A couple of weeks ago I was in Prague with other students from across Europe thinking about spirituality and discipleship. While there we were encouraged to spend time on an Urban Spirituality Retreat. This involved looking at the Urban landscape – the buildings mainly for me - and spending more time focussing on them than your normally would – noticing things that you wouldn’t normally notice and waiting on what God might have to say to you. It involved standing still in the freezing cold for a while, which was distracting! But in that standing still, and making space just to be in God’s presence God showed me some things.....
I left the metro at Museum station which takes you to the Museum (as you'd think...). This is at the top of Wenceslas Square, where a horse is ridden majestically by Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia, ready to make its way down the grandeur of the Square (which is more like an avenue). The statue quickly distracts you and points you into the city. Wenceslas was martyred because of his Christian faith.
As I approached I noticed some flowers lying on the floor on the opposite side of the road to the statue. Instead of following the swarms of people heading down the square I went to look. The flowers were lying on a bronze cross. The cross is almost flat on the floor and could be easily missed because the statue and the Museum draw your eyes away from the cross. I found out later that the cross is a memorial to Jan Palach and Jan Zajic – two people who stood up against injustice through communist rule. Both died in demonstration in the 1960s and were buried away from the centre of the city. After the Velvet revolution this cross was laid in their memory.
As I stared at the cross my eyes were again drawn to the majestic majesty of Wenceslas. It reminded me of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. On that day the crowds view of a saviour was in total contrast to what would happen later in the week, just as the huge statue contrasted to the cross that lay on the floor. The story of Holy Week speaks of an unlikely victory, and a victory that can easily be missed.
When we lay memorials we do it so we have space to remember. We might have special dates when we remember or certain places. Wenceslas was remembered as a King straight after his death because of his heroic profession of his faith. The two Jan’s were remembered for their sacrifice, years after they died for a regime that took as many years to be overthrown. There were probably people who celebrated them because of their sacrifice – but for me – I knew of Wenceslas, but had to find out who the cross was for - and I think that says something about how we look at Jesus - we need to ask those questions. Why the cross?
On entering Holy Week we enter it with that Palm Sunday procession.... with preparations for a King.... with confidence and boldness. We enter with joy and gladness...... for the disciples perhaps they were built up by the excitement of the crowd – this man they followed would be crowned King. As the week went on, the crowd diminished, the hatred grew, and Jesus ended up alone on the cross, seemingly defeated.
The cross on the floor in Prague reminds the residents of where they have come from – they not only have a history of greatness, but also have a history of sadness and evil, which they were rescued from, and the two people who this cross remembers were significant on that journey. When you see the cross in Prague, you remember, but..... you could too easily miss it.....
The story of Holy Week is a story of new beginnings. In Jesus death and resurrection we have a new covenant – a new promise – a new life with God, and we remember why as we tell and hear the story during Holy Week.
Remembering is important.
Remembering truth makes it less ritual and more real.
Remembering truth stops the sanitisation of the good news to make it easy.
Remembering truth helps to answer the questions of why and how.
Remembering reminds me why it is Christ I follow.
Thomas said to him [Jesus], "Lord we do not know where you are going so how can we know the way?"
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my father as well, from now on you do know him and have seen him." John 14:5-7 (NIV)