At the latitudes where I’ve lived the longest (between 40 and 43 degrees north of the Equator, to be exact), November through March are dark and frozen. The Baha’i (Badi) calendar has no celebratory Holy Days during most of this wintry season; the Day of the Covenant falls around US Thanksgiving, and Ayyam-i-Ha comes about a month before the Spring Equinox. In between, for most of the Gregorian months December, January, and February, there are no celebrations on our calendar, in contrast to other religions’ calendars, many of which feature holidays around winter solstice, casting light on the darkest time of year.
So, what are Northern Baha’is to do when the short daylight hours are draped with thick clouds and nighttime descends in the afternoon? My spirits feel dampened during these winter months, and Ayyam-i-Ha seems like a very distant light on the horizon.
While we can enjoy Yule logs, Hanukkah menorahs, Christmas lights, Kwanzaa candles, Yalda songs, Gregorian New Year dances, and even Festivus poles with our friends and family of different faith traditions, what about our own community? How can Baha’is lift our spirits—and in so doing, summon the energy to lift the spirits of our friends—during the dark season?
One answer comes every nineteen days: Feast. Baha’i Feast gatherings mark the beginning of every Baha’i month. Four Feasts fall during what I consider the darkest heart of the dark season: Masa’il (Questions), Sharaf (Honor), Sultan (Sovereignty), and Mulk (Dominion). Since the month of Mulk is coming up soon—this year, it begins at sunset on February 5th—I’d like to consider this Feast in particular.
My husband and I live in a community with about thirty Baha’is scattered around various townships. Because of where the municipal borders fall, we lack a Local Spiritual Assembly (LSA). In communities with LSAs, this administrative body ensures Feasts are observed. Yet, despite our challenging lack of administration, members of our community volunteer to host nearly every Feast—a testament to the power of individual initiative.
Last year, my husband and I hosted the Feast of Mulk in our home. We combined the Feast gathering with a screening of Luminous Journey, a documentary film about Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to the United States in 1912. Recalling the incredible energy Abdu’l-Baha—at nearly 70 years old—poured into his transatlantic, transcontinental journey, illumined our gathering as we shared a potluck dinner, read passages from Baha’i Writings about dominion (below), and consulted about our plans for the bicentennial Birth of Baha’u’llah. This year, the local Baha’i Campus Association1 will host the Feast of Mulk, enveloping the university students in the gathering’s energy.
Feasts provide every Baha’i community, large or small, with “the groundwork of agreement and unity” and “the key to affection and fellowship.”2 Simply being present at Feast helps the local Baha’i community cohere. Often, Feast participants take an active role, too: reciting prayers and singing songs, discussing community plans, and bringing food to a potluck. Feast provides a regular reminder that we all can contribute light to brighten the glow of our spiritual community, whether by hosting; by preparing devotions, an agenda for consultation, or refreshments; or simply by showing up.
Anyone can choose the devotions for Feast. Here are some devotions that resonated with me for the Feast of Mulk (Dominion):
O God, Who art the Author of all Manifestations, the Source of all Sources, the Fountain-Head of all Revelations, and the Well-Spring of all Lights! I testify that by Thy Name the heaven of understanding hath been adorned, and the ocean of utterance hath surged, and the dispensations of Thy providence have been promulgated unto the followers of all religions.
I beseech Thee so to enrich me as to dispense with all save Thee, and be made independent of any one except Thyself. Rain down, then, upon me out of the clouds of Thy bounty that which shall profit me in every world of Thy worlds. Assist me, then, through Thy strengthening grace, so to serve Thy Cause amidst Thy servants that I may show forth what will cause me to be remembered as long as Thine own kingdom endureth and Thy dominion will last.
This is Thy servant, O my Lord, who with his whole being hath turned unto the horizon of Thy bounty, and the ocean of Thy grace, and the heaven of Thy gifts. Do with me then as becometh Thy majesty, and Thy glory, and Thy bounteousness, and Thy grace.
Thou, in truth, art the God of strength and power, Who art meet to answer them that pray Thee. There is no God save Thee, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
O Son of Being!
Thy Paradise is My love; thy heavenly home, reunion with Me. Enter therein and tarry not. This is that which hath been destined for thee in Our kingdom above and Our exalted dominion.
Hearken ye, O Rulers of America and the Presidents of the Republics therein, unto that which the Dove is warbling on the Branch of Eternity: “There is none other God but Me, the Ever-Abiding, the Forgiving, the All-Bountiful.” Adorn ye the temple of dominion with the ornament of justice and of the fear of God, and its head with the crown of the remembrance of your Lord, the Creator of the heavens. Thus counselleth you He Who is the Dayspring of Names, as bidden by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. The Promised One hath appeared in this glorified Station, whereat all beings, both seen and unseen, have rejoiced.
All blessings are divine in origin, but none can be compared with this power of intellectual investigation and research, which is an eternal gift producing fruits of unending delight. Man is ever partaking of these fruits. All other blessings are temporary; this is an everlasting possession. Even sovereignty has its limitations and overthrow; this is a kingship and dominion which none may usurp or destroy. Briefly, it is an eternal blessing and divine bestowal, the supreme gift of God to man.
Say: True liberty consisteth in man’s submission unto My commandments, little as ye know it. Were men to observe that which We have sent down unto them from the Heaven of Revelation, they would, of a certainty, attain unto perfect liberty. Happy is the man that hath apprehended the Purpose of God in whatever He hath revealed from the Heaven of His Will, that pervadeth all created things. Say: The liberty that profiteth you is to be found nowhere except in complete servitude unto God, the Eternal Truth. Whoso hath tasted of its sweetness will refuse to barter it for all the dominion of earth and heaven.
Arise, in My Name, amongst My servants, and say: “O ye peoples of the earth! Turn yourselves towards Him Who hath turned towards you. He, verily, is the Face of God amongst you, and His Testimony and His Guide unto you. He hath come to you with signs which none can produce.” The voice of the Burning Bush is raised in the midmost heart of the world, and the Holy Spirit calleth aloud among the nations: “Lo, the Desired One is come with manifest dominion!”
Glorified is He to Whom pertaineth the dominion of the heavens and of the earth, in Whose hand lieth the kingdom of all created things and unto Whom shall all return. It is He Who setteth the measure assigned to each and every thing and revealeth His goodly gifts and blessings in His sacred Book for the benefit of those who offer gratitude for His Cause.
Say, this earthly life shall come to an end, and everyone shall expire and return unto my Lord God Who will reward with the choicest gifts the deeds of those who endure with patience. Verily thy God assigneth the measure of all created things as He willeth, by virtue of His behest; and those who conform to the good-pleasure of your Lord, they are indeed among the blissful.
– The Bab