higher nature. “Man must sever himself from the influences of the world of matter, from the world of nature and its laws,” he explained, defining this natural state as one of “ambition and avarice, of self-worship, egotism and passion.” In becoming fully human, he said, the individual “sacrifices the imperfections of nature for the sake of divine perfections,” — perfections which include characteristics such as justice, love, compassion, and generosity.

In a nation with a legacy of sacrifice, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá reminded Americans it was still needed. He challenged them to see that their greatest sacrifices lay ahead.

Final Days in America: New York City 2

On November 28, Thanksgiving Day, Mahmúd commented:

During these last days of His stay in America, there was always an influx of friends in His Presence. They came to offer supplications, to turn to the eternal Face, to look upon the Dawning Place of the Divine Covenant, and to cling to His Mantle of Favor. Every moment the cries of the lovers increased and the fire of love in the breasts glowed more. There was not a moment’s rest for the Holy Being. He was either delivering an address to a public meeting or talking to a friend in His private chamber. The Holy Tongue was imparting joy to the sad, hope to the hopeless, and a flame to the dormant while He guided strugglers to the Right Path.

They are seekers and desire to investigate reality. They wish for peace and tranquillity and they desire fellowship and love among humanity. 3

Several friends came at dawn to the Master’s residence, begging admission into His presence and saying that watching Him at prayer would be its own spiritual lesson. We were astounded to see how eager they were, proof that the power of the Word of God has dispelled old habits and opened the gates of bounty such that at so an early hour these souls had taken leave of their comfortable beds and sought refuge at the majestic gate of the Center of the Covenant.

These were the last few remaining days of the Master’s sojourn in America as He planned to leave for England soon. At dawn and in the evening a stream of believers and prominent people, in a spiritual and prayerful attitude, came into His presence. They came to offer supplications, to turn to the Eternal Face, to look upon the Dawning Place of the Divine Covenant and to cling to the mantle of His grace and favor. At every moment the cries and ardor of His lovers increased and the fire of love in their breasts glowed more fiercely. There was not a moment’s rest day or night for the Master. He was either delivering addresses at various public and private gatherings or talking to a friend in His private room. He gave joy to every sad one, hope to the hopeless and was a flame of fire to the heedless while guiding those who strive onto the right path.

Today the Master’s public address concerned the spiritual capacity of the Americans. He said:

Although they are engrossed in material civilization and physical pursuits, still, unlike people in some European countries, they are not wholly devoid of spiritual susceptibilities. They are seekers and desire to investigate reality. They wish for peace and tranquillity and they desire fellowship and love among humanity.

In the evening He expressed His happiness at the spirituality and services of the friends in their efforts to diffuse the fragrances of God.

  1. Sockett, Robert. “A Nation Shaped by Sacrifice.” 239 Days in America, 28 Nov. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/11/28/a-nation-shaped-by-sacrifice/. [return]
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 189. [return]
  3. ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=9#section250 [return]