Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Paragraph 41

This is the purpose underlying the symbolic words of the Manifestations of God. Consequently, the application of the terms "sun" and "moon" to the things already mentioned hath been demonstrated and justified by the text of the sacred verses and the recorded traditions. Hence, it is clear and manifest that by the words "the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven" is intended the waywardness of the divines, and the annulment of laws firmly established by divine Revelation, all of which, in symbolic language, have been foreshadowed by the Manifestation of God. None except the righteous shall partake of this cup, none but the godly can share therein. "The righteous shall drink of a cup tempered at the camphor fountain." (1 Qur'án 76:5)

Here is the summary of what we have just read.

But it does beg a question. If this is case, that these sacred laws shall be annulled, and that this annulment was foreshadowed, what does it mean that only the righteous and the godly shall drink from this cup?

Simply put, we think that it means that there comes a time when following the letter of the law overshadows the beauty of compassion and mercy. It is at this time that those who remember the light of those virtues shall recognize the new Manifestation, the new Message, for they are the ones who recall the purpose of these laws.

There is reference to the idea of the Sun of divine Revelation, and the Moon of the Laws. What happens when the legalistic understanding of the laws gets in the way of the warmth of the revelation? It's called an eclipse. The Sun is still shining, but the light of it cannot reach us. It has been obscured by the clouds, or even the moon itself.

This reminds us of when Jesus told us that we had to be more righteous than the Pharisees themselves. Remember, this was at a time when to be righteous was thought to mean following the laws in the strictest sense possible. If that was the case, how could we possibly be more righteous than them? We couldn't. And so Jesus changes the very definition of righteousness for us, clarifying our understanding, bringing us back to the animating spirit behind these laws.

This is what happens in every dispensation. Following the letter of the Law overshadows the spirit, and the religion becomes cold, and seemingly dead.

Now, one last point: the camphor. There was a time in history when wine was diluted, mixed with other liquids to make it either more palatable or healthier. One of these elements was camphor. It had the marvelous property of giving it a pleasant fragrance, a light whitish milky quality, as well as a slight tang. It also aided in preventing a hangover. Tempering the wine would make it healthier for us, and here Baha'u'llah is specifying that it is being mixed with camphor, so He is drawing our attention to these specific qualities.

Perhaps we can meditate on these qualities and see how they refer to our following the laws of the previous dispensation, and how this would enable us to better recognize the new Messenger.

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