Friday, July 6, 2012

Alternate Holidays

Jan Hus
In the Czech Republic there is no such holiday as July 4th.  To them it's just another day. However, July 5th and 6th are another story.  July 5th is Cyril and Methodius day.  July 6th is the day Jan Hus was burned at the stake in 1415.  Both days are national holidays and most businesses and all government offices are closed.

Cyril and Methodius were Greek missionaries sent to the Slavic people in 862 at the request of Prince Rastislav of Great Moravia. (Say what you will, but Rastislav is a cool name.)  These brothers translated the Bible into Old Slavonic using a new alphabet - perhaps their own invention - and standardizing the spoken Slavic language of the time as they worked.  Methodius got into trouble with the ecclesiastical authorities of the day for wanting to offer worship in the language of the people.  It is likely that Methodius was influential in the conversion of several Bohemian nobles, including the grandfather of Václav I (aka Good King Wenceslaus).  Most of you are probably familiar with Jan Hus (John Huss) who raised many of the same objections to Roman Catholic practices that Luther did; but Hus was 100 years ahead of Luther.  Hus' final words were recorded as, "In 100 years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed.” In 1517, Luther nailed his theses to the church door in Wittenberg.

Why, with such a rich history as this, are the Czechs some of the most atheistic people in the world today?  Why does a nation of unbelievers celebrate the lives of these Christians with a pair of back to back national holidays?  Or maybe, like lots of Americans, they are just happy to have a couple of days off work, whatever they are called.  I am both inspired by the richness of the Christian history of my new country and saddened by the national indifference toward it.

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