Thursday, July 06, 2006

John Huss (1371 - 1415)

"We'll cook his goose!"

That phrase is thought to have been derived from the burning of John Huss, an event that occurred today in 1415, when the Bohemian (Czech) Reformer, was burnt to death. Apparently, "Huss" is (or was) the Czech for "goose"!

Having insisted on "communion in both kinds" (the Catholic church had restricted the use of "the cup" for priests alone), and that the office of the Pope was of human rather than divine origin, Huss found himself at the mercy of conspiratorial claims to the papal office. The papacy had moved its official seat from Rome to France. It was the period of the "great schism" when there were three popes all claiming the right of office ( a bit of a problem for the doctrine of an unbroken succession from Peter).

Huss taught theology at the University of Prague and was also the preacher of Bethlehem Chapel in the city (to a congregation of 3,000). The story is predictable: his gospel preaching was condemned as heretical, his books were burned, religious services were banned in the city of Prague so long as Huss remained. Huss left Prague to relieve the people of the ban. His refusal to go to Rome for trial resulted in his excommunication.

Eventually, at the Council of Constance, Huss, having been promised a fair trial, was found guilty and burned.

Huss, sick and physically wasted by long imprisonment, illness, and lack of sleep, protested his innocence and refused to renounce his alleged errors unless he could be shown otherwise from Scripture. To the council he said, "I would not, for a chapel full of gold, recede from the truth." "I will gladly die."

Formally condemned, he was handed over to the secular authorities to be burned at the stake on July 6, 1415. On the way to the place of execution, he passed a churchyard and saw a bonfire of his books. He laughed and told the bystanders not to believe the lies circulated about him. Arriving at the place of execution, he was asked by the empire's marshal if he would finally retract his views. Huss replied, "God is my witness that the evidence against me is false. I have never thought nor preached except with the one intention of winning men, if possible, from their sins. Today I will gladly die." The fire was lit. As the flames engulfed him, Huss began to sing in Latin a Christian chant: "Christ, Thou Son of the Living God, have mercy upon me."

A church emerged following the death of Huss known as the Czech brethren and later the Moravians.

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