Czechs call today Great Friday. The days leading up to Easter (which is celebrated on Monday) all have names. Green Thursday. White Saturday.
But today is Great Friday.
I find that especially interesting because most Czechs don’t actually understand the significance of the name – much like most Americans don’t appreciate Good Friday, and perhaps even less so because we don’t get to take the day off from school. My school in Prague closed on Thursday and won’t open again until Tuesday. Easter weekend, in a self-proclaimed atheist country, is just an excuse to squeeze in one last weekend of skiing or take a long weekend at the cottage. The meaning of the holiday gets lost in painted eggs and ancient traditions. Most Czech kids cannot even explain the story of Easter – though, now that I think about it, I’m not sure how many American kids can explain it either.
It is on these things I ponder as I walk home through the forest. I’ve spent the afternoon at the pub with some french fries, hot chocolate and svařák (mulled wine). It doesn’t feel like Easter. The day is cold and dark and I still haven’t emotionally recovered from the freak snow storm yesterday morning. Not even the patches of blue sky help the bare forest to look less empty and lifeless.
There are, however, tiny buds on all the trees. They’re barely visible, but I can see them, lined up in perfect rows like pearled ridges on a baroque crown. Grass is coming up through the chocolatey-brown dirt as well. It’s the only real green anywhere right now.
Down in the neighborhood the forsythia is blooming bright yellow, but the only flowers up here in the forest are the white petals swarming the trees on the slope like a thousand pale moths.
The thing about spring is that it comes so suddenly. And you don’t even realize how much you’re aching for the warmth of the sun and color of the earth until it’s there. You can’t see how much the winter has imprisoned your spirit until the rebirthing of the earth sets it free again.
It’s incredible, experiencing a real spring. The transition from grey winter to golden summer is nothing short of magical. It’s a miracle.
I wish for a spiritual spring for the Czech Republic – and for the U.S.
I wish that hearts that have been locked away in fear and anger, doubt and pride, would feel the warmth and richness of God’s love. That they would be reborn from the frozen ground and bloom in the hope of forgiveness and the promise of redemption.
I wish that they would understand why Great Friday is really Great Friday. That someone would tell them the story of a God who loves them so much, he sent his only son to die on a cross so that they might live. And then that son rose again, conquering death as the sun defeats winter, promising new life to all those who believe.
And if that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.
I spent Good Friday noon at Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Alpine, gathering with at least a hundred Christians to walk The Biblical Stations of the Cross. This event is hosted by the Alpine Ministerial Association and involves Catholics and Protestants walking the 14 Stations of the Cross, the pastors of the various churches taking turns at reading the Passion story from the Scriptures as we listen and look out between the ten-foot tall natural wood crosses to see Alpine nestled below us, gauzy in the noon glare. As the 100+ pilgrims nudge forward to the next cross, Father Acker of Blessed Trinity, the Anglican Church where I’ve been attending Friday morning healing services for the past nine years, leads us in a chorus of “Were You There?” that is related to the Scripture just read. Perspiration trickles down the back of my neck, and I try to shade my eyes with my folded program stating the Fourteen Stations and the Scriptures to be read at each Station. As we near the end, a kind woman tilts her umbrella to offer me some shade, a complete stranger serving another in this time of contemplation of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice, His passion and death. As the final Scriptures are read, we turn away from the pastors, the view, and the unrelenting sunshine to leave in silence, pondering the magnitide of His sacrifice for each of us.
(What was going to be a quick statement turned into the beginnings of a blog post, LOL! 😉 Hope you don’t mind. I’ll have the link with photos posted on Facebook soon.)
I hope that you had a blessed Easter Monday!
Susanne Barrett 🙂