If you were excited about the Fast, then you are going to love the promises of Spring! The Fast was like spring cleaning for the soul. Now we get to celebrate and be enriched by the beauty we help create in the world!
Spring is here, a seasonal change of astronomical proportion in the Northern Hemisphere that coincides with the vernal equinox, marking a time of equilibrium when both day and night are roughly equal. It is a time of hope, a time when all things are renewed. Spring represents change — change of the seasons, change of weather conditions — and brings with it the joyful expectation of new physical growth on earth and is a time for celebration. It is the first day of the Baha’i New Year Naw-Ruz and is a holy day where work and school are suspended. An excerpt from the Naw-Ruz prayer by Baha’u’llah explains it.
Praised be Thou, O my God, that Thou hast ordained Naw-Rúz as a festival unto those who have observed the Fast for love of Thee and abstained from all that is abhorrent unto thee. Grant, O my Lord, that the fire of Thy love and the heat produced by the Fast enjoined by Thee may inflame them in Thy Cause, and make them to be occupied with Thy praise and with remembrance of Thee.
Since thou hast adorned them, O my Lord, with the ornament of the Fast prescribed by Thee, do Thou adorn them also with the ornament of Thine acceptance, through Thy grace and bountiful favor. For the doings of men are all dependent upon Thy good-pleasure, and are conditioned by Thy behest. Shouldst Thou regard him who hath broken the Fast as one who hath observed it, such a man would be reckoned among them who from eternity had been keeping the Fast. And shouldst Thou decree that he who hath observed the Fast hath broken it, that person would be numbered with such as have caused the Robe of Thy Revelation to be stained with dust, and been far removed from the crystal waters of this living Fountain.
…He Who is Thy Branch and all Thy company, O my Lord, have broken this day their fast, after having observed it within the precincts of Thy court, and in their eagerness to please Thee. Do Thou ordain for Him, and for them, and for all such as have entered Thy presence in those days all the good Thou didst destine in Thy Book. Supply them, then, with that which will profit them, in both this life and in the life beyond.
Thou, in truth, art the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
Nowruz however, (spelled with an o instead of an a) has been celebrated by many Middle Eastern cultures for thousands of years. I have watched my Persian friends for decades retreat to their cultural families during Naw-Ruz to celebrate this holiday and never really quite understood it. I had grown up in Christian communities and this practice was foreign to me. I wasn’t sure in the beginning what was culture and what was religion. Naw-Ruz is a spiritual holiday for all the Bahais and is different from Nowruz which is a cultural holiday.
A Harvard resource helped me to understand it best. Nowruz is a festival designed to bring together families and communities, share traditional food, dance, and music, and introduce the tradition to the next generation. The most important cultural activity is the haft-seen table. On this table are placed seven things starting with the letter S. The seven items represent: sunrise and the spice of life, love and affection, patience and age, health and beauty, good health, fertility and sweetness of life, and rebirth and renewal of nature. In addition, a mirror represents reflection on the past year, an orange in a bowl of water symbolizes the earth, a goldfish in water represents new life, colored eggs for fertility, new coins for prosperity, fresh hyacinths to symbolize spring, and candles to radiate light and happiness.
With each new year, comes the potential to renew the beauty in all things. We too get a chance to start anew, to put the old behind us, much like last year’s withered blooms and dead leaves. For, while a dried flower arrangement can be beautiful and long lasting, nothing compares to the beauty, freshness, and fragrance of new flowers. Perhaps we can also consider renewing our faith, renewing our commitments to oneness and justice, and sacrificing our lives for “the betterment of the world.” Spring is a time to be joyful, if we could but appreciate it, a time for freshness and growth in all the kingdoms — plant, animal, and man — all coming to us at this time as a gift from our Creator.
In the same way our physical eyes witness a new spring time, so does humanity from time to time, when God renews His religion, and sends us new teachers to spur us on to our next level of our development. Abdul-Baha explains:
“The Sun of Reality is one Sun but it has different dawning-places, just as the phenomenal sun is one although it appears at various points of the horizon. During the time of spring the luminary of the physical world rises far to the north of the equinoctial; in summer it dawns midway and in winter it appears in the most southerly point of its zodiacal journey.
These day springs or dawning-points differ widely but the sun is ever the same sun whether it be the phenomenal or spiritual luminary. Souls who focus their vision upon the Sun of Reality will be the recipients of light no matter from what point it rises, but those who are fettered by adoration of the dawning-point are deprived when it appears in a different station upon the spiritual horizon.
Furthermore, just as the solar cycle has its four seasons the cycle of the Sun of Reality has its distinct and successive periods. Each brings its vernal season or springtime. When the Sun of Reality returns to quicken the world of mankind:
1) divine bounty descends from the heaven of generosity.(Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 255)
2) The realm of thoughts and ideals is set in motion and blessed with new life.
3) Minds are developed,
4) hopes brighten,
5) aspirations become spiritual, the
6) virtues of the human world appear with freshened power of growth and
7) the image and likeness of God become visible in man. It is the springtime of the inner world.“
Happy Nawruz and Happy Nowruz