As for the symbol of the cross, appointed in former times: Know verily, that the cross form is a wonderful figure and consists of two right lines placed crosswise—one perpendicular to the other—and this figure exists in all things. Meditate upon these words and pay attention to the tissue in all existing substances, either plant, animal or man, and thou wilt see that they all are formed of the cross figure or two crosswise lines. Consider this intently with true meditation. Then thou wilt be taught by the Holy Ghost that it is for this reason that God hath chosen this symbol to be displayed as the token of sacrifice in all periods of ages. I will explain to thee, in future time, the mystery of sacrifice. There is nothing more beautiful than this tree united with the cross. Verily, this tree is a type of the Tree of Life in conjunction with the cross; in this, the mystery of sacrifice.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 597)
As long as one has not taken a portion of the mystery of sacrifice, it is impossible for him to attain to the Kingdom of God. So long as you do not have the cup free from every sort of liquor, is it possible that you can put good and pure water therein?
(Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 497)
As to the third meaning of sacrifice, it is this: If you plant a seed in the ground, a tree will become manifest from that seed. The seed sacrifices itself to the tree that will come from it. The seed is outwardly lost, destroyed; but the same seed which is sacrificed will be absorbed and embodied in the tree, its blossoms, fruit and branches. If the identity of that seed had not been sacrificed to the tree which became manifest from it, no branches, blossoms or fruits would have been forthcoming.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 450)
Becoming detached from the things of this world is often a painful process and involves sacrifice. But when the believer gives up something dear to him for the sake of the Cause of God, mysterious forces will be released which will cause the Faith to grow. To offer up one’s time, to labour for the establishment of the Faith in a locality, to give up the comforts of home and to go as a pioneer to foreign lands, to offer up one’s substance for the promotion of the Cause, to be persecuted for one’s faith, and even to give one’s life at the end—all these sacrifices are meritorious in the sight of God and will undoubtedly bring victory to His Cause, provided one’s motives are pure and sincere. That is the essential condition of loyalty and steadfastness in the Covenant of God—purity of motive. Without it one’s deeds are not acceptable by God. Bahá’u’lláh testifies to this truth in these words: “O Children of Adam! Holy words and pure and goodly deeds ascend unto the heaven of celestial glory. Strive that your deeds may be cleansed from the dust of self and hypocrisy and find favour at the court of glory; for ere long the assayers of mankind shall, in the holy presence of the Adored one, accept naught but absolute virtue and deeds of stainless purity. This is the day-star of wisdom and of divine mystery that hath shone above the horizon of the divine will. Blessed are they that turn thereunto.
(Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 22-23)
Every man trained through the teachings of God and illumined by the light of His guidance, who becomes a believer in God and His signs and is enkindled with the fire of the love of God, sacrifices the imperfections of nature for the sake of divine perfections. Consequently, every perfect person, every illumined, heavenly individual stands in the station of sacrifice. It is my hope that through the assistance and providence of God and through the bounties of the Kingdom of Abhá you may be entirely severed from the imperfections of the world of nature, purified from selfish, human desires, receiving life from the Kingdom of Abhá and attaining heavenly graces. May the divine light become manifest upon your faces, the fragrances of holiness refresh your nostrils and the breath of the Holy Spirit quicken you with eternal life.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 452)
It is therefore imperative for the individual American believer, and particularly for the affluent, the independent, the comfort-loving and those obsessed by material pursuits,to step forward, and dedicate their resources, their time, their very-lives to a Cause of such transcendence that no human eye can even dimly perceive its glory. Let them resolve, instantly and unhesitatingly, to place, each according to his circumstances, his share on the altar of Bahá’í sacrifice, lest, on a sudden, unforeseen calamities rob them of a considerable portion of the earthly things they have amassed. Now if ever is the time to tread the path which the Dawn-breakers of a previous age have so magnificently trodden. Now is the time to carry out, in the spirit and in the letter, the fervent wish so pathetically voiced by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who longed, as attested in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, to “travel though on foot and in the utmost poverty", and raise “in cities, villages, mountains, deserts and oceans” “the call of Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá.” Then and only then can the members of this Community hasten the advent of the day when, as prophesied by His Pen, “heavenly illumination” will “stream” from their country “to all the peoples of the world.” Then and only then will they find themselves “securely established upon the throne of an everlasting dominion.”
(Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 131-132)
May they one and all be endowed with constancy and fidelity and be granted the courage to make whatever sacrifices are needed to ensure the resounding success of the Plan.
(Universal House of Justice, 20 October 2008, to the Bahá’ís of the World)
No sacrifice is too great for the Cause. What we put into serving it we know serves a useful and worthy purpose, whereas the outcome of our struggles in life is never assured completely, and is certainly insignificant compared to the Faith’s importance.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Bahá’í Community, p. 454)
Observe how rarely human souls sacrifice their pleasure or comfort for others; how improbable that a man would offer his eye or suffer himself to be dismembered for the benefit of another.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 358)
On the other hand, man must acquire heavenly qualities and attain divine attributes. He must become the image and likeness of God. He must seek the bounty of the eternal, become the manifestor of the love of God, the light of guidance, the tree of life and the depository of the bounties of God. That is to say, man must sacrifice the qualities and attributes of the world of nature for the qualities and attributes of the world of God. For instance, consider the substance we call iron. Observe its qualities; it is solid, black, cold. These are the characteristics of iron. When the same iron absorbs heat from the fire, it sacrifices its attribute of solidity for the attribute of fluidity. It sacrifices its attribute of darkness for the attribute of light, which is a quality of the fire. It sacrifices its attribute of coldness to the quality of heat which the fire possesses so that in the iron there remains no solidity, darkness or cold. It becomes illumined and transformed, having sacrificed its qualities to the qualities and attributes of the fire. Likewise, man, when separated and severed from the attributes of the world of nature, sacrifices the qualities and exigencies of that mortal realm and manifests the perfections of the Kingdom, just as the qualities of the iron disappeared and the qualities of the fire appeared in their place.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 452)
One may sacrifice his comfort and material means in order to help the poor and the needy. In so doing, one is rewarded spiritually, but has to give up something of material value instead. This sacrifice, if carried out in the path of God and for His sake, is most meritorious. It enables the soul to become detached from the material world, and thus brings it closer to God. This is one of the fruits of sacrifice.
(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 3, p. 78-79)
Sacrifices in the path of one’s religion produce always immortal results, ‘Out of the ashes rises the phoenix‘.”
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 603)
The essence of all exhortation is that thou shouldst abandon thyself and sacrifice life, body and heart for the Beloved One of the world.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 545)
The present emphasis on the training institute is justified in the light of the extraordinary success it has had in numerous countries of the world, endowing the friends, at long last, with an instrument with which they can address the challenges of large-scale expansion and consolidation of the Faith. To say that the institute is only useful for newly enrolled believers and those who read little is not correct. Many mature and deepened believers are participating in the institute process, both as students and as teachers of various courses, in an effort to contribute directly to the promotion of entry by troops in their respective countries. Through such participation they have furthered their understanding of the requisites of growth and of the action required to maintain it, have caught fresh glimpses of spiritual truths, and have developed their skills and abilities of service. Far from interfering with their own study of the Writings, each according to his or her own capacity and needs, their association with a training institute has enhanced the process. Yet clearly such participation is not a requirement for every Bahá’í, who, in the final analysis, can choose the manner in which he or she will serve the Faith. What is essential is that the institute process be supported even by those who do not wish to take part in it.
(Universal House of Justice to an individual, 31 May 2001)
There may indeed be circumstances where a course conducted over the phone would be of benefit to certain individuals who could not otherwise participate in a study circle; and presumably, there would be no objection if you pursued such an approach on a personal basis.
(Universal House of Justice to an individual, 24 July 2006)
Those who declare a wish to suffer much for Christ’s sake must prove their sincerity; those who proclaim their longing to make great sacrifices can only prove their truth by their deeds.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 50)
Through compromise we will never be able to establish our Faith or win others’ hearts to it. This involves often great personal sacrifice, but we know that, when we do the right thing, God gives us the strength to carry it out, and we attract His blessing. We learn at such times that our calamity is indeed a blessing.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 26)
Were they, every moment of their lives, to offer up themselves as a sacrifice in Thy path, they would still have done but little in comparison with the manifold bestowals vouchsafed unto them by Thee.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 161)
With reference to your question as to whether individuals can help each other by accepting to suffer for each other’s sake. Surely such sacrifice for our fellow-humans can have helpful results. This law of sacrifice operates in our own lives, as well as in the lives of the Divine Manifestations.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 118)
Ye have asked regarding the word of the “Ransomed Ones.” The mystery of “Ransom” (or Sacrifice) is a most great subject and is inexhaustible. Briefly it is as follows: The moth is a sacrifice to the candle. The spring is a sacrifice to the thirsty one. The sincere lover is a sacrifice to the loved one and the longing one is a sacrifice to the beloved. The point lies in this: He must wholly forget himself, become a wanderer (in the Abode of the Beloved) enamoured with His Tresses. He must consign to oblivion the body and soul, the life, comfort and existence. He must seek the good pleasure of the True One; desire the Face of the True One; and walk in the Path of the True One. He must become intoxicated with His Cup, resigned in His Hand and close the eyes to life and living, in order that he may shine like unto the Light of Truth from the Horizon of Eternity. This is the first station of sacrifice. The second station of sacrifice is as follows: Man must become severed from the human world, be delivered from the contingent gloominess, the illumination of mercifulness must shine and radiate in him, the nether world become as non-existent and the Kingdom become manifest. He must become like unto the iron thrown within the furnace of fire. The qualities of iron, such as blackness, coldness and solidity which belong to the earth disappear and vanish while the characteristics of fire, such as redness, glowing and heat, which belong to the Kingdom become apparent and visible. Therefore, iron hath sacrificed its qualities and grades to the fire, acquiring the virtues of that element.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 354)
You know at what great sacrifice you took me to Acca - but the blessings that followed were untold! Our little Mary was one of them!... Dear Sutherland - all progress - all attainment is thro sacrifice - we have been taught to consider sacrifice as something painful - but its real meaning is that we give up a lower thing for a higher - a lesser thing for a greater - it means unfoldment - capacity - life & joy!
(excerpt from a letter written by May Maxwell to her husband, Sutherland, several years after their 1909 pilgrimage to ‘Akka - his first, her second. Found in: Violette Nakhjavani, “The Maxwells of Montreal: Early Years 1870-1922,” p. 252)
… to make a sacrifice is to receive a gift, and whatsoever may come to pass hath issued from God’s grace.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 245)