Spirit Quest —The colour of Easter


Spirit Quest
The colour of Easter Eggs inspires our hope
By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective
The story goes that one night around Easter a certain poultry farmer with a sense of humour and an appreciation for beauty placed some coloured Easter eggs in his hens’ nests. Imagine the perplexed rooster  when next morning he carried out an inspection of  these nests and saw the garish colored eggs. He was furious and immediately set out  to find the local peacock and pecked him to within an inch of his life.
Easter eggs are very beautiful. Preparing them is a long and complicated process. It comes to us from eastern European countries, thus the giant Easter egg that adorns the entry to Dauphin, Manitoba, a city with a large Ukrainian population. 
Each Easter I bring out a  box containing these special eggs. Not only are they very colourful, they are also getting quite old, 44 years to be exact.
In 1968 I  was visiting Prague  for the first time after mother and I had fled from the Nazis thirty years earlier. In 1938 that city had been a bleak place indeed, as the Czechs stood alone, betrayed by their allies, awaiting the jackboots of the German army. After a brief time of freedom following the end of World War II it  descended once again into a dark age of communism until 1989.
In 1968 my former homeland experienced a brief renaissance. It was called the Prague Spring when, for a few months, it looked as though this small country of less than 15 million situated between the communist east and the capitalist west was about to move into an intermediate ideological position. Under the leadership of Alexandr Dubcek, a Slovak communist, it was his intention to create a communist state with a human face. A new hope emerged at that time. I was excited to visit just before Easter and to have the privilege of preaching in the one protestant church in the inner city, something almost unheard of for a westerner at that time.
There was a sense of optimism and joi-de-vivre in that ancient, historic and beautiful city straddlng the winding Moldau River. Store windows were festooned with Czech flags and pictures of Tomas G Masaryk, the founding president of that country, whose image while not banned was very much kept under wraps during the communist era.
I visited the Old Town Square with its famous astrological clock and the massive statue of Jan Hus, the reformer and martyr. A cheerful woman in traditional  Czech costume was selling Easter eggs. I bought half a dozen which she carefully packed in a small cardboard container when I told her of their destination.  Every year on Easter morning I unpack these eggs and place them in a basket on our dining room table. Since then they have been joined by other eggs coloured by myself and my family. 
Why Easter eggs? The egg is widely used as a symbol of the start of a new life, just as new life emerges when the chick hatches out. The egg is seen by followers of  Christianity as a symbol of the resurrection. Thus the egg speaks of a new hope. In the Prague Spring of 1968 its political message was poignantly evident  to the Czechs. 
Alexander Pope in his An Essay on Man wrote:  “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” Like the season of Spring it speaks of new life. Movements of liberation tend to coincide with the coming of longer days, with the awakening of nature all around. Last fall I predicted a resurgence of the Occupy Movement, I believe it will happen soon, even in our land. The recent federal and provincial budgets have hinted at more of less to come. There is bound to be a reaction.
A message of hope needs to be more than an ethical, philosophical or political theory. An ideal needs to be embodied in a story. Christianity was successful because that hope was found in a man who taught an ethic of love and justice. He was arrested and crucified, died and was entombed. But the grave could not hold him. The Christian gospel tells that he came to life in some form and that his spirit gave life to a movement which quickly took root and became the religion of the Roman Empire within 300 years. 
Diarmaid MacCulloch in his tome of over a thousand pages called Christianity: The First 3000 Years, quotes Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905 - 1988) , a Swiss priest and theologian who, though a Catholic, was an ardent admirer of Karl Barth, the Swiss Protestant theologian. He wrote: “Nothing has ever borne fruit in the Church without emerging from the darkness of a long period of loneliness into the light of community.” MacCulloch’s book tells the story of periods of loneliness and darkness and of hope forever springing in the human breast..
MacCulloch asks the question, “Can there be a new Christian message of tragedy and triumph, suffering and forgiving, to Europeans and those who think like them? Does secularism have to be an enemy of Christian faith, as Nazism and Soviet Communism were enemies, or does it offer a chance  to remold Christianity as it has been remolded before? Can the many faces of Christianity find a message that will remake religion for a society that has decided to do without it?” These are difficult and important questions for our time.
That basket of Easter Eggs continues to speak to me of hope, of breakthrough from tyranny, fear and oppression, from poverty and disease, from the shackles of consumerism and preoccupation with wealth. And, will my 5 year old granddaughter whose very countenance is filled with hope and joy catch that message  in the midst of the difficult times she will undoubtedly encounter?
That hope emboldens us. Its Spirit is alive. There is power housed within the shell!

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