Monday, November 29, 2010


"In the name of our Lord, the Exalted, the Most High."

This simple sentence is called an "invocation". It is not considered a paragraph, and therefore does not need to be numbered. It is, however, part of the text and, we feel, needs to be studied.

An invocation, according to the dictionary, is an act of humble prayer, a supplication to God for assistance of a petition. Here, it is, in some ways, reminiscent of the Lord's Prayer, and the opening sentence in the many Surahs of the Qur'an. It also appears in a few of the writings of The Bab.

We could easily ask why this invocation is here, and readily admit that it is because all that we are about to study, comes from God. But here, Baha'u'llah does not use the word God, and instead calls upon Him by three of His attributes. It is our intention to try and come to a better understanding of why He chooses to use these three. As we have mentioned earlier, we believe that every time Baha'u'llah calls upon one of the attributes of God, it is to draw our attention to that particular attribute within ourselves. We are, after all, created in His image, and we understand that to mean, that whatever attributes God may show in the capital sense, we show in the lower case sense.

To start, however, we noticed the use of the preposition "in".

Prepositions are used in many ways and don't always take on their literal meaning. For example, we often say, "I'm on the computer". What we mean to say is that we're typing on the computer keyboard, or looking at various websites on the internet, and not literally perched like a bird on top of our computer.

Here it is not being used as a substitute for "within" or "into", but is rather used in the sense of conveying purpose. It is like a messenger delivering a message from a King. Baha'u'llah is quite specific in Whose name He is writing. Like a King's messenger, Baha'u'llah does not need to be any more specific than he already is. When the messenger says, "In the name of the King", nobody asks, "Which King?" But then, if he wants, the messenger can add more specifics, such as "defender of the realm". They can also add the name of the particular sovereign, but it is often not necessary.

In this Invocation Baha'u'llah includes three attributes of God, as if to clarify Who He means, or in what capacity.

The first of these is "Lord". A Lord, by definition is "a person who has authority, control, or power over others". By etymology, it comes from the earlier word "hlafweard", literally "one who guards the loaves," from hlaf "bread, loaf" and weard "keeper, guardian, ward". When we make this connection or analogy to the "Bread of Life", it adds another dimension to this simple invocation. We already know that the only way we can get access to this sacred Bread is through the Manifestations of God. They are, One and All, servants of God, the Guardian of that precious Loaf.

The second attribute is the "Exalted", which means "raised or elevated, as in rank or character; of high station". The dictionary is such a wonderful tool when studying the Writings.

Can anything be of a higher station than God? This is a good reminder of where this Book is coming from. While some may see this attribute as "putting us in our place", we see it as a reminder of the place of this Text. It is not just any text, produced for our amusement or entertainment, but instead it is a very special and sacred Text. It comes down to us from somewhere in the heavenly realm. We should approach it with humility, eagerness and anticipation. It is from a loving Creator given to His creation at their own level, so that they can begin to understand it and further advance in their spiritual development. Overall, it truly is a precious gift, given by a King to His lowly servant.

The third attribute is "the Most High".

How is this different from the "Exalted"? If we look at all three attributes, we can see a continuous upward progression. A lord can be anyone who is above the commoner. One who is exalted, is above the general "run-of-the-mill" lord, if we can phrase it that way. But God is not only exalted, He is "the Most High". There is none higher. It is almost as if we are reading, "God is high. No, wait a minute. I mean really high. I mean like even higher than the highest." Like everything else within the Sacred Writings, our vision is slowly and patiently elevated, progressively and systematically, one step at a time. This assists us to advance our own spiritual development and move closer to the presence of "the Most High".

And that seems like the proper introduction for a Book of this magnitude.