The Resurrection of the Spirit

by Rev Hannes Schaefer

(Published in News First, June 2004 - monthly church newsletter, Warragul Uniting Church)


We all have trouble with our spirit some times. We get discouraged and depressed and see situations as hopeless. This was the case in 1992 in Bosnia. The ethnic tension took over and a very intense and cruel war was fought on all fronts.

Vedran Smailovic lived in Sarajevo. He was the principal cellist of the prestigious Sarajevo Opera Theatre which was destroyed.

On May 27th 1992, many people were lining up at the only operating bakery which had still enough flour to bake bread. Twenty two people died in an attack against those who lined up for bread. Vedran saw with horror from his apartment window, which was not far away, the unfolding of the attack. As the people lined up again the next day, Vedran arrived carrying his cello and a chair.

He sat down in the midst of all the rubble and began to play Albinoni’s mournful ‘Adagio’. Regardless of the danger, he returned for the next 21 days, playing this piece of music over and over again, which resonated in the memory that there are some things in the human enterprise that simply cannot be suppressed.

Today in the place where he sat there is a monument of a man in a chair playing a cello. This monument has been erected to recognize his refusal to surrender the hope that beauty could be reborn in the midst of a living hell. Even more important is the fact that this small sound of hope rings around the world.

It might be Vedran’s story, but it is also the story of all those who have been to the underworld of life and risen again. The hard thing in life is to understand that it is not the achievements that count, but our becoming and how we manage our situation.

Hope is not a case of waiting for things outside us to get better. It is about getting better inside about what is going on outside. Allowing ourselves to take the present and to build and believe in the future we cannot see – but we can trust in God.

I believe that hope is fulfilled in the future, but it depends on our ability to remember – we have survived everything in life to this point and have emerged from it even better than when those troubles began. And this arrives out of our valuation of life, of God and of ourselves. This comes out from the certain belief of the goodness of God who is here but not visible, present in the permanence of our changing lives.

Hope and the spirit is the last great gift to rise out of the grave of despair.