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A much-loved Baha’i prayer for marriage asks the Creator to transform a couple’s union into something beautiful and magical and mysterious – the emanation of light:
Make Thou this marriage to be as threading lights of thine abounding grace, O my Lord, the All-Merciful, and luminous rays of Thy bestowals, O Thou the Beneficent, the Ever-Giving.
Reflecting on this passage, on a summer day, bathed in the rays of the bright orb in the sky, warmed and energized and occasionally blinded by its brilliance, we might ask ourselves: What is the nature of light?
The physicist and philosopher Dr. Arthur Zajonc sought to explore this question by designing a special box that he then filled with light. A projector was set at one end, but with care taken to ensure that its beams travelled straight through the box, without striking or illuminating any interior objects or surfaces.
Within the box there was pure light, and the question posed was: What does one see? How does light look when left entirely to itself?
In fact, when an observer looked through a viewport into the box, he encountered what seemed to be absolute darkness – nothing but the blackness of an empty space.
But attached to the box there was also a wand that could be moved into and out of the box’s interior. As it was moved into the space, the observer could now see the wand brilliantly lit on one side. The space was clearly not empty, but filled with light. Yet without an object on which light could fall, one saw only darkness.
This special box had demonstrated a striking and thought-provoking truth: Light itself is always invisible. We see only its reflection and manifestation on and through other objects, not light itself.
The Baha’i writings suggest that our spiritual experience in this world is much like the inside of this light-filled space. We are flooded continuously and liberally with the light of spirit from an invisible Divine sun, this spirit ready at all moments to manifest its power and influence when presented with a ready heart, with a high-minded thought or pure intention, with a sacrificial act or a generous deed.
In his writings, Abdu’l-Baha wrote that these blessings of the Divine:
… are a shoreless sea … The waves of that sea are continually lapping against the hearts … and from those waves there come intimations of the spirit and ardent pulsings of the soul …. Wherefore do all ye can … that ye may at every moment reflect new splendours from the Sun of Truth.
Just as each person can seek to turn the mirror of his or her heart toward the light of spirit which continually bathes us, so too is the married couple called to turn together to reflect the rays of this invisible sun.
They reflect these rays with their encouragement and kindness toward each other. “Your heart is beautiful. Your hard work is noticed and appreciated. You are thoughtful and generous.” Light sparkles from their words.
They reflect these rays by calling each other to nobler heights, by working to bring out the best in each other, by meeting the unavoidable tests of life with patience and principle.
They reflect these divine rays by creating an environment in the home and in the relationship that is consultative, supportive, fair, safe, truthful, trustworthy.
They reflect these rays of spirit in the children they rear in this environment, working to instill into them the same desire to polish the mirrors of their hearts – to become generous, hard-working, kind, humble, creative, loving, outward-focused, enamored of justice, filled with longing to serve their fellow human beings.
At the center of a Baha’i marriage ceremony, the couple recites a simple vow in the presence of two witnesses: “We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God.”
If we picture the Will of God symbolically as the light of guidance and love and providence emanating from an invisible Divine sun, we might also picture in this weighty verse — “We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God” — the newly-married couple standing individually in their place, each turning toward these rays shining down on them. As they open their hearts and develop their inner selves, this sun draws them closer. As they approach this source, the distance between the two individuals themselves becomes smaller and smaller. They are drawn closer and closer together with the passage of time, gleaming in the warmth of that spiritual sun.
O my Lord! These two bright orbs are wedded in Thy love …. Make Thou this marriage to be as threading lights of thine abounding grace, O my Lord, the All-Merciful, and luminous rays of Thy bestowals, O Thou the Beneficent, the Ever-Giving …. Verily, Thou art the Generous. Verily, Thou art the Almighty. Verily, Thou art the Compassionate, the All-Merciful.
This article is adapted from loving remarks given in honor of the marriage of the author’s niece Malaika to her husband Faizi.