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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Twice Holy Thursday: Gethsemane and Ridvan

(Former Garden of Ridvan Site)
April 21, 2011 will be especially honored within two
sacred traditions.  For Christians, it is Holy Thursday(aka Maundy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Thursday of Mysteries, Green Thursday, Great Thursday, White
Thursday, High Thursday, and Communion Thursday).
For Bahais it is Ridvan (aka Paradise, Most Great Festival, and King of Festivals).

It is not just this date that is currently shared by these two traditions, but also a profound history of sacred
gardens.  Although Maundy Thursday focuses upon The Last Supper, what then followed were the pivotal events in the Garden of Gethsemane.  These events included Jesus’ prayers and agony, an angel’s visit, neglect and betrayal by disciples, and the arrest of Jesus. 

Gethsemane (“Oil Press”) is located at the foot of Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives.  National Geographic
estimates that some of the olive trees within today’s Garden of Gethsemane are over a thousand years old. 
Open-air Maundy Thursday evening services are held at the garden’s altar.

About 500 miles east of Gethsemane lies the site of another sacred garden, the Garden of Ridvan (“Garden
of Paradise”).  It is located near the Tigris River in what is now the Bab Al-Moatham neighborhood of Baghdad.  Unfortunately, the garden itself no longer exists.  It was cleared some years ago to make way for a huge medical complex now called Baghdad Medical City (formerly named Saddam Medical City).

When Bahaullah was exiled from Baghdad by the Ottoman Empire on April 21, 1863, he went across the Tigris to what was then the outlying Najibiyyih gardens (later renamed the Garden of Ridvan by Bahais).  He and a group of followers stayed there for 12 days, during which time Bahaullah declared himself to be a Messenger of God.  Wikipedia reports that it was this profound revelation that “led to the emergence of the Bahai Faith as a distinctive movment separate from Babism.”


Copyright April 21, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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