The mystery of sacrifice
Posted by Sen on October 16, 2009
One of the friends said:
Long ago I picked up a supposed quote from the Bab, “The mystery of sacrifice is there is no sacrifice.” Now I can’t find a source. Does anybody know if it is authentic or has another documented origin?
I am afraid this another of those kitab-e hearsay sources. It enters Bahai lore in 1916, in the words of one of the delegates to the National Convention, Mrs Elizabeth Greenleaf (1863-1941). An account of the proceedings says:
Mrs. Greenleaf: As I have listened, my thoughts have crystallized themselves into three sentences. The first is, “Lift up thy heart with delight that thou mayest be fitted to meet me and to mirror forth my beauty” (the voice of God speaking in the Hidden Words. The second is what Abdul Baha said to Isabel Fraser: Attainment is not through renunciation but through radiant acquiescence. The third is the word “‘sacrifice.”‘ We use the great word and have heard much about the “mystery of sacrifice.” Now what is the mystery of sacrifice? The mystery of sacrifice is that there is no sacrifice.
Reported in Star of the West, Vol. 7, p. 66, published in July 13 1916, reporting on the closing session of the Convention in Chicago, April 29-May 2 1916.
This bit of wisdom may not be from Bahai scripture, but it is no less true for that. The paradox of sacrifice is already expressed in the Gospel of Luke: ”whoever would save his life will lose it; and whosever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.” (Luke 9:24)
In 1927 the hymn-writer Louise ‘Shahnaz’ Waite uses the phrase in an article called ‘Meditation, Supplication and Service’ published in Star of the West Vol. 17, p. 345. It is not presented as a quotation, but as her own words.
“A story which illustrates in a homely way the principle underlying our subject is told of two brothers, whose father divided a fortune between them and told them to go forth … he built up this progressive city, and far and wide did his influence reach and he was known as one of the greatest benefactors to humanity and loved and honored by all. He learned ‘the joy of giving’ and the mystery of ‘sacrifice that, in reality, there is no sacrifice, for nothing can be given away. The Law of Love is to return in full measure, pressed down and running over, all that is sent forth; that to lose one’s life is to find it, and that over the Shining Pathway of service to God through service to humanity, doth the soul gain the high station of conscious oneness with God. (Star of the West, Vol. 17, 348-9)
Then the phrase is included in a Seals and Crofts lyric (lyrics and music by Dash Crofts and Wayne Newitt, 1984):
She’s a mystery, she can shine her light on me.
She can soar like a dove — She’s the mystery of love.
She’s got mastery, perfect human qualities.
Can you hear her call, benevolent to all.
Look at the majesty in her eyes, the window of her soul.
Oh how you sacrifice for all — mystery of love.
Humility, tenderness so sweet.
Wish that I could be the dust beneath her feet.
Do you realize the compassion in her eyes?
It’s the essence of good that her whole life glorifies.
Look at the loftiness of the dove, the joyfulness she brings.
I would do anything for you — mystery of love.
The mystery of sacrifice is that there is no sacrifice.
Oblivious to fire and ice, make the world a paradise.
Light of unity, brings the joy of harmony.
Let it come to me — oh mystery of love.
You’re a priceless gem of mysterious force.
You’re irreplaceable — mystery of love.