Bahai News - Joyful gift to the Báb Express-News: Religion

Joyful gift to the Bb

By John Gutierrez-Mier
San Antonio Express-News

Web Posted : 06/02/2001

It's the world's holiest site for Baha'is the Shrine of the Bb who founded the religion more than a century and a half ago.

And last week members of the Baha'i faith in San Antonio and around the world rejoiced as the 19 terraces surrounding the shrine on the slopes of Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, were finally completed.

"From the Baha'i standpoint, this is an amazing thing," said Jean Nation, a San Antonio nurse who has been a devotee of the religion for more than 30 years. "It's a fitting gift to the Bb."

The garden terraces are the finishing touch to a shrine that has been in various stages of construction for almost a century. Nation is planning a pilgrimage there next April and expects it to be spiritually moving.

Only a certain number of pilgrims are allowed to make the nine-day visit to the shrine, where the Baha'i world center is also located, Nation said last week during a service at the San Antonio Baha'i Center.

"I've been on a waiting list for years," she said. "But I finally received my letter and I'm ready to go."

Nation estimates there are about 200 Baha'is in San Antonio. The religion was founded in 1844 in what is now Iran by the Bb and his contemporary, Bah'u'llh.

One of the youngest of the world's faiths, it is largely based on the writings of Bah'u'llh, who was born in Tehran in 1817, the son of a wealthy government minister. In Arabic, Bah'u'llh means "The Glory of God."

Both men proclaimed the unity of humanity as the children of one God, and both suffered at the hands of Persian authorities for what was considered anti-Muslim blasphemy.

Leaving behind the trappings of the wealth he was born into, Bah'u'llh proclaimed himself a new and independent messenger of God. He was forced to flee to Palestine and died near present-day Acre, Israel, leaving behind hundreds of pages of writings.

The shrine started out as the tomb of the Bb, who had been executed by Persian authorities in 1850 and whose remains were moved there in 1909 to fulfill the Bah'u'llh's instructions.

Today, the Baha'i faith has spread worldwide, with about 6 million adherents from virtually every ethnic group.

As a 22-year-old student at the University of North Texas in Denton Larry Magee made the shrine pilgrimage 25 years ago, absorbing the exhibits of sacred writings and other artifacts.

"It was a very unique experience," said Magee, who attends the local Baha'i Center. "I had only been a Baha'i less than a year but it helped me learn more about the religion.

"It's kind of hard to describe a spiritual experience, but it changed my life," he said.

John Abdo, a local nutritionist, visited the shrine only last year, and saw most of the terraces already completed.

"I'm a pretty grounded guy, but the experience was just so overwhelming," Abdo said. "Sometimes we're reluctant to use the word 'intoxicating.' The air was intoxicating with the aroma of the flowers. It was beautiful."

The San Antonio Bah'i Center was established in 1992 and relocated in January to its new facilities at 735 W. Magnolia. Services are conducted at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays.

Other meeting times throughout the week vary.

Information on the center is available at 545-4007.

©Copyright 2001, San Antonio Express-News

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