Although the Czech Republic is one of the most secular countries in Europe, Easter is observed in most homes around the country. True, most families observe the old Easter traditions that have largely pagan roots, but many people appreciate the message of Easter as one of reflection and forgiveness. And even though Czechs are among the least enthusiastic churchgoers in Europe, Easter mass is always a special occasion. Vít Pohanka visited the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren to find out how Protestants celebrate Easter in the Czech Republic.
Young Protestant minister Michael “Miki” Erdinger is something of a local personality. For example, some time ago he organized Sunday meetings for the general public in arguably the most prominent nightclub in the small city of Žďár nad Sázavou. It was a huge success and interviews with Miki on both local and national media followed.
When I met him to talk about Protestant Easter, he explained that for his church Good Friday is the day of perhaps the most intense and important meditation of the whole festival. In the Catholic Church it is a time of mournful remembrance:
“For Catholics, it is the only day of the year that they do not have the Holy Communion. Because it is the day that Jesus died so we should be sad about it. We Protestants are focusing more on Jesus’s death as a symbol of his sacrifice. The fact that he took all our sins upon himself. It reminds us how much we as ordinary sinners need God’s forgiveness. That is why you can sometimes hear Catholics say that we Protestants celebrate only the death of Jesus Christ but that is a misunderstanding. For them, Good Friday is sadness, for us, it is more meditation and reminder of our sins, how much Jesus gave for us by his death.”
So, while Catholics mourn the death of Jesus on Friday and celebrate Sunday as the day when Jesus Christ rose from the dead, Czech Brethren do not see Easter Sunday as an occasion for special services:
“It is not anything special. Our service on Easter Sunday is quite similar to other ordinary Sundays. The main difference for an outsider would be for example the songs that we sing and that are about the resurrection. We also have Holy Communion which is not so frequent in our church as in the Catholic Church. So, if you are an insider, you notice the unique features of the Easter Sunday service, but not as an outsider. To sum it up: we are focusing mainly on the message, on the Bible. There is no special celebration, processions or even dances.”
But doesn’t the Catholic Church with its beautiful cathedrals and rituals have a big advantage in trying to keep and attract followers? How does minister Erdinger try to raise the interest of particularly young people in God?
“The main thing is, to be honest, and authentic. To show that faith in God is something strongly connected with your everyday lives. It is not anything outside of our everyday lives. Our faith and life go together, there is no ‘fence’ in between them. I just try to show and explain that faith in God is something that helps us in our lives.”
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