October 13, 2010

Meeting Shoghi Effendi for the first time – Recollection by Hand of the Cause, Ugo Giacherry

I have now only a vague memory of what happened or what I saw in the hours until I met Shoghi Effendi that evening of the middle of February 1952.

Those Baha'is who went on pilgrimage during the lifetime of Shoghi Effendi will remember the air of expectation which reigned all day until the coveted moment when, at dinner-time, one was ushered into the Guardian's presence. It was a custom to let the newcomer precede everyone else to the dining-room of the Western Pilgrim House -- an oval-shaped room at the northern end of the lower floor of the building. When my time came that evening, friendly, eager hands led me down the staircase into a large empty hall and through another room to a clear glass door of the French type which opened into the dining-room. Those loving hands literally pushed me through the door into the room where a large table was set for the evening meal. At the far north-eastern side of the table, almost facing the door, sat Shoghi Effendi, his handsome face absorbed in deep thought. A few seconds elapsed as I paused, unable to utter a word or a cry, while my heart was ready to burst. He was wearing a dark steel-grey coat and on his head rested a black tarboosh of unusual height and shape. He lifted his head in my direction and then I met his luminous penetrating gaze. As he rose to greet me a broad smile illumined his whole face, while his eyes seemed to probe my innermost being, as if searching for proofs of love and trust.

The most affectionate words, the sweetest tongue in the world could not reproduce the eloquence of that smile, nor could the deepest thinker of this earth have analysed the loving understanding that radiated in it. I cannot relate the emotion I felt on going near to him.

'Welcome! Welcome!' he said, with a gentle and yet compelling voice. 'At last you have come.' And with a rapid and unforeseen motion he embraced me with such a tenderness that for a time I felt I was in the arms of all the mothers of the world.

Satisfaction and contentment filled my heart; unable to utter a word and yet electrified by all the love expressed in this gesture, I had to steel myself not to fall at his feet. A strong urge to embrace him, again and again, to make myself inconspicuous, small, humble, was overpowering me. But Shoghi Effendi must have sensed this perplexity within me, and guided me to a place at the table. As soon as I was seated and had regained my control, I had the feeling that finally I had reached home. After so many years I cannot recollect all that Shoghi Effendi told me. Expressions of praise and gratitude were flowing from his lips, and my embarrassment and blushing must have been quite evident to the other gusts at the table.
This feeling of nothingness in his presence never left me. Even years afterwards, whenever I came near him, there was an overwhelming force that filled my heart with joy and awe, with the certainty that even my thoughts were visible to him. (Ugo Giacherry, ‘Shoghi Effendi, Recollections by Ugo Giacherry’, pp. 10-11)