A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Feast

As to the Nineteen Day festivity, it is of the utmost importance that the friends should gather at a meeting where, in complete attunement and love, they should engage in the remembrance of God and His praise, and converse as to the glad tidings of God, and proofs of the Advent of Bahá’u’lláh, and should recount the high deeds and sacrifices of the lovers of God in Persia, and tell of the martyrs’ detachment from the world, and their ecstasy, and of how the believers there stood by one another and gave up everything they had.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 427)



But it is not only in the sense of its gradual unfoldment as an institution that the evolution of the Feast must be regarded; there is a broader context yet. The Feast may well be seen in its unique combination of modes as the culmination of a great historic process in which primary elements of community life acts of worship, of festivity and other forms of togetherness over vast stretches of time have achieved a glorious convergence. The Nineteen Day Feast represents the new stage in this enlightened age to which the basic expression of community life has evolved. Shoghi Effendi has described it as the foundation of the new World Order, and in a letter written on his behalf, it is referred to as constituting “a vital medium for maintaining close and continued contact between the believers themselves, and also between them and the body of their elected representatives in the local community.
(Universal House of Justice, 27 August 1989 to the Followers of Bahá’u’lláh in Every Land)


But it is not only in the sense of its gradual unfoldment as an institution that the evolution of the Feast must be regarded; there is a broader context yet. The Feast may well be seen in its unique combination of modes as the culmination of a great historic process in which primary elements of community life—acts of worship, of festivity and other forms of togetherness—over vast stretches of time have achieved a glorious convergence. The Nineteen Day Feast represents the new stage in this enlightened age to which the basic expression of community life has evolved. Shoghi Effendi has described it as the foundation of the new World Order, and in a letter written on his behalf, it is referred to as constituting “a vital medium for maintaining close and continued contact between the believers themselves, and also between them and the body of their elected representatives in the local community”.
(Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 420)


By the same token, it must recognize that, for believers newly enrolled in the community, the desire to assume responsibility for the affairs of the Faith is cultivated more readily in gatherings close to home, in a familiar environment.
(Universal House of Justice, to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 17 May 2009)


Dividing a local community into areas for the purpose of celebrating the Feast is not without certain challenges. In many cities around the world, for instance, people have been segregated into areas according to various factors such as race, ethnicity, and economic conditions. A Local Assembly must be mindful that barriers entrenched in the wider population are not inadvertently perpetuated in the local Bahá’í community as a whole.
(Universal House of Justice, to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 17 May 2009)


Even though the Feast requires strict adherence to the threefold aspects in the sequence in which they have been defined, there is much room for variety in the total experience. For example, music may be introduced at various stages, including the devotional portion; ‘Abdu’l-Bahá recommends that eloquent, uplifting talks be given; originality and variety in expressions of hospitality are possible; the quality and range of the consultation are critical to the spirit of the occasion. The effects of different cultures in all these respects are welcome factors which can lend the Feast a salutary diversity, representative of the unique characteristics of the various societies in which it is held and therefore conducive to the upliftment and enjoyment of its participants.
(Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 419-420)


Even though the observance of the Feast requires strict adherence to the threefold aspects in the sequence in which they have been defined, there is much room for variety in the total experience. For example, music may be introduced at various stages, including the devotional portion; ‘Abdu’l-Bahá recommends that eloquent, uplifting talks be given; originality and variety in expressions of hospitality are possible; the quality and range of the consultation are critical to the spirit of the occasion. The effects of different cultures in all these respects are welcome factors which can lend the Feast a salutary diversity, representative of the unique characteristics of the various societies in which it is held, and therefore conducive to the upliftment and enjoyment of its participants.
(Universal House of Justice, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities)


Everywhere the devotional portion of the Feast is enriched by the sense of reverence cultivated through personal prayer and regular devotional gatherings. The administrative portion is animated by reports on the progress of the Cause, as well as insights contributed by eager believers drawn from diverse populations, both newly enrolled and long-standing, engaged in Bahá’í activity. The social portion transcends polite formalities, becoming the joyous reunion of ardent lovers, of tested companions united in a common purpose, whose conversations are elevated by spiritual themes.
(Universal House of Justice, to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 17 May 2009)


Experience to date has demonstrated the salutary effect of decentralizing the Feast on the quality of participation, on bonds of fellowship, and on the overall process of growth. Although some believers may yearn for the enthusiasm generated by large community gatherings, this need can be met on other occasions arranged by the Assembly.
(Universal House of Justice, to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 17 May 2009)


Give ye great weight to the Nineteen Day gatherings, so that on these occasions the beloved of the Lord and the handmaids of the Merciful may turn their faces toward the Kingdom, chant the communes, beseech God’s help, become joyfully enamored each of the other, and grow in purity and holiness, and in the fear of God, and in the resistance to passion and self. Thus will they separate themselves from this elemental world, and immerse themselves in the ardors of the spirit.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities, Section 9.16)


If the Feast is to be properly experienced, beyond an understanding of the concept must also be the preparation of it and the preparation for it. Although the Local Spiritual Assembly is administratively responsible for the conduct of the Feast, it often calls upon an individual or a group of individuals to make preparations—a practice which is consonant with the spirit of hospitality so vital to the occasion. Such individuals can act as hosts and are sometimes concerned with the selection of the prayers and readings for the devotional portion; they may also attend to the social portion. In small communities the aspect of personal hospitality is easy to carry out, but in large communities the Local Spiritual Assemblies, while retaining the concept of hospitality, may find it necessary to devise other measures.
(Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 421)


If this feast be held in the proper fashion,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states, “the friends will, once in nineteen days, find themselves spiritually restored, and endued with a power that is not of this world.” To ensure this glorious outcome the concept of the Feast must be adequately understood by all the friends.
(Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 419)


Important aspects of the preparation of the Feast include the proper selection of readings, the assignment, in advance, of good readers, and a sense of decorum both in the presentation and the reception of the devotional programme. Attention to the environment in which the Feast is to be held, whether indoors or outdoors, greatly influences the experience. Cleanliness, arrangement of the space in practical and decorative ways—play a significant part. Punctuality is also a measure of good preparation.
(Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 421)


In deciding to decentralize the Feast, a Local Assembly will need to determine how the devotional portion will be organized and how reports, news, and announcements will be shared. A common set of materials for the administrative part of the Feast would generally be disseminated each Bahá’í month to every area designated to host a gathering, including any particular topics or questions that should be raised.
(Universal House of Justice, to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 17 May 2009)


In this connection, we are requested to draw your attention to the 27 December 2005 message of the House of Justice which indicated that, as the process of growth continued to gather momentum worldwide, urban centres would need to be divided into progressively smaller areas, perhaps ultimately into neighbourhoods, as a means of facilitating planning and implementation. Not only would such areas become focal points of activity, the message suggested, but in each the Nineteen Day Feast would be conducted. Already in some cities around the world the Feast is held at the intimate level of the neighbourhood.
(Universal House of Justice, to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 17 May 2009)


It is notable that the concept of the Feast evolved in stages in relation to the development of the Faith. At its earliest stage in Iran, the individual friends, in response to Bahá’u’lláh’s injunctions, hosted gatherings in their homes to show hospitality once every nineteen days and derived inspiration from the reading and discussion of the Teachings. As the community grew. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá delineated and emphasized the devotional and social character of the event. After the establishment of Local Spiritual Assemblies, Shoghi Effendi introduced the administrative portion and acquainted the community with the idea of the Nineteen Day Feast as an institution. It was as if a symphony, in three movements, had now been completed.
(Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 419-420)


It is notable that the concept of the Feast evolved
in stages in relation to the development of the Faith. At its earliest stage in Iran, the individual friends, in response to Bahá’u’lláh’s injunctions, hosted gatherings in their homes to show hospitality once every nineteen days and derived inspiration from the reading and discussion of the Teachings. As the community grew, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá delineated and emphasized the devotional and social character of the event. After the establishment of Local Spiritual Assemblies, Shoghi Effendi introduced the administrative portion and acquainted the community with the idea of the Nineteen Day Feast as an institution. It was as if a symphony, in three movements, had now been completed.
(Compilations - Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities, NSA USA)


Moreover, because of the opportunity which it provides for conveying messages from the national and international levels of the administration and also for communicating the recommendations of the friends to those levels, the Feast becomes a link that connects the local community in a dynamic relationship with the entire structure of the Administrative Order. But considered in its local sphere alone there is much to thrill and amaze the heart. Here it links the individual to the collective processes by which a society is built or restored. Here, for instance, the Feast is an arena of democracy at the very root of society, where the Local Spiritual Assembly and the members of the community meet on common ground, where individuals are free to offer their gifts of thought, whether as new ideas or constructive criticism, to the building processes of an advancing civilization. Thus it can be seen that aside from its spiritual significance, this common institution of the people combines an array of elemental social disciplines which educate its participants in the essentials of responsible citizenship.
(Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 420-421)


Moreover, because of the opportunity which it provides for conveying messages from the national and international levels of the administration and also for communicating the recommendations of the friends to those levels, the Feast becomes a link that connects the local community in a dynamic relationship with the entire structure of the Administrative Order. But considered in its local sphere alone there is much to thrill and amaze the heart. Here it links the individual to the collective processes by which a society is built or restored. Here, for instance, the Feast is an arena of democracy at the very root of society, where the Local Spiritual Assembly and the members of the community meet on common ground, where individuals are free to offer their gifts of thought, whether as new ideas or constructive criticism, to the building processes of an advancing civilization. Thus it can be seen that aside from its spiritual significance, this common institution of the people combines an array of elemental social disciplines which educate its participants in the essentials of responsible citizenship.
(Universal House of Justice, 27 August 1989 to the Followers of Bahá’u’lláh in Every Land)


Music, as one of the arts, is a natural cultural development, and the Guardian does not feel that there should be any cultivation of “Bahá’í Music” any more than we are trying to develop a Bahá’í school of painting or writing. The believers are free to paint, write and compose as their talents guide them. If music is written, incorporating the sacred writings, the friends are free to make use of it, but it should never be considered a requirement at Bahá’í meetings to have such music. The further away the friends keep from any set forms, the better, for they must realize that the Cause is absolutely universal, and what might seem a beautiful addition to their mode of celebrating a Feast, etc., would perhaps fall on the ears of people of another country as unpleasant sounds—and vice versa. As long as they have music for its own sake it is all right, but they should not consider it Bahá’í music.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Faith)


Regarding your question about singing during the devotional portion of the Feast, you are correct in your suggestion that the lyrics in such music should be drawn from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, the Báb and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The friends are welcome to use music containing non-scriptural lyrics to enrich and enliven other parts of their Feasts.
(Universal House of Justice, March 1994)


That you may all attain the high mark set for the Feast as a “bringer of joy", the “groundwork of agreement and unity", the “key to affection and fellowship” will remain an object of our ardent supplications at the Holy Threshold.
(Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 421)


The Assembly will also want to ensure that consultations in each area are fruitful and productive, that the views of the friends are brought to its attention, and that it responds to recommendations in a loving and constructive manner. To this end, it may decide to designate one or more friends to act on its behalf in chairing the gathering, recording the results of consultations, and receiving contributions to the Fund.
(Universal House of Justice, to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 17 May 2009)


The Feast is known to have three distinct but related parts: the devotional, the administrative, and the social. The first entails the recitation of prayers and reading from the Holy Texts. The second is a general meeting where the Local Spiritual Assembly reports its activities, plans and problems to the community, shares news and messages from the World Centre and the National Assembly, and receives the thoughts and recommendations of the friends through a process of consultation. The third involves the partaking of refreshments and engaging in other activities meant to foster fellowship in a culturally determined diversity of forms which do not violate principles of the Faith or the essential character of the Feast.
(Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 419)


The Writings of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh can certainly be read any time at any place; likewise the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá are read freely during the spiritual part of the Feast. The Guardian has instructed that during the spiritual part of the Feast, his own writings should not be read. In other words, during the spiritual part of the Feast, readings should be confined to the Writings of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh and to a lesser extent of the Master; but during the part of the Feast the Guardian’s writings should not be read. During the administrative discussion of the Feast, then the Guardian’s writings may be read. Of course, during the administrative part of the Feast there can be no objection to the reading of the writings of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh or ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 245)


The continued expansion of the Bahá’í community in the years to come will surely give rise to a range of challenges that will affect how the devotional, administrative, and social aspects of the Nineteen Day Feast are conducted in diverse localities. Responsibility for addressing these challenges will fall, in the first instance, on Local Spiritual Assemblies. Theirs is the duty to remain alert to conditions in their communities, to consult with the friends, to respond thoughtfully to a multiplicity of needs and circumstances, and to remain flexible without compromising fundamental principles. In this connection, they would naturally seek advice from the Auxiliary Board members. National Spiritual Assemblies will, in collaboration with the Counsellors, follow developments closely, familiarize themselves with approaches taken in different localities, facilitate learning to determine which approaches prove most effective over time, and offer guidance and encouragement.
(Universal House of Justice, to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 17 May 2009)


There is a time set aside at the Nineteen Day Feasts for the community to express its views and make suggestions to its assembly; the assembly and the believers should look forward to this happy period of discussion, and neither fear it nor suppress it.
(Shoghi Effendi, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities)


To a very large extent, the success of the Feast depends on the quality of the preparation and participation of the individual. The beloved Master offers the following advice: “Give ye great weight to the Nineteen Day gatherings, so that on these occasions the beloved of the Lord and the handmaids of the Merciful may turn their faces toward the Kingdom, chant the communes, beseech God’s help, become joyfully enamoured each of the other, and grow in purity and holiness, and in the fear of God, and in resistance to passion and self. Thus will they separate themselves from this elemental world, and immerse themselves in the ardours of the spirit.” In absorbing such advice, it is illuminating indeed to view the Nineteen Day Feast in the context in which it was conceived. It is ordained in the “Kitáb-i-Aqdas” in these words: “It hath been enjoined upon you once a month to offer hospitality, even should ye serve no more than water, for God hath willed to bind your hearts together, though it be through heavenly and earthly means combined”. It is clear, then, that the Feast is rooted in hospitality, with all its implications of friendliness, courtesy, service, generosity and conviviality. The very idea of hospitality as the sustaining spirit of so significant an institution introduces a revolutionary new attitude to the conduct of human affairs at all levels, an attitude which is critical to that world unity which the Central Figures of our Faith laboured so long and suffered so much cruelty to bring into being. It is in this divine festival that the foundation is laid for the realization of so unprecedented a reality.
(Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 421)


The decentralization of the Nineteen Day Feast in urban centres, where a significant percentage of humanity currently resides, is an inevitable consequence of the growth of the Faith, marking a significant stage in the organic development of a local community. While care should be taken to avoid instituting this practice precipitously when the number of believers in the entire city is relatively small, a Local Spiritual Assembly should not feel obliged to prolong the pattern of hosting a community-wide Feast if it is no longer propitious. Such a change may be required when limited time or facilities hamper the satisfactory observance of the three parts of the Feast in a single location, most notably the portion devoted to consultation on community affairs.
(Universal House of Justice, to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 17 May 2009)