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August 26, 2012

Question:  In the dog days of summer, can faith take a holiday?

The answer to this question depends on perspective — where you are standing and what you are viewing.

If you are standing in the valley, you see one scene; if you are standing on the mountaintop, you see another. In perspective A, faith is expressed in action — believers in action. People need holidays, rest and change.

The body and the nervous system require it. To the extent that believers need a rest, faith can take a holiday.

In perspective B, in a traditional religious framework, work is suspended on holy days. In that sense, faith also takes a “holiday,” a word that meant originally “holy day,” a notion that is lost on the vast majority of the secular-minded, who never associate the sacred “holy day” with “holiday.”

Suspending work on holy days is consecrated to both rest and remembrance: rest from commercial activities and remembrance of God through prayer, meditation, and communal gathering.

There are nine holy days on the Bahá’í calendar during which work must be suspended. All these holy days are associated with events that occurred in the lives of the three Central Figures (the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá). These holy days are commemorations and celebrations. The declarations of the mission of the Forerunner, the Báb (1819-1850), every May 23rd, and the Founder, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), during the nine-day springtime festival of Rezwan (paradise), beginning on April 21, are causes for happiness and rejoicing.

Bahá’ís do not sit at home all day reading scripture on these days; they gather to celebrate these joyous events. Other holy days, such as martyrdom of the Báb, every July 9, are more sombre.

In perspective C, faith never takes a holiday. It cannot take a holiday because it never rests. As a dynamic, living force that sustains the universe, it is in never-ceasing, perpetual motion. Without faith, the sustaining power of energetic love, life in the universe as we know it would cease to exist.  
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen August 26, 2012
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