Spirit Quest on season of hope

Spirit Quest

Easter, the season of hope, is still in the air
By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

01 May 2014 — Easter is my favourite season of the year. That basket of beautiful coloured eggs  once again adorns our dining room table. Not only are those eggs beautiful but they are now more than 55 years old. I bought them from a vendor on the Old Town Square in the heart of the city of Prague in April 1968 on the occasion of my first visit after my mother and I had fled our homeland in 1938.
Prague was in a festive mood when I visited. The simple red, white and blue flag fluttered from every tower and mast throughout the city. The picture of Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of the newly created Czechoslovakia after the end of World War I, adorned many store windows and homes. It had been absent during the dark days of communism after the World War II.

It was spring but more than that it was the Prague Spring when Alexander Dubcek had brought new hope to the people of the republic that the dark days of communism were over, that there was now a socialism with a human face. Unfortunately those day were not to last. In August of that year the tanks and soldiers of the Soviet Union and its allies rolled through the cobblestone streets of that ancient city and most of the country and the old totalitarian dictatorship was reinstalled. The pictures disappeared from the store windows and drabness and fear returned. It would take another twenty years before another revolution, “a velvet revolution” would take place under the leadership of Vaclav Havel. I have often wondered whether Havel would have been possible without Dubcek  to lead the way and bring hope for a better future.

Certainly the beautiful Easter eggs had something to do with it. Hope could not be extinguished in the hearts of a people.

Shortly after the Prague Spring I had the privilege of hosting Milan Machovec, a Christian Marxist philosopher who had taught at the Charles University in Prague. He had been out of the country teaching in Vienna where there was greater freedom to explore the Christian significance of Karl Marx. Both in the West and in the East Machovec raised eyebrows. Neither Marxists nor democrats agreed with him.

When Jan Palach, a student of Machovec, immolated himself on Wenzeslaus Square, Machovec was deeply troubled and he told me that he must return to be with his students no matter what the consequences for him. As I saw him off at the Ottawa airport he confessed that he was not going home directly without first visiting Jerusalem, as he said, “to walk where the Master walked” where Jesus was crucified and resurrected and from where his movement for peace and hope emanated. However dark the days that followed the aborted Prague Spring there was a hope that could not be extinguished. The colourful eggs were a symbol of that hope.

I live in hope. Without hope there would be no life worth living. I live in the hope that the tension between the Ukraine and Russia can be resolved without recourse to war. I live in the hope that Canada can once again become a peacekeeper rather than a warrier nation (read the book Warrier Nation by McKay and Swift) I hope that Tom Steyer, the American billionaire and environmentalist and opponent of the Keystone XL Pipeline who recently visited Canada, is right, when upon visiting Alberta, he said that “your country can survive without the oil patch” (Doug Saunders in the Globe and Mail, April 19). It is my hope that English and French and Aboriginals and all the many newcomers to our land can live together and build a responsible and prosperous nation without being the world’s greatest source of pollution.

Hope has to be broad. Those Easter eggs remind me of that many faceted hope without which there is not hope for a happy future for the next generation, for my granddaughter Sophia and her friends. Hope springs eternal. Spring is my favourite season because it is a season of hope.