the day of the covenant

'Abdu'l-Bahá‘Abdu’l-Bahá wanted Bahá’ís around the world to learn about Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, so He chose a day for us to reflect and learn about it: the Day of the Covenant. On this day, we give thanks and praise to God for the Covenant, and its role in protecting the Cause and ensuring its ultimate victory. We also remember ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s role as Centre of the Covenant, and His lifelong efforts to uphold the Covenant and lay the foundation for the Administrative Order described by His Father.

readings/prayers for study

“…Bahá’u’lláh hath made the Center of the Covenant the Interpreter of His Word—a Covenant so firm and mighty that from the beginning of time until the present day no religious Dispensation hath produced its like.”
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, cited in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh p. 136)

activities

SONGS

STORY

Throughout history, God has sent His Manifestations to educate humanity and to teach His Cause. While these Manifestations were alive, many people became Their followers, and great civilizations arose thanks to Their influence. But when these Manifestations passed on to the spiritual worlds, Their followers were left without guidance. Eventually, with no one to turn to, these followers came to disagree about certain things which were not clear to them. Differences arose, and conflict spread as they fought amongst themselves over who was right. Eventually, they divided into separate groups called sects, and their unity was destroyed.

This did not happen to the followers of Bahá’u’lláh, because of the unique power of the Covenant that He made with His followers. Bahá’u’lláh wrote that after His passing, all of His followers must turn to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for guidance and refer all of their questions to Him, and eventually, to the Universal House of Justice. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made the first preparations for the election of the Universal House of Justice, and wrote that after His passing, the followers of Bahá’u’lláh must turn to the Guardian of the Cause, Shoghi Effendi. Shoghi Effendi built on the work of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and soon after His passing, the Universal House of Justice was elected. In this way, the Covenant ensured that Bahá’ís would always know to whom they should turn for guidance, and it continues to protect the Bahá’í community and preserve its unity.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá has a very special role in the history of the Covenant. He was the unerring Interpreter of Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings, as well as the Perfect Exemplar of His Teachings. He spent His life teaching the Bahá’ís about the Covenant and making sure they understood it. During His travels to the West, He announced His station as the Centre of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, and spent time helping the Western believers to understand what that meant. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and Testament is one of the most important documents we can read to understand the Covenant, because it not only names Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian of the Cause and confirms the role of the Universal House of Justice, but it also helps to explain what the Bahá’í Administrative Order should look like. It is thanks to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s lifelong efforts that the Bahá’í community is what it is today.

PENCILWORK

  • Maze: The Covenant. Also available in French, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
    This maze has four “rooms”: one for each of the Universal House of Justice, Shoghi Effendi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and Bahá’u’lláh. Children begin the maze at one end and follow it to the other end, going through each “room” in order according to the successive Heads of the Baha’i Faith. This illustrates the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh.
  • Word search: ‘Abdu’l-Baha (PDF).

Games

  • Covenant Relay. A relay race is a good way to help children understand how the Covenant operates, as it illustrates the idea of successorship—one person comes after another. If the classroom is too small for children to run around, this activity can take place outdoors or in a gymnasium.

Colouring

  • Artist Monika Ahlkvist Mackenzie produced a lovely colouring page for the Day of the Covenant.

CRAFTS

  • Covenant collage: If your community has a lot of older, out-of-date Bahá’í picture magazines lying around, cut the photos out of it and ask the children to prepare a collage about the Covenant and the Central Figures of the Bahá’í Faith. If there are many children in class, they can work together in small groups, with each group focusing on one of the Central Figures.
  • Shield of the Covenant. Jim at Ruhi Crafts described how a Ruhi Book 8 study circle designed shields to symbolize the Covenant, based on the quote “All-praise to Him Who, by the Shield of His Covenant, hath guarded the Temple of His Cause from the darts of doubtfulness…” You can combine this craft with the Covenant collage, and have the children use the pictures to decorate shields representing each of the Central Figures of the Faith. Alternately, you could ask the children to decorate their shields with drawings of what the Covenant achieves—unity, agreement, cooperation, strength, great accomplishments, and so on.

REFERENCE

The Will of the divine Testator is this: It is incumbent upon the Aghsan, the Afnan and My Kindred to turn, one and all, their faces towards the Most Mighty Branch. Consider that which We have revealed in Our Most Holy Book: ‘When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.’ The object of this sacred verse is none other except the Most Mighty Branch [Abdu’l-Bahá]. Thus have We graciously revealed unto you Our potent Will, and I am verily the Gracious, the All-Powerful. Verily God hath ordained the station of the Greater Branch [Muhammad Ali] to be beneath that of the Most Great Branch [Abdu’l-Bahá]. He is in truth the Ordainer, the All-Wise. We have chosen ‘the Greater’ after ‘the Most Great’, as decreed by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Informed. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Ahd, paragraph 9)

To direct and canalize these forces let loose by this Heaven-sent process, and to insure their harmonious and continuous operation after His ascension, an instrument divinely ordained, invested with indisputable authority, organically linked with the Author of the Revelation Himself, was clearly indispensable. That instrument Bahá’u’lláh had expressly provided through the institution of the Covenant, an institution which He had firmly established prior to His ascension. This same Covenant He had anticipated in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, had alluded to it as He bade His last farewell to the members of His family, who had been summoned to His bed-side, in the days immediately preceding His ascension, and had incorporated it in a special document which He designated as “the Book of My Covenant,” and which He entrusted, during His last illness, to His eldest son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Written entirely in His own hand; unsealed, on the ninth day after His ascension in the presence of nine witnesses chosen from amongst His companions and members of His Family; read subsequently, on the afternoon of that same day, before a large company assembled in His Most Holy Tomb, including His sons, some of the Báb’s kinsmen, pilgrims and resident believers, this unique and epoch-making Document, designated by Bahá’u’lláh as His “Most Great Tablet,” and alluded to by Him as the “Crimson Book” in His “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,” can find no parallel in the Scriptures of any previous Dispensation, not excluding that of the Báb Himself. For nowhere in the books pertaining to any of the world’s religious systems, not even among the writings of the Author of the Bábí Revelation, do we find any single document establishing a Covenant endowed with an authority comparable to the Covenant which Bahá’u’lláh had Himself instituted. (God Passes By, p. 237-8)

november stories

November is always a busy month for Bahá’ís. No less than three Holy Days and two Nineteen-day Feasts take place within the month, making it one of the busiest times of the year. With the recent changes to the implementation of the Bahá’í calendar, one of those holidays is now doubled—rather than celebrating only the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh during this month, that Holy Anniversary is now paired with the Birth of the Báb and celebrated as the Twin Holy Days.

We started the month off in full swing, covering two lessons from Grade 1 of the Ruhi Book 3 curriculum—one on justice and the other on love. For the next two weeks, though, we stepped out of our routine a bit to offer two “special” classes: One class devoted to the Twin Holy Birthdays, featuring stories about the childhood of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh; and another class that consisted mainly of accompanying our local junior youth group as they canvassed the neighbourhood, collecting non-perishable food for the Food Bank.

So while we started out strong this month, it still feels like things have yet to settle into a regular routine. And of course, we’re still building up the class, both in terms of the number of children attending and of our own ability to work together as a team. I have the feeling it’ll settle down eventually, and that we just have to push past this slightly busy patch. All this isn’t to say that it’s bad to have special activities, by the way—that’s fine. I think what makes it more difficult is that we haven’t yet had a chance to form our own routine for the class. The earlier that happens, the better, because it impacts the atmosphere of the class. Establishing a routine helps gives your class structure and makes it more manageable. Once you have it established, it’s easier to step outside the routine and have some fun with it.

Next steps? Well, we have to sit down and plan the next few classes. We’ve been doing it week-to-week lately, and that contributes to the feeling of a class being less manageable. Having everything prepared and set out in advance means that you don’t have to scramble each week, wondering what you’re doing for this week’s class. We’ll probably try to plan at least until the end of December, and see where things go from there. I have a feeling our next class will be fine; things aren’t as busy now that the Twin Holy Days are over, and we’ve already had the chance to discuss things and plan who’s going to do what. As usual, watch this space!

ridván – the king of festivals

Today’s lesson: ridván, the king of festivals.

April 22, 2006: ~2 hours, 6 children, average age 6-7. The material we put together was great — but it didn’t last long enough. We started with prayers like usual, then talked briefly about Easter (since last weekend was Easter and many of the children in our class go to Sunday school) — most of the comments were about chocolate instead of Jesus, of course. We explained that Baha’is also have a very important holiday that started on Friday: the festival of Ridván. We explained briefly the meaning of Ridván, and how Bahá’u’lláh sacrificed forty years of His life in prison and exile to bring His message to the world. One of the children made the most amazing and unexpected comment — in trying to make the comparison between Jesus and Bahá’u’lláh, she said “So, they’re like brothers, right?” I live for moments like this.

We read a story about Ridván from God Passes By and then prepared pictures for painting (the rose above, as well as the map and the slide from book 4). The painting was a special treat for the kids, since we usually colour and draw with felt pens, crayons, and coloured pencils. The two main problems we had were a lack of coordination with the parents (i.e. some of the kids were picked up about 15 minutes after the time the class usually ends), and a lack of contingency planning (i.e. having more material ready to go to cover the ‘dead spots’ in between activities). I definitely could have been more on the ball during the week to remedy the first problem — for instance, calling the parents a couple of days in advance to remind them about the class. Also, it’s clear that we could have used more activities as backups in case we went over time. One note – usually we have lots of musical instruments for the kids to play while we sing, and today we didn’t have enough to go around. I think several of the kids lost enthusiasm and got distracted because of that.

naw-ruz (take 1)

Today’s lesson: naw-rúz.

March 18, 2006: 2 hours, 6 children, average age 6-7. Given the extra preparation due to preparing this lesson in advance, the class went extraordinarily well and was much more organized. There was no sense of last-minute panic and we (the teachers) were far more relaxed and confident – even though we were both tired from fasting for the past 17 days. I think we are both showing signs of wear though – it was harder than usual to put up with difficult behaviour from the children. They were merciful and good though, and spared us any major tantrums.

The activity was quite well-liked. After last week’s class, we decided to work on a few things: preparing the materials in advance, making an example prior to the class so the children know what the craft will look like, and explaining the purpose of the craft. We got together a half-hour before the children arrived and put together a couple of pretty Naw-rúz tags out of construction paper, string and ribbons, using scissors and heart- and butterfly-shaped hole punchers from the dollar store. The children found the craft easy to do and seemed to enjoy it. At least, it went a lot better than last week’s craft (preparation is the key). Making the tags took up a good half-hour, and some of kids chose to make and decorate more than one.

We started with prayers, and we read and sung “Blessed is the spot”. We had a bit of talking to lead up to the activity regarding Naw-rúz, spring, the month of Fasting, and the Bahá’í calendar. We mentioned that Bahá’ís often give each other gifts at Naw-rúz, much like Ayyám-i-Há. They related to the idea of gift-giving and were quite quick to come up with ways to make a gift special (and, of course, one of those ways was to add a nice tag with the recipient’s name on it – hence the craft!) We ended the day with drawing springtime scenes in their scrapbooks – as well as pasting the text of “Blessed is the spot” into the books.