Human Flower Project
Sunday, May 31, 2009
If Peonies Could Talk
The Pentecost Rose speaks loudly and widely across the Czech Republic.
Peonies in glass, St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague
Photo: Bill Bishop
“These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!”
Not an iron-clad defense. But that’s what Peter told the crowd at Pentecost (Acts 2) , after the Holy Spirit’s “mighty wind” had sent tongues of fire descending on the Apostles, enabling them to speak all languages and spread the Good News. We grew up in a mainline Protestant sect and had always thought “speaking in tongues” meant babbling—a kind of spiritual seizure, and not what Episcopalians do. Only now we learn it’s the opposite of babble: fluency and multilingualism.
Recently back from the Czech Republic, where our attempts at Czech were met with weak smiles and rapid shifts to English, we have a special appreciation for Pentecost’s miracle of speech. Heading east, we knew that Czech was especially tough for English-speakers to get a handle on, just not how tough. We hadn’t considered that faith might serve us better than Berlitz. In Znojmo, however, we met a young Mormon missionary who kindly volunteered translation help at the tourist office. It took several minutes before we realized he was an American – he was that proficient.
“I learned Czech in about six months,” he told us, “with prayer.”
Today, the Feast of Pentecost, we’re back in the U.S.A., bodily. Mind and spirit are still mostly back in the Old World. Traveling in Southern Moravia and Southern Bohemia, we drove through scores of small towns and saw gardening everywhere, in earnest. Streets were bordered with sidewalks, low walls and metal fences – open enough so that “front yard” plots were visible to passers by. Everywhere we went during these two weeks of mid-May, there were peonies in bloom, nearly all of them magenta red.