Hospitality

Dr J. E. Esslemont, author of the often-printed Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s guest in Haifa for two and a half months in the winter of 1919-20. He observed, ‘Both at lunch and supper He used to entertain a number of pilgrims and friends, and charm His guests with happy and humorous stories as well as precious talks on a great variety of subjects. “My home is the home of laughter and mirth,” He declared, and indeed it was so. He delighted in gathering together people of various races, colours, nations, and religions in unity and cordial friendship around His hospitable board.’

As He said on another occasion, ‘My home is the home of peace. My home is the home of joy and delight. My home is the home of laughter and exultation. Whoever enters through the portals of this home must go out with gladsome heart.’

Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 172

Mary Bolles (Maxwell) took an early pilgrimage to the prison city. She heard that the food man eats is of no importance, as its effect endures but a short time. But the food of the spirit is life to the soul and its effects endure eternally. She heard ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tell the touching ‘story of the hermit’. Bahá’u’lláh ‘was traveling from one place to another with His followers’ and ‘He passed through a lonely country where, at some little distance from the highway, a hermit lived alone in a cave. He was a holy man, and having heard that Our Lord, Bahá’u’lláh, would pass that way, he watched eagerly for His approach. When the Manifestation arrived at that spot the hermit knelt down and kissed the dust before His feet and said to Him: “Oh, my Lord, I am a poor man living alone in a cave nearby; but henceforth I shall account myself the happiest of mortals if Thou wilt but come for a moment to my cave and bless it by Thy Presence.” Then Bahá’u’lláh told the man that He would come, not for a moment but for three days, and He bade His followers cast their tents, and await His return. The poor man was so overcome with joy and with gratitude that he was speechless, and led the way in humble silence to his lowly dwelling in a rock. There the Glorious One sat with him, talking to him and teaching him, and toward evening the man bethought himself that he had nothing to offer his great Guest but some dry meat and some dark bread, and water from a spring nearby. Not knowing what to do he threw himself at the feet of his Lord and confessed his dilemma. Bahá’u’lláh comforted him and by a word bade him fetch the meat and bread and water; then the Lord of the universe partook of this frugal repast with joy and fragrance as though it had been a banquet, and during the three days of His visit they ate only of this food which seemed to the poor hermit the most delicious he had ever eaten. Bahá’u’lláh declared that He had never been more nobly entertained nor received greater hospitality and love. “This,” explained the Master, when He had finished the story, shows us how little man requires when he is nourished by the sweetness of all foods – the love of God.”’

Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

One July evening in 1919 a pilgrim held a sumptuous banquet at Bahji. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself served about forty guests. Bedouins camping nearby also received a generous share. When their children came, the Master gave a coin to each. In the morning their fathers came to the Master, who was sitting in the garden by the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, writing Tablets, to express their appreciation and to seek His blessing.

Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 99

As the guests were served, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went from one to another with a vial of Attar of Rose, anointing each one of the friends.

Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 147

Certain of those who thronged to see the Master, having travelled from far countries, were naturally anxious to spend every possible moment with Him, Whose deeds and words appealed to them as ever-filled with grace and love. Therefore it came about that day after day, whilst the Master was teaching, the luncheon gong would sound, and those who remained would be invited to sit at food with Him. We grew to expect that there would be nineteen guests at table, so often did this number recur. These were much-prized times; ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would continue the interrupted discourse, or tell some anecdote, often humorous, meanwhile frequently serving the guests with His own hands, offering sweets, or choosing various fruits to distribute to the friends.

Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway

During this second stay in Chicago, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá chose to stay in Corrine True's home for a day or two before moving to a hotel. When He arrived with His secretaries, Corrine serve them all tea. Unfortunately, it was a type of tea that Persians don't like, and some of them remarked that "there was a better tea". But the Master drank it anyway, saying, "This tea is very good because it is been prepared with love."

Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 192