They call it Great Friday

IMG_7126Czechs 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.

Mad Doctor

How can I describe literally the most unbelievable doctor’s appointment I have ever had? I want to draw you a picture of Alice falling down a rabbit hole into Wonderland, but instead of finding the Mad Hatter she finds a crazy, anti-communist doctor who oddly resembles Albert Einstein.

In order to finish the paperwork for my visa (which I’m beginning to think is actually just a hoax run by people with a sick fascination for watching others run through bureaucratic mazes like lab rats) I needed to get cleared by a doctor. Just a quick visit to make sure I wasn’t radiating nuclear waste or coughing up organs.

The doctor, pre-approved by the school where I’ll be working, has a home office – that is to say, his office is in the basement of a large relic of a house on top of a hill. The basement.

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