Jun 5, 2010


The Prague Fringe festival is underway in this city of many theaters (almost as many as there are churches). One of the venues hosting events is the lovely little Hussite Church of St. John the Baptist in Mala Strana at the edge of Kampa Park. I attended a concert there last evening - local pop/folk singer favorite, Alasdair Bouch, accompanied by friends on sax, oboe, cello and exotic timpani. The musicians entered the church carrying lighted candles and placed them around the sanctuary, which only increased the sense of  holiness of this tiny place of worship. The feeling was palpable and I'm far from the only one to pick up this vibe from Kostel Sv. Jana Kritele Na Pradele, as the Church is known in Czech. This is a holy place of prayer and worship which also serves as a concert venue for some carefully chosen artists, from Japanese flute players to performers of Tibetan ritual instruments, the Dun, Kangling and Drill-bu - celebrating the Tibetan New Year of the Metal Tiger. Yesterday evening we listened to the soulful melodies of Alasdair Bouch, who performed under the very striking wooden sculpture of the Risen Christ above the chiseled stone altar. Seen from the distance of the back row, the figure above the altar seems to be a young woman. Squint a little and it appears to be an angel with upraised arms and hands. After the concert, I went up for a closer look. The figure does indeed have feminine curves, but looks more like a very youthful male with blond ringlets, page boy style, arms upraised over his head, palms turned upwards - with wounds in the palms, signifying that this is indeed a figure of the crucified and Risen Christ. The angel image? An angel is behind the figure embracing it with its wings, it's left arm around the torso of the Christ with it's hand placed over the youthful Christ figure's heart. It is an astonishingly homoerotic and deeply spiritual, joyful image of liberation, freedom, intimacy and love. Who designed it and when? Don't know, but it reflects a very liberated artistic vision. This is indeed a holy place imbued with the spirit of the Risen Master - embraced like a lover by a youthful angel.

This peaked my interest in the Hussite Church, and a bit of research later that evening revealed that it was founded in 1931 as yet another breakaway  Church from Rome, with ties to the Old Catholic Church. It's heresies were the familiar ones. The liturgy should be celebrated in the vernacular, the faithful should receive both elements of Communion, celibacy should be optional, women should be ordained. And in fact, in 2000, the Hussite Church ordained it's first female bishop, with Catholic representatives attending the consecration. What this tells us - yet again - is that, while it is important to respect and preserve the uniqueness of particular religious traditions, the boundaries are slowly dissolving, and the Spirit of the Risen Christ is no respecter of dividing walls, but moves and blows where she will. She was certainly moving and stirring last night, during the concert of Alasdair Bouch, and many of us in this sacred space felt deeply moved.

Relations between the Church and its fellow members of the ecumenical movement are cordial, but remained strained with the country's Roman Catholic leadership. The first female bishop of the Czechoslovak-Hussite church was elected to a 7-year term of office in April 1999. In January 1999, Catholic Archbishop Miloslav Vlk initially made a public statement of disapproval, warning against election of a woman to this position and saying that it would cause deterioration of ecumenical relations.[1] Following criticism by the Czech-Hussite Church for interfering in their affairs, the Roman Catholic Church distanced themselves from his remarks and stated that they would exert no pressure against her election.[2] In 2000, Catholic representatives attended the consecration of Jana Šilerová as the Hussite Church’s first woman bishop.[3]

 From BNET 

Jana Silerova, Eastern Europe's first woman bishop, distanced herself from feminism and said she will be guided by the "femaleness" of Christ's mother. Of her election as bishop of Olomouc by the Czechoslovak Hussite Church, she said, "This step had to be taken, since women already make up almost half of the church's clergy. However, it has also needed its own time, as well as more forthcoming ecumenical attitudes and a greater spirit of unity." A spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Church rejected suggestions that Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of the Czech Republic condemned Silerova's appointment. "The emergence of a woman bishop does not create any barrier at all," said Daniel Herman, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference. "This is an internal matter for the Hussite Church and Catholics have no right to interfere." 


FDeF said...

Looks like quite a lovely venue. And an interesting history.

Jayden Cameron said...

I went back the next evening to hear local favorites, Ocean Versus Daughter. Very beautiful spiritual folk singers with flutes and violins and multi-media. A very special place.