Perhaps you live in a place like I do where the weather is a big topic of conversation. You could be in line at the market or among friends. No matter the situation: casual talk always begins with a commentary on the weather of the hour and its forecast.
As the Fast draws to a close, Baha’is celebrate the New Year when the vernal equinox begins in Tihran, the cradle of the Baha’i Faith. While snowstorms may still rage in my corner of the world and while any greenery is still dormant and hidden, spring has nevertheless sprung. One of my favourite Writings is:
The Divine Springtime is come, O Most Exalted Pen, for the Festival of the All-Merciful is fast approaching. Bestir thyself, and magnify, before the entire creation, the name of God, and celebrate His praise, in such wise that all created things may be regenerated and made new.
As I child, I was confused by Naw-Ruz: how could we celebrate spring when it would be weeks before we saw any evidence of it? What about Baha’i communities where spring wouldn’t arrive until much longer, if at all? Or those in the Southern Hemisphere where it’s autumn?
I now know that Naw-Ruz celebrates a spiritual springtime that has dawned for all humanity. Preethi wrote a Baha’i Blog article called Naw-Ruz: Spiritual Springtime. In it she describes how spring is often used in the Baha’i Writings as a metaphor for the spiritual rejuvenation released by the Baha’i Revelation, just as every religion before it revived the world from its winter. This concept gives me much hope as I navigate the crumbling decay of the Old World Order with activities and teachings that breathe new life – like those first plants that poke their heads above the dead leaves of summers past. In the newly translated Days of Remembrance, you can find a passage by Baha’u’llah about Naw-Ruz that includes these stirring words:
By God! This is the Day whereon from the murmur of the waters can be heard: “No God is there but Him, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting”, and from the whispering of whose breezes can be heard: “No God is there but Him, the Almighty, the Best-Beloved”, and from the rustling of whose trees can be heard: “No God is there but Him, the Most Powerful, the Ever-Giving, the All-Glorious, the All-Loving”, and beyond them, from the Tongue of Grandeur can be heard: “This is the Day of the appearance of Him Who is manifest yet hidden, Who is visible yet concealed. Hasten unto Him, O ye who are the daysprings of the divine names, and draw nigh unto Him, O ye who dwell in the kingdom of creation, with hearts that have been purified from superstitions and vain imaginings and sanctified from the idle talk of men!”
As the sun sets on the last day of the Fast, spring can also dawn in my heart. What habits, what ways of thinking, can I cast off? What spiritual muscles need reviving? What qualities lie dormant under the dried and dusty foliage of my faults? This prayer, which Sophie, Siria and Ashkan sang in one of our Studio Sessions, is a beautiful reminder to me of my aspirations for this coming year and Whose assistance I seek:
O Lord, shower upon them all the outpourings of Thy mercy, rain down upon them all the waters of Thy grace. Make them to grow as beauteous plants in the garden of heaven, and from the full and brimming clouds of Thy bestowals and out of the deep pools of Thine abounding grace make Thou this garden to flower and keep it ever green and lustrous, ever fresh and shimmering and fair.
For some who like New Year’s resolutions, Naw-Ruz can also be a time of forging new plans of personal growth: perhaps studying a text you’ve never deepened on before, or returning to a Writing you’ve already read in order to gain a new understanding; perhaps you’d like to memorize a new prayer or Tablet; or strengthen specific friendships with elevated conversations. As the year begins and I exert effort, my heart will be refreshed:
The incomparable Creator hath created all men from one same substance, and hath exalted their reality above the rest of His creatures. Success or failure, gain or loss, must, therefore, depend upon man’s own exertions. The more he striveth, the greater will be his progress. We fain would hope that the vernal showers of the bounty of God may cause the flowers of true understanding to spring from the soil of men’s hearts, and may wash them from all earthly defilements.
In this sense, a spiritual springtime can begin in our lives at any time or even at any moment of the day. Tests and difficulties can be likened to the harshness of winter which allows for new growth:
The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. His attitude in this world will be that of divine happiness.
Spring also has a deep spiritual significance for me as a mother as it relates to the spiritual education of my children, who are in the spring of their lives. Abdu’l-Baha lovingly counsels mothers:
Thus will these young plants in the garden of God’s love grow and flourish under the warmth of the Sun of Truth, the gentle spring winds of Heaven, and their mother’s guiding hand. Thus, in the Abha Paradise, will each become a tree, bearing his clustered fruit, and each one, in this new and wondrous season, out of the bounties of the spring, will become possessed of all beauty and grace.
This year I’m reflecting on what spring means for humanity, and on what it means to me: as a prayer for growth, as a time to set goals, as a result of striving to pass tests and challenges, and as privileged time as a mother. What does a spiritual springtime mean to you?
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.