A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths

Ridván (Paradise, Most Great Festival, King of Festivals). First Day of Ridván on 13 Jalál (جلال, Glory), the 2nd 19-day month of the 19 months in the Badi calendar. The 12 days of Ridván to 1 May celebrate the most important Bahá’í festival and the First Day is the most important of the Bahá’í Holy Days, when Bahá’ís celebrate the day on which their founder Bahá’u’lláh declared His mission as a Manifestation of God and founded the faith. The Bahá’í day runs from sunset to sunset. In these 12 days, in the garden outside Baghdad after which the festival is named, Baha’u’llah declared himself the Promised One prophesied by the Báb. The First, Ninth, on 28 April, and Twelfth, on 1 May, Days of Ridván are especially significant and are Holy Days, when no work is done. It is during Ridván that Bahá’ís elect all their governing bodies. There are 11 Holy Days each year, occasions normally observed with community gatherings in large or small settings such as Bristol and Portishead, open to those of all faiths or none, with programmes befitting the significance of the day. Greeting is Happy Ridván. Image: uri.org.

Prayer Have mercy on us, O Lord, and through Thy gracious providence and generosity incline our ears to the sweet melodies of the birds that warble their praise of Thee amidst the branches of the tree of Thy oneness. Thou art the Great Giver, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Compassionate. Bahá’u’lláh

Grain Rain (谷雨, Gǔyǔ, Corn Rain). The Grain Rain festival falls between the 4 April Qing Ming and the Li Xia 5 May beginning of summer and is a crucial time for growing grain, an old saying being: “Rain brings up hundreds of grains.”. Along the northern coast of China, fishermen embark on the 1st voyage of the year and they have celebrated the Grain Rain festival for more than 2,000 years by setting up sacrificial altars to the gods of the sea and praying for safe passage and a good harvest. Farmers in Northern China see the first heavy rain at this peak time for planting rice and corn, and for the growth of cotton, a start being made on controlling crop pests. People are reminded to eat foods that help boost the immune system. Northern China has the tradition of eating the seasonal new-grown Toona Sinensis leaves (香椿, xiāngchūn) with freshly-made tofu, which is nutritious, strengthens the immune system and is good for the stomach and skin, an old Chinese saying being: “Toona Sinensis before the rain is as tender as silk”. In Southern China, new tea leaves rich in vitamins and amino acids are picked to make mid-spring Grain Rain tea, famous for its freshness and for preventing bad luck. Grain Rain in the ancient Chinese calendar is one of 24 solar terms of about 15 days and it governs agricultural activities, marking the time when the cold weather finally ends and temperatures start to rise rapidly, the saying for the previous solar term’s Qing Ming Day being: “Qing Ming ceases snow, Grain Rain ceases frost.” Image: info@thehutong.com.

Sant’Agnese da Montpulciano (St Agnes of Montpulciano OP, Santa Inés de Montepulciano) (1268-1317). Feast Day commemorating death of noble medieval Tuscan Dominican Prioress, a miracleworker during her lifetime. At 9, she entered the Siena Franciscan monastery for women known as the Sisters of the Sack for the rough religious habit they wore, living a simple, contemplative life. In 1281, Agnes went with the nuns to Proceno to found a new monastery and at 14 she was appointed bursar. Despite her youth, at 20 her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and deep life of prayer were noted and she was elected Abbess of the community. Although she suffered severe bouts of illness, Agnes gained a reputation for performing miracles, people suffering from mental and physical ailments being cured by her presence. Returning to head the monastery in Montepulciano in 1306, Agnes was favoured with many visions and built a church in Florence to honour the Blessed Mother, as she felt that she had been commanded so to do in a mystical vision several years earlier. Under the inspiration of a vision, she led the nuns of her monastery to embrace the Rule of St Augustine as members of the Dominican Order and she brought peace to the warring families of the city. Agnes’ health deteriorated and she died at 49, her tomb in the monastery church becoming the site of pilgrimages. Major shrine Church of St Agnes, Montpulciano, Siena. Venerated in Catholic Church (Dominican Order). Image:catholicnewsagency.com.