March 02, 2012

fasting..a reminder of the sufferings of the destitute

today is the first day of the Baha'i fast which lasts for 19 days and is followed by the Baha'i New Year.  the Baha'i fast transcends the physical restraints of abstaining from food and drink after sunrise and before sunset.  each moment holds an exalted position in the realms of God as one fasts "out of love for Thee and for Thy good-pleasure -- and not out of self and desire, nor out of fear of Thy wrath.." [Baha'u'llah, 'The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting', p.3]

as a Baha'i, one never knows if one's deeds are accepted in the sight of God.  it is known to Him alone.  fasting is a very personal and intimate time of communing with God.  in one of the Baha'i prayers, Baha'u'llah reveals for us,
"..Deign to accept, O my God, the deeds that we have performed in Thy path wholly for the sake of Thy beauty with our faces set towards Thy Cause, free from aught else but Thee.."

   [Baha'u'llah, 'The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting', p.5]
when i meditate on the prayers revealed for the fast, i am brought into that position of submissiveness, humbled before the Almighty One.  i know that i strive to serve God and His creation but have i truly offered up any service in His sight as wholly for His sake?  is my intention pure enough?  is my heart empty of all self-interests and detachment from all else except Him?
 "We, verily, have set forth all things in Our Book, as a token of grace unto those who have believed in God, the Almighty, the Protector, the Self-Subsisting. And We have ordained obligatory prayer and fasting so that all may by these means draw nigh unto God, the Most Powerful, the Well-Beloved. We have written down these two laws and expounded every irrevocable decree. We have forbidden men from following whatsoever might cause them to stray from the Truth, and have commanded them to observe that which will draw them nearer unto Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Loving. Say: Observe ye the commandments of God for love of His beauty, and be not of those who follow in the ways of the abject and foolish."
[Baha'u'llah, 'The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting', p.1] 

observing the law of fasting for these 19 days enables me to draw upon the spiritual forces released through prayer and detaching ourselves from all physical pleasures and selfish desires.  i am focused on cleansing or purifying my heart and mind of all my weaknesses and faults which prevent me from drawing nearer to God. this law of Baha'u'llah is like the brightest light which attracts my soul like a magnet in the direction of selflessness, obedience to God, sole reliance upon Him, and increased capacity to serve Him with a pure heart.

it is my first time fasting in ghana.  many Christians here fast several times a year, sometimes for 21 days at a time.  i am aware that the ghanaian farmers in the northern region fast as a way of life because there is so little food, water and money available to them (they eat once a day, in the evening).. most of the families i know, whose kids visit us all the time, have no pipes with running water.  they have no electricity.  they pound cassava root.  they wash their clothes by hand.  they depend on Nature to provide for the food they grow and for God to bless them -- in this way they have a great love for God and His grace, which they call to mind constantly when asked how they are doing.  there is no separation for them in their day for prayer.  it is a constant breathing in their minds and hearts..knowing them and seeing how they live

these friends, and millions of souls i don't know in the world, suffer from hunger and thirst on a daily basis.  water is not always able to be collected, and when it is, it may not be pure enough to drink.  even if it is pure enough to drink, it needs to be rationed and used for cooking, cleaning and washing.  these days water can be purchased in small sachets for a small amount of money, but money is scarce for most people as well.  many children do not even attend public schools because they don't have enough money for school uniforms and books.  so when i read..
"All praise be unto God, Who hath revealed the law of obligatory prayer as a reminder to His servants, and enjoined on them the Fast that those possessed of means may become apprised of the woes and sufferings of the destitute."
 [Baha'u'llah, 'The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting', p.2]
..i am moved to the depths of my being because i know i need to be more 'apprised of the woes and sufferings' of my friends, my neighbors.  i am constantly thinking of the suffering around me, and i expend on my brethren as much as i can each day, but i know it's not enough.  i know the standard is the life of Abdu'l-Baha.  each year i am striving to reach closer to that standard of servitude -- selfless servitude and sacrifice for the sake of others, perfectly knowing how, when, and what to offer of my substance to all who cross my path..

"One who performeth neither good deeds nor acts of worship is like unto a tree which beareth no fruit, and an action which leaveth no trace. Whosoever experienceth the holy ecstasy of worship will refuse to barter such an act or any praise of God for all that existeth in the world. Fasting and obligatory prayer are as two wings to man's life. Blessed be the one who soareth with their aid in the heaven of the love of God, the Lord of all worlds."
[Baha'u'llah, 'The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting', p.1]

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