TWELVE FOOTPRINTS OF MASTER JAN HUS
by David Loula
Master Jan Hus died at the stake as a heretic. It has been 600 years since his death. It is said that he died for the truth and indeed, he himself declared he would rather have his body consumed by fire than to be constantly silenced. Hus became a great Czech who maintained his inner integrity and faith face to face with death. He did not fear death, was not afraid of shame or pain. There was something that Hus loved more than his life. He lived for certain values, preached about them and died for them as well.
Today Hus has been acknowledged as a reformer of the church and society. People regard him as an example of a genuine and courageous man who did not allow the pressure of religious or secular leaders to break him. The day on which he was burnt became a national holiday in the Czech Republic. In the presidential standard there stands Hus’s maxim THE TRUTH PREVAILS. A monument of Hus stands in the centre of Prague and in many cities there are streets and schools called by his name. All over the country we can see Hus’s footprints, even after six centuries. Hus left behind a timeless heritage not only for the Czech nation, but for other nations as well, a heritage consisting of love for the truth, respect for people and faith in Jesus Christ.
Jan Hus lived here and left footprints as he lived his life. They are the values he believed, preached and was even willing to die for. They are faith, truth, purity, freedom, dignity, courage, respect, humility, forgiveness, joy, love, and eternity.
We can build on them and live in step with them, or we can trample them down by our lives. This is a free decision for everyone.
- F a i t h
Jan Hus: Faith means to rely on the truth you have no visible proof for.
The foundation of all human activity is faith. He who does not believe anything, does not do anything and is as if he were not. He cannot even know who he really is. We go to work in faith that we will earn money for our living, and can see the purpose of our doing in it. When performing some sport we believe it is beneficial for our bodies or bringing certain satisfaction to us. If we are ill, we undergo some treatment, and believe that the treatment will be successful. When we help other people in an unselfish way, we believe, that we will reap recognition or be rewarded by the gladness of the people whom we helped. Faith is also relying on realities, about which we have no visible evidence and with which we have no personal experience. For example, when we believe that somebody loves us, but we have not received any proof about it. Or when the parents of a lost child believe that their child will be found. Jan Hus lived by faith, made decisions on the basis of his faith and died because of his faith. His faith was not only directed to earthly things and values, but also to eternal values. Without faith he could not accomplish what he accomplished, i.e. to die for the truth.
Quotations of Jan Hus on faith
What are we to build on according to the apostle Paul? On the foundation of the purest faith. To believe means to agree with the truth we cannot see and to disregard the intimidation of enemies. It means to believe that Christ was born, died for our sins, rose from the dead, to believe in eternal bliss and eternal life and other articles of faith (i.e. things) which I cannot see. Faith does not mean to believe in something I have seen, e.g. when I see you or something else, for you have no merit in it. Here we can see how we are to believe and how to establish our faith on God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Let us not believe in anything else, not even in the blessed Virgin or in a Pope, because we are not to love either one of them more than Christ. Sermon from 19th December 1410
The foundation of all virtues on which we can serve God is faith without which it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). From this faith ensues the way of speaking and acting of every man. Every man is necessarily either the pupil of God or the pupil of the devil. The ABC‘s or elementary teaching to start with in both these schools is either faith or unbelief.
Discourse on faith, 1414
Faith without love is useless, faith with love is Christian.
Exposition of the faith, Chapter 4
These are four benefits of living faith. Know that faith revived with love, by which a man believes in God, leads a man to love God, do good, bear difficulties patiently and well, and to love his neighbour as himself.
Exposition of the faith, Chapter 7
Faith in the life of Hus – I will gladly die today
Firm faith can be traced in the life of Jan Hus from the moment when he met with the teaching of an English scholar and reformer John Wycliffe. At that time, Hus experienced an inner touch of truth which changed his life forever. From the man focused on earthly matters who – as he himself expressed in his writing „On Simony“ – when leaving for his studies in Prague was interested just in one thing, that is to secure a good livelihood and robe and to be held in esteem by men, Hus gradually changed into a man of frankness and responsible faith who no longer thought only of himself. Hus believed in what he was doing and he was doing what he believed in. Inwardly he became so greatly convinced by the truth, which he learned from the Bible, that he not only started to preach according to it, but also live according to it. The truth he learned and followed from the Bible cost him his life. We can observe his faith in Constance where he was condemned. Here an interesting event took place. Cardinals sentenced Hus to death and he was to be burnt at the stake as a heretic. The burning was preceded by a complicated process of desecration and handing the condemned over to the secular power. The cardinals put upon Hus’s head a paper hat on which devils fighting for his soul were painted. When doing so they told him: “We commit your soul to the devil!” Hus responded with the following words: “And I commit it to the most gracious Jesus Christ!” These words prove he was not afraid to die, because he believed it were not the cardinals who had power over his soul, but Christ. In spite of the fact that the highest church authorities were giving his soul over to the devil, Hus knew that before God he was righteous and therefore he was not afraid of the condemnation by people. That was why a moment later when he stood at the place of execution where the stake was prepared for him to be burnt and he was given the last opportunity to recant his teaching, he proclaimed loudly: “In the truth that I proclaimed through all my life, I will gladly die today.” He remained faithful to the truth till the end and willingly chose death. Today many do not understand why he decided in this way. But although they do not understand his decision it inspires them toward courage and determination to remain firm in the faith. Jan Hus died cheerfully, i.e. without hatred in his heart, in peace, with a prayer and song on his lips, because he truly believed he was going to a better place. He did not fear death, because he knew that God had written his name into the Book of Life in heaven.
- T r u t h
Jan Hus: Therefore, faithful Christian, seek the truth, hear the truth, learn the truth, love the truth, speak the truth, adhere to the truth, defend the truth even till death; for the truth will make you free from sin, the devil, the death… My dearest, live according to the discerned truth which prevails over everything and is powerful forever.
What is the truth? This question was asked by Pontius Pilate who sentenced Jesus Christ to death. People have asked the same question from the beginning and they are going to ask it till the end of the world. Is the truth “just” a piece of information that corresponds to reality or is it something more? Do we as people create truth overselves or does an absolute truth exist that transcends us? Is it possible to get at the truth? How was truth understood by Jan Hus? For him, the truth was personalized in Jesus Christ and contained in the Bible. For this truth he readily died, because he loved it more than his own life. The point is not only to know the truth, but also to live according to the recognized truth. The point is not whether we hold the truth, but whether the truth holds us. Life in the truth is life in integrity and authenticity when our thoughts, words and deeds are in harmony. In other words, it is life in sincerity and honesty before oneself, before other people and before God. On the opposite end are the much hated pretence, hypocrisy and falsity. The truth is powerful, invincible; it is living and eternal. It may be defeated for some time, but it will prevail in the end. This is shown also by the Czech proverb: Lies have short legs. The truth prevails over everything. This watchword flutters over the Prague Castle and conceals a great secret in it. What kind of secret is it?
Quotations of Jan Hus on the truth
From this conclusion it follows that whatever Jesus Christ proclaimed to be truth, it was, is, and will be the truth.
On the sufficiency of Christ’s law, 1414
Christ Himself is the truth, and that is why denying the truth is denying Christ. The man who commits this act, is in every case a betrayer of the truth. John Chrysostom wrote that a betrayer of the truth is everyone who knows the truth, but does not dare to say it. He who knows the truth and defends it bravely is a real friend of Christ and all the disgrace, that comes because of Christ, he takes upon himself.
Saint John Chrysostom explains the word of Christ, our Saviour, who said: “Do not fear those who kill the body.” (Matthew 10:28) Thereby Christ showed that the betrayer of the truth is not only he who does not say the truth bravely, but also he who does not freely defend the truth which he should have properly defended. For as it is the duty of a priest to preach boldly the truth he heard from God, so a common man who is not a priest, is obliged to defend the truth of Scripture with hope and when he does not do it he is a betrayer of the truth.
Letter to the community of Pilsen, 1411
These priests happened to do the same thing as Jewish priests and bishops who lost what they wanted to save, and fell into what they wanted to avoid. They think they can completely overcome the truth, however this same truth will have the final victory; they think that they can supress the truth, but it has special characteristics: the more anybody wants to overshadow it, the more it shines, and the more he presses it toward the ground – till it sometimes falls – the more it will rise in the end.
Bishops, priests, masters, scribes, Herod and Pilate, inhabitants of Jerusalem and the whole city denounced the Truth, killed and laid Him into a tomb, but then He rose, overcame all of them and instead of one preacher, i.e. instead of Himself, gave them twelve and even more proclaimers of the truth. And the same Truth – in place of one feeble goose – gave Prague many eagles and falcons that can see well, fly high ex gratia and catch birds well for the King and Lord Jesus and He strengthens them like all His faithful followers whom he tells: “I am with you even to the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20
Letter to the people of Prague, 1412
The apostles were not teaching anything else than what Christ had taught and what He had commanded them to teach. Also all Christians are to believe what God commanded to be believed, though not everybody knows and understands what to believe, but everybody should be prepared to gladly receive the truth which will be shown to him from the Holy Scripture, and if up to that time he held something against the Scripture, he should give it up immediately, as soon as he recognizes the truth. For it is proper that no man should hold anything blindly, and when he recognizes God’s truth he should adhere to it till death; for the truth will liberate in the end, as the Lord Jesus said: “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31–32)
Therefore, faithful Christian, seek the truth, hear the truth, learn the truth, love the truth, speak the truth, adhere to the truth, defend the truth even till death; for the truth will make you free from sin, the devil, the death of the soul, and finally from the eternal death which is eternal separation from God’s love and from every happy joy that will be reached by everyone who believes in God and in Jesus Christ who is true God and true man.
Exposition of the faith, Chapter 3
Therefore, dear Czechs, adhere to the truth and Gospel of the Lord Christ and the truth will set you free; the truth which is Jesus, the Lord blessed forever.
Letter to Jan from Chlum and to Václav from Dubé, about 20th June 1415
Truth in the life of Hus – Many eagles and falcons for one goose
Already in his young age Hus made one decision which went with him throughout his whole life. He decided that, upon recognizing his error in any matter, he would gladly abandon his former point of view and would cling to the truth.
It was a lifelong determination to search for and get to know the truth that makes man free. It can be beautifully seen in his conduct when as a student he gave the last of his money to buy indulgences. Later, when he arrived at the understanding that God’s forgiveness of evil things can be only given by God, and that only as a free gift, he began to refuse indulgences which became a tool for enrichment of greedy priests and for blackmailing poor people. In the Bethlehem Chapel Hus preached that forgiveness is God’s immense grace, which man can receive thanks to real repentance and faith. Such forgiveness is a source of genuine inner joy. God’s grace is never to be sold for a profit.
When in 1412 a papal legate came to Prague with a decree proclaiming indulgences for all who would pay well, Hus could not remain silent. He criticized this way of getting money, especially for a campaign. Citizens of Prague saw that indulgences were just supporting a bad life, because people thought they could merrily commit sins and then simply pay and be granted forgiveness. They saw this could not be valid before God, because God would not allow anybody to deceive him. While the indulgences were being proclaimed in the churches, three young men Martin, Stašek and Jan responded loudly against it. They announced their disagreement with it, as it was against God. The young men were immediately arrested and imprisoned and threatened with execution. When the report was made known in Prague, people rallied in front of the townhall and asked the councillors to release them. Jan Hus went to negotiate and proposed his execution in the place of the young men, because they were influenced by his sermons. The councillors promised him to release the young rebels if he commanded people to disperse. Hus dismissed the crowds of angered people, but the councillors, instead of fulfilling their promise, ordered the young men to be seized and brought the place of execution. At that moment, people started to rally again, therefore the executor had to perform the execution right in the street Na příkopech.
Immediately after the execution, the executioner cried out: “Is there still anybody who wants to advocate the false teaching that indulgences are invalid? Everybody like that will be smitten with the same punishment as the young men.” It was intended as a threat to intimidate citizens. But the people began to endorse en masse that also they wanted to die for truth. The executioner had them arrested and imprisoned. The councillors did not dare to execute all of them; therefore they gradually set them free. In this story we can see that not only Jan Hus was prepared to die for truth even sooner than he departed for Constance, but also many citizens of Prague were so firm in faith and devotion to the truth, which they recognized, that they were not afraid of death.
Hus believed that truth is a value worth dying for. He was not concerned about forcing others to believe “his” truth, but the truth of God that he learned from the Bible. He was not concerned with having truth, but with the truth having him, because it transcended him. He was anxious to live an authentic life based on the truth he had learned up to that time. It is impossible for man to live according to the truth he has not discerned, but everybody is responsible to live according to the truth he has discerned. The acceptance of the truth liberates man inwardly and changes his attitudes, values and character. However, this takes place only when the truth penetrates deeper than just into one’s mind.
Jan Hus often made fun of himself and said he was a silly domestic goose. But in spite of the fact that the goose is a lazy domestic bird, it succeeded in flying up although they tried to intimidate him by the interdict that the church authorities declared over him. The goose got loose. It was freed from the fear of death, fear of man, every inner limitation and started to fly. Consecutively, it was joined by other birds insomuch that at the end also falcons and eagles were flying in Prague. This deliverance was caused by the truth that was according to Hus personified in Jesus Christ. Hus says that truth has special characteristics – the more it is being trampled underfoot, the more it is lifted up, and the more it is being covered up, the brighter it shines forth. Sometimes it is defeated for a while, but it will win in the end, because it is powerful both now and forever. The Truth was killed and laid into a grave, but He overcame all adversaries single-handedly and instead of Himself gave the world twelve and even more proclaimers of the truth. And the same Truth – Jesus Christ – gave Prague many falcons and eagles that fly high in the place of one feeble goose.
The truth prevails. This is a watchword that waves on the Czech presidential flag as a prophecy over the Czech nation. In the meantime, the truth is being surpressed in Bohemia, but it will win in the end. Hus believed it and together with him we can take our stand on the value of truth. Together with the goose we can believe in the victory of truth and move toward this goal by our true lives.
- P u r i t y o f t h e s o u l
Jan Hus: Hold the dignity of your soul high and keep it in purity.
The sight of new fallen snow gives people a special comfortable feeling – a feeling of purity. Purity of the soul is a value which is not visible, and yet every man longs for a pure heart, for inner purity. Also our desire for physical cleanness may express the desire for a pure soul unpolluted by evil, hatred, bitterness, gossip, envy, pride and thinking of “unclean”, unnatural things. The pure heart brings peace and inner satisfaction. If the man wants to keep his soul in purity, he needs to have a regard for himself and to know his own value. Then he does not do certain things, so as to avoid degrading his soul. What a man loves, he protects. As long as he loves his soul, he will guard it against outer and inner violence. Every wickedness is violence against one’s soul. If somebody does not like himself or herself, he or she is drawn to bad things, because they do not care about anything anymore and have lost their own value and purpose for living. Is it possible to achieve purity of the soul, after once it has been polluted and regain the lost dignity again? How? These questions are answered by Jan Hus. It would suffice to put your feet into his footprints which he left behind.
Quotations of John Hus on purity
Where possible, fight against sexual immorality incessantly, for it is the ignoblest beast that devoures people for who the noblest Christ’s humanity suffered. And therefore I ask you, my dearest, to protect yourself and run away from it.
The apostle says that nobody should lay bare and show one’s body; especially women should not lay bare their bodies and thus be a cause of fall and destruction to others by stirring up a desire after them. They have seduced as many men and murdered as many souls as matches the number of their own murderous souls. The apostle says this surely so that everyone would know how to guard one’s body in purity, because then it will be easier to resist even other sins.
Sermon on 8th March 1411
Why should we protect ourselves from sexual immorality? First, because God abhors it most, the devil likes it most and man is harmed most by it. It also leads to eternal damnation, leads away from eternal salvation, maims the soul, deprives of wisdom and all virtues… Therefore you, who have commited this sin, repent; you good ones, guard yourselves against it in twofold way, as Alanus (Alanus ab Insulis) says: “If you want to protect yourself from Venus, avoid dark and hidden places and time, because place and time will give you sufficient food for it.” Augustine in his writing “On intercourse with women” says: “After naming all sins, the apostle said about sexual immorality: Flee sexual immorality, because man can bravely and patiently resist every sin without running away, but not sexual immorality.”
Sermon on 9th December 1410
Everyone should strive for purity without excuse, and if he does not do so, will be damned forever. Let everybody have a firm determination to preserve one’s purity till death.
Sermon on 25th November, 1410
Purity in the life of Hus – I was from that crazy rubric too
Among 39 articles of the accusation in the process against Hus in Constance, not a single one applied to his life and conduct. Not one of his enemies striving after his condemnation found anything in Hus’s life for which to defame him. All charges pertained to his teaching, i.e. opinions, and not morals. From that and from other testimonies of Hus’s contemporaries it is evident that Hus lived a pure life and did not commit any illicit conduct like many priests at that time did. Hus, however, thought of himself differently – he knew his lapses and shortcomings and regretted them. He was not even ashamed to confess his sins publicly. At Christmas time, students elected their bishop and were masquerading with him at the time. They led their new bishop into a church and there everything ended by wild amusement, dancing and rampage. People thought everything was all right, because it was in line with their students’ regulation – rubric. Once Hus became the bishop and played this crazy theatre too. Later he admitted his having been a part of that crazy rubric until God gave him understanding from Scripture.
Elsewhere he confessed that the goose fed too much in feasts and devoured the labour of the poor people. It means he gladly indulged himself in good meals at feasts. Such feasts were held by priests thanks to dues (offertories) collected from people who earned the money for them by hard work. Also, he regretted that he had loved nice clothes, had been proud, often became angry while playing chess. At the time when he was already a priest he was grieved not by the criticism of his adversaries, but by his own sins.
How did Hus deal with his unclean conscience? He believed that God was forgiving sins because of the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross of Golgotha. So regretting and confessing sins and the prayer for forgiveness, if sincere, are sufficient for wiping the sins off and making the man clean again. Every evil is defiling the heart of man, and only the blood of Christ can purify it again. No man is clean, not a single one. Only through the mediation of Christ can one regain the purity of heart which is more precious than gold.
As a priest who heard the confessions of people Hus knew what impurifies their hearts most – sexual immorality and mammon, i.e. dissolute lust after sex or possessions. Regarding sexual immorality, he said that it is the worst beast which destroys human dignity, and for which Christ suffered to regain it for us. Sexual sins defile the heart of man more than anything else, because they involve his soul and body. On the other hand, possessions are blinding the eyes of man so that he is bound by earthly things only and does not think about eternity. Hus expressed this truthfully in one of his sermons: “For we do not love God with the saints in heaven, nor recognize His likeness with the spiritually mature, because we are sinking in the mire of this world, muddy by the desire for wealth, and we scarcely love Him with a clean heart. We are like swines standing in mud, wallowing there, and as long as acorns fall on them they devour them. And when the acorns cease falling they lift up their heads with difficulty and look up to the oak tree. We act just like them.”
- F r e e d o m
Jan Hus: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Freedom can be outer (civilian, political) or inner – freedom from a bad conscience, from being dependent on anything and anybody, freedom from the fear of people, from pursuit to attract people at any price, freedom from the system that presses people to be the same, all of them, to think in the same way and to behave in the same way. This pressure has existed at all times. The society spontaneously constitutes its values after which it sets up what is the only right thing, and an individual must submit to this order. Earlier such a practice was called “a custom”; Hus called it “human findings”; today we call it a normative, social standard, which all people must follow in order not to become intolerant and incorrect politically or otherwise. Hus declared that we are to follow the truth contained in the Bible, and that even in the case that the society departed miles off from the truth. Hus showed us that despite of outer lack of freedom it is possible to have freedom inside. In so far as we live according to the recognized truth, it sets us free from all evil thoughts and from evil actions too.
Quotations of Jan Hus on freedom
At first it is evident that he who commits a mortal sin cannot please God in the least, in fact not at all, because he yielded under the yoke of sin, and thereby is even under the yoke of the devil, as Christ says: “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34) Apostle Peter writes: “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” (2 Peter 2:19) Look at the devil’s slave! And therefore all who desire to commit sexual immorality are slaves of the devil Asmodeus and prove themselves guilty of it when they sing: Therefore I serve to your love. If anybody serves to his love, why does he serve her other than to love her and then go to bed with her, and in this way he becomes a slave to sexual immorality, and thus a slave to Asmodeus who is called a prince of debauchers…
Sermon on 25th January 1411
Therefore it is said: “Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees.” (Isaiah 10:1) For every such law was devised and enacted by a mere creature. That is why the Saviour rebukes the Pharisees for their traditions which they made up just for raising money, and tells them: “Why do you transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3)
On the sufficiency of Christ’s law, 1414
I beseech you wholeheartedly, my dearest ones, to be through Jesus Christ free from all sins and win over the body, world and the devil, to despise the vanities of this world, so that through the grace of Jesus Christ you may readily endure everything for your salvation and in difficulties persevere till the end. This is what I always pray for, my dearest ones, and remember you in my intercessions. For I worked among you by preaching the Word of God – God is my witness – for more than twelve years and in so doing, my greatest pleasure was to see your strenuous diligence in obeying the Word of God as well as upright and true repentance of many.
And therefore, my dearest ones, strive to keep your true faith, sure hope, stand firm in the love to God’s Word and adhere to it with utmost desire, and when doing so, obey these whom the Saviour has sent to you to proclaim you the Gospel without fear, and persistently resist ferocious wolves – false prophets. Talking about them, Christ tells His faithful ones: “Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” (Matthew 24:11) Christ commands His faithful ones to beware of them and teaches how to recognize them, namely by their fruits. This fruit is pride, sexual immorality, avarice, simony, contempt of God’s Word and persecuting believers, insulting others, ambitious desire, a bias for human reason and the like.
Letter to the people of Prague, 1413
Freedom in the life of Hus – The goose started flying
Hus was free from all human regulations and from every bad social system. This freedom was made possible by his faith in the recognized truth, by his sincerity of heart and inner freedom from the fear of men and death. He said that he who fears death loses the joys of life. He had and kept this joy till the end, because he was not afraid of death, although in the prison he experienced very difficult struggles which he did not even want to write about. He just made a remark that only God knew about his inner struggles in the night before the execution. Despite this he felt God’s presence even in that difficult time, because he wrote that the conditions of encouragement and joy were quickly followed by sorrow and pain, but for better or worse he knew all the time that God was with him.
A powerful medieval tool of the church by means of which it secured the position of power and dominance was anathema. Everybody was afraid of it. The main reason was that people believed that priests had power over their souls and could send them into eternal damnation – hell. This fear was binding the majority of people down, so they stayed on the ground and did not fly. In other words – they were not able to look for and get to know the truth on their own, to inquire into the merit of things or make decisions on their own. They simply did everything a priest said and ordered. They thought that by obeying the priest they obeyed God.
Hus saw through this, that the anathema issued against a man without true substantiation has no legally binding force. Instead of a curse, the interdict, in essence, becomes a blessing for the man in question. Therefore, Hus writes about himself that the goose, a silly domestic bird, dared to fly up (freeing itself of earthiness and blind obedience) and did not let itself be terrified by anathema, which was raised over it like a wooden hawk. When other birds saw it and discovered that nothing happened to it they started flying as well. Today we would say that troubles and civil disobedience arose. However, is it right to obey authorities if they issue regulations which are in contradiction with God’s law? According to Hus it is not. Also nowadays, the society and its authorities order unwritten (and sometimes even written) laws which are in contradiction with God’s law. They tell us how to speak, how to think and what to feel. Therefore even today we can follow Jan Hus and start flying.
But the main cause of the lack of freedom is not a social system; the main source of the bondage is in ourselves. We enslave ourselves by our sin. Maybe it does not look like a lack of freedom or slavery, but what else is e.g. the dependency on drugs, alcohol, gambling machines, cell-phones, pornography and other things? These things may at first appear as an amazing freedom, but when one wants to lay them aside he discovers, that somehow it is not feasible. Jesus Christ has not come to enslave people and deprive us of freedom, as some people surmise. He has come to deliver the captives and to release the slaves. Therefore He died on the cross – to bring people forgiveness and freedom from the slavery of sin. That is why Hus wrote that the truth would make you free from sin and death.
- D i g n i t y
Jan Hus: Really the whole world is mistaken here when it has more regard for him who is wealthy than for him who is humble and poor. God does not act like that, He does not make this distinction between people, by esteeming somebody because of his wealth, standing or physical beauty more than a man who is poor, or does not have any important social standing and is commonly clothed.
If we decide to go our own way, there are some obstacles waiting for us. People thrust a stick in our wheel and then we are inclined to drop everything, give up everything and throw in the towel. It is not easy to withstand jeers, insults and enmity. If we, however, know our value, we know that we are loved and accepted regardless of whether we are successful or wealthy, beautiful, influential and big, educated or capable. To put it simply, you know who you are, and you know that your position will not be changed by anything, neither by failure, contempt, nor by your own faults and failures. If you know your own value, if you regard yourself, i.e. you know your dignity, then you need not try to prove anything, for you are not dependent on the appreciation of the people around you. Dignity is not loftiness; it is an awareness of your own identity – you know who you are. Jan Hus was a very popular preacher, he was a real favourite of the people. The reason of his popularity and success was the fact that he loved people and was returning them their lost value and dignity. He told people that they were important, that God cared about them and that they are more precious for Him than the whole world.
Quotations of Jan Hus on dignity
Hear, O daughter, and see, incline your ear, and hold the dignity of your soul high… your soul is more precious to God than heaven and earth… Therefore man should treasure it, because the soul is a temple of God and the Spirit of God abides in it.
The Daughter, Chapter 7
Hear this, O daughter, and guard the dignity of your soul and do not be afraid of suffering. Behold, the Saviour wept for you – weep also for yourself. He was sweating drops of blood for you and shed His blood – remember this with gratitude. He died for you, so you also should die to sin for Him and for yourself. Does the dignity of the human soul appear lower, because for the sake of it and its salvation God became man so that man could somehow become like God? Eternal God decided to become poor in the body so that man could be glorious. Immortal God wanted to die so that mortal man could live eternally. Hear this, O daughter, and respect the dignity of your soul and keep it in purity.
The Daughter, Chapter 7
Man was born like an image of God’s Trinity, namely with regard to reason, memory and will which he cannot lose, but can damage them by sin… Man, however, does not bear full semblance of God, until he decorates this image – his soul – by virtues… Every good man is the image of God’s Trinity, even a fellow of Christ on the basis of received humanity. “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God.” (1 John 3:1) Moreover, we are even friends of the very Lord Jesus Christ.
Sermon on 7th June, 1411
Indeed great is the reward of living faith: namely the right to be God’s son. This right is better and more noble than the power and position of the Pope or the king of the whole world. For what would be the use for the royal or papal position or rule over the whole world, if in the end you had not the right to become God’s son elected for eternal life? Therefore, faithful Christian, care most for this right through which you would be God’s son in the end and do not strive for other rights so much. Because you would strive for them just like people of this world do: one cares for becoming a mighty bishop and having many possessions, another wants to be a king, another a lord over others; one a pluralist, a second beautiful and another strong, but few of them, alas, care for becoming a son of God.
Exposition of the faith, Chapter 8
Despite this, with God’s grace I hope that – when necessary – in the dispute with them (representatives of the Faculty of Theology) I will go possibly even into fire. If I cannot set the truth at liberty in everything, at least I do not want to be an enemy of the truth, but I want to make a stand against such a compromise by death. Let the world run as God allows it to run. It is better to die honourably than to survive with an evil conscience. One should not sin because of the fear of a death sentence. To finish one’s life in God’s favour means to be free of worries and suffering. He who adds knowledge, adds labour. He who speaks the truth, is breaking his head. He who fears death, loses the joys of life. Victorious is he whom they strike to death, because no attacks and difficulties can harm him when no sin governs him… These are my foot-holds and food, which are refreshing my spirit to be strong against all adversaries of the truth.
Letter to Master Jan Kardinál from Rejštejn, 1413
And because true love begins within you, it is necessary for man first to take mercy on himself, before taking mercy on others… Even though someone were terribly ugly and full of sores, all the same, God loves him more than the one who is beautiful physically, but lives in a mortal sin.
Sermon on 5th July, 1411
Dignity in the life of Hus – It is better to die honorably than survive with an evil conscience
Hus regarded himself to such a degree that he decided to hold his own identity, self-respect and clean conscience in spite of the pain inflicted by insults and physical suffering. He would rather die honourably and with the conscience that the had not betrayed the truth, his faith and his followers, rather than to save his earthly life, than to live with lifelong remorse and with a feeling that he was a crooked betrayer. When the Faculty of Theology proposed, that he should recant his teaching and to confess that Pope is the head of the church and the cardinals are its body, he refused it tersely and said he would rather die in fire than to make compromises and to sin. He knew that the head of the church is Jesus Christ, not a Pope, and its body are all believing Christians, as it follows from the Bible. The church wanted to hold power in its hands, rule over all people and control everything – therefore it taught things that were in contradiction with the Bible. Thus it denied common people a place in the body of Christ, and thereby also rights of God’s children. But Hus knew who he was, knew his standing in God and before God and that is why in his sermons he was not afraid to confront bad traditions of the church as well as false teaching. The truth released him from fear, transformed his life, and he, conscious of his own identity, bravely spread the truth further on. Nevertheless, he was not doing so with hatred and anger, he was not fighting against people, but against wrong things that frustrated the society. Hus taught that if somebody wanted to be able to have regard for others and love them, first he needs to accept himself, have regard to himself and love himself.
Jesus said we should love our neighbour as ourselves. It means that the more we are able to accept and love ourselves by unconditional love, the more we are able to love other people. Then we can love ourselves when we accept unconditionally God’s love in Jesus Christ who loved us so much that He sacrificed His life for us.
- C o u r a g e
Jan Hus: He who is defeated prevails, because no enmity harms him, if no evil dominates him.
Where we have the advantage over somebody we do not need courage. Courage is needed at the place where something transcends us, but we perceive that it is necessary to stand against the evil and fight for the good (whenever it may relate to the nation, relatives or myself). Even the decision to accept other people, respect them, love them (in spite of the fact, that they sometimes err and hurt) and encourage them to good decisions and changes, requires a great deal of courage. It means to be prepared for refusal and pain, and sometimes even for failure. Here Hus’s conviction can help us, which says that many times the real victor is he who was shouted down and degraded, as long as he upheld the truth and had clear conscience. Courage means to stand for the truth and not to step back, even in case of the stake erected at the end of the way. Hus dared to set his face against the whole medieval system of obedience at the point where he was forbidden to preach God’s Word. On his own accord he arrived to Constance where he bravely defended the truth before the council that represented the highest spiritual and secular power. He did not renounce his faith and the truth, not even while face to face with the death by burning. As Erasmus of Rotterdam said about him: “He was burnt, but was not overwhelmed.”
Quotation of Jan Hus on courage
Do not be afraid to die for Christ, if you want to live with Christ. He certainly says: “Do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.”
Letter to Master Martin from Volyně, in Constance on 16th June, 1415
Courage in the life of Hus – Poenam talionis
In 1412 the situation in Prague came to a head. In the streets there was unrest caused by indulgences being declared and by the execution of three innocent young men. Under these dramatic events, negotiations were taking place about whether the obligation to obey all commands of superiors was valid, specifically in cases when those commands were contrary to the law of God. Hus alleged that disobedience here is principally obedience, because it is the same, as when the lower authority issues an order, but the higher authority issues another order; in such case the higher authority must be obeyed. And because the highest authority is God, then disobedience in response to evil commands is not only allowed, but it displays a direct obedience to the highest authority.
When then Hus’s enemies were anxious for his destruction and burning, King Wenceslas IV called for the attention of both antagonized sides and tried to reconcile them. The negotiations lingered and the proponents of indulgences insisted that the papal order must not be resisted, while Hus argued from the Bible that the sale of indulgences is directly against God’s order. Therefore a scholarly disputation was considered that would show which side was right. Hus agreed, but because his adversaries wanted to burn him, he declared to go into the disputation only when the principle poenam talionis, i.e. retributive punishment, would be applied. This would mean that if Hus lost in the debate, he would be burnt, and when his adversaries lost, they would be burnt. If this were to apply to them, however, they would never want it. Hus was prepared to defend the truth even at the risk of death, while those denouncing him were not.
- R e s p e c t
Jan Hus: People are being destroyed when they have more regard for those who have status and possessions, than is given for the humanity of every man, because he was created after the image of God. For when we have regard for people because of what they have, we do not have regard for them for who they are.
It is easy to feel respect for people whom we esteem, who are close to us and we like them. We need not always agree with the people whose opinions and actions we do not like, but yet we can retain regard for them, perhaps “just” because they carry the image of God in themselves. And that despite the fact that sometimes they are infra dignitatem, „beneath (one’s) dignity. Is a wealthy businessman of greater value than the most inferior drunken homeless man? Is the beautiful fashion model, who is loved by all people, of greater value than the stay-at-home mother or wife? Is the president of a large nation worthy of greater love than the worker in a factory? Hus believed that all people have eternal value and there is great potential in each of them, irrespective of what they do, how successful they are and how far they fell. Therefore it is more important who we are than what we have. Who we are depends how we think and what we do. Hus was persuaded that we should respect all people, not because of what they possess and what we can see on the surface (that they are wealthy, famous, beautiful, strong and successful), but because of who they are. At the council in Constance he himself retained regard to all people who worked on his condemnation, including King Sigismund and the cardinals.
Quotations of John Hus on respect
People are being destroyed when they have more regard for those who have status and possessions, than is given for the humanity of every man, because he was created in the image of God. For when we have regard for people because of what they have, we do not have regard for who they are.
Postilla, Reading 54
Indeed the whole world is mistaken here when it has more regard for him who is wealthy than for him who is humble and poor. God does not act like that, does not make difference between people, by esteeming somebody because of his wealth, standing or physical beauty more than a man who is poor, does not have any important social standing and is commonly clothed.
Postilla, Reading 54
Respect in the life of Hus – Robber Mikeš Zúl from Ostředek
In the Kingdom of Bohemia bandits were moving about who stole and looted, and then many times they settled in some of the conquered castles. One of such robbers was Mikeš Zúl from Ostředek who fortified himself in the castle Čejchanov (today’s Komorní Hrádek) from where he made rapacious assaults into the country. He was a merciless murderer, had a group of fifty men with him – that was already a small army. King Wenceslas sent a troop against him. The castle was conquered and the robbers were captured. All of them were sentenced to “the death of robbers”, i.e. hanging. The leader, Mikeš had no advantage, only his gallows were higher than those of the others.
Before the execution Hus was called to try his hand at serving Zúl and reconcile him to God. We do not know what Hus was talking about with the murderer, but in all likelihood he brought him to repentance, because Mikeš cried out, asking all of the people present to pray for him. Hus had a regard for all people, without exception. Respect for other people was not based on their appearance, how rich, nice and educated they were, not even on their social standing; it was based virtually on the faith that they carry God’s image. The fact that God created them in His image and loves them was a reason for Hus why he had a regard for them. Maybe Mikeš’s mindset and heart were changed in the last moment just by the very thing that Hus did not condemn him, but told him about God’s love.
Hus respected even the very lowest of the people. Unceasingly he was emphasizing to them their value and encouraging them to go further, to grow in beauty as people and not to stop in mediocrity. Beauty of the soul is something different than the beauty of the body. Man is losing the physical beauty naturally with increasing age, but the beauty of heart can last till death. He managed to have regard for noble people, and even for those who had betrayed him, which is – as a rule – not easy.
One of such men was King Sigismund. He wanted Hus to participate in the Council of Constance and promised to give him a safe-conduct. This was to be a written guarantee that Hus could move safely over the empire and that he also would return safely to Prague. In the case, that the Council condemned him to death, the sentence would be performed in Prague. On 13th of June 1415 Hus had already several times requested a public hearing, now promised to him by Sigismund. He writes in a letter to his allied lords: “Again, I am asking all lords who are present here to beseech the King for the last hearing, for he himself declared at the Council that the hearing would be given to me as soon as possible. There will be disgrace upon him, if he does not keep his word. Nevertheless, I think that his word is as firm as his promise of the safe entourage, of which I was told in Bohemia to avoid. Others said: ‘He will deliver you to the enemies himself!’ Sir Mikeš Divoký told me in front of Master Jesenic: ‘Master, know that you will be surely condemned!’ I think he knew the King’s intention. I reasoned that the King had a regard for God’s law and for the truth, but now I can see he scarcely has it – he condemned me sooner than my enemies did. If he only had acted like the pagan Pilate who gave ear to accusations and said: ‘I find no guilt in this man!’ Or if he had at least said: ‘Look, I gave him a safe-conduct. If he does not want to subject to the decision of the Council, I will send him back to the King of Bohemia with your findings and testimonies, and let the Bohemian King sentence him himself with his churchmen!’ After all, he promised me through the mouth of Jindřich Lefl and other people to secure a hearing for me, and even if I would not yeild, that he would send me back safely.“ Although he complains to his friends about Sigismund in this way from the prison in Constance, a few days before his execution, as early as on 21st June he writes a letter to the same friends from which a respect he had toward the King can be seen: “Thanks to all lords knights and freemen of the Kingdom of Bohemia, especially to King Wenceslas and Lady Queen consort, my dear Lady, for their loving me, treating me kindly and striving for my deliverance. Thanks also to King Sigismund for all the good he did for me. Thanks to all Bohemian and Polish lords who persistently and steadfastly strived for the truth and for my deliverance.”
- H u m i l i t y
Jan Hus: Stick to humility, because it alone exalts man.
We cannot tell somebody that we have a regard for him, but at the same time we exalt ourselves over him. But why should we be humble? What for will it be when we live in the time of assertive pushy ways? Because the way uphill is the way downhill and the way downhill is the way uphill. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Hus believed it too. Pride comes before a fall, as the proverb says. Nowadays humility becomes a foreign word when young people, and not only they, do not know what it denotes. Humility is needed for quality human relationships. We know that sometimes “a little” humiliation and apology is sufficient, and people are willing to forgive even greater offences and faults. For the healing of broken relationships, sometimes greater and deeper humility is required. But if it can lead to reconciliation between people and bring deep satisfaction and happiness, why not try it? Humility does not present a big risk, only the appearance of one. Connected with an adequate dose of humility is the wise advice in one Czech fairy tale: “Do not exalt yourself over anybody, and do not demean yourself before anybody!” Do not look down on others, neither look on them from below. Jan Hus demonstrated humility by speaking openly about the sins of his young age and by humble asking his followers to pray for him. Also, he always told to conciliar judges that he would humbly and gladly recant his teaching, but needed to be persuaded by proofs from the Bible.
Quotations of Jan Hus on humility
For the sake of God, please, do not love splendid robes, as I, unfortunately, took a fancy to them and wore them, and in this way I gave no example of humility to people whom I preached to.
Letter to Master Martin from Volyně, submitted in Constance on 16th June, 1415
Secondly, you can recognize whether you have a sheep or wolf in front of you according to how he will respond when you pull his tail. If it is a wolf, he will make a grimace at you, but a sheep will go on forward without bleeting. If she bears it patiently, it is a sheep. Thirdly, the sheep is recognized by a humble countenance which is evidence of humility. In the same way you can distinguish between people, whether they are a man or a woman: if it is a wolf, they will resist and howl, if they humbly suffer wrongdoing, they are a sheep. The wolf howls with his head cocked, boasts and puts forward his power that is given to him or with his wealth. Just so do also vainglorious priests who say: “You fools, we can send you into hell or give you the Holy Spirit!”
Sermon on 2nd June, 1411
Behold, it is written here that to live humbly, patiently and gently means to always behave with dignity before God… For the proud always mix with somebody and do all the things that the apostle rejected. In particular, they live in earthly overabundance and think just about how to achieve it. On the other hand, Christ hung on the cross as an utmost poor man, stripped of His own clothes. Secondly, the proud people aspire after the wisdom of this world, while Christ was considered a fool in line with the statement: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Thirdly, the proud go after fleshly pleasures, as if they twist indecently at dance; on the other hand Christ was stripped, naked and flogged. Fourthly, what the proud desire is earthly glory; on the other hand Jesus Christ, the highest Truth, allowed others to call Him a deceiver and fool… It is better for a humble man to be regarded as a weakling than to declare himself humble, only to be praised for this humility. Take note of the fact that some kind of humility is only a pretended one… genuine humility is different. This is the humility of heart about which Matthew speaks (i.e. about Jesus Christ): “Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart“ (Matthew 11:29). A citizen of Lincoln (Robert Grosseteste, bishop in Lincoln, died 1253) lists signs of real humility: “He who does not despise that somebody lower is admonishing him, who does not indulge in honour, who does not exalt himself and does not rejoice in being praised, who does not retaliate evil for evil or curse for curse, who is the first in helping and serving among those who are equal… who is placed in authority, but still considers himself as a subordinate, rather than a leader…”
Sermon on 25th September 1412
Jesus called them and said: “You know that rulers of the nations lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet, it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25–28).
On the sufficiency of Christ’s law, 1414
Humility in the life of Hus – Stephen, forgive me, please!
Although Hus started his studies in an ambitious way – wanted to be wealthy, get on well and be respected by people, at about 30 years of his age a significant change took place in his life. It was connected with the teaching of John Wycliffe and other circumstances. At that time Hus became a priest, and this was a moment when he ceased to live like the majority of priests at that time. On the contrary, he decided to live modestly, was giving money to help poor people, stopped playing the game of chess, at which he got angry many times, and ceased from attending sumptuous feasts. He arrived at this decision on the basis of learning the truth and of the desire to live in humility according to the example of Jesus Christ. Hus’s humility can be seen well in his courage and liberty to confess his failures and sins.
In his letter from exile, Hus wrote to his pupil Martin from Volyně the following words: “I am afraid that if you do not set your life right and do not give up beautiful and useless clothes, you will be severely admonished by the Lord, in the same way as I, a miserable man, will be admonished, because I wore such clothes when being led astray by evil traditions of the world and by praise of the people in the presence of whom I was affected by the spirit of pride against God.
And because you are aware of my sermons and public behaviour, I need not write you any more, but for mercy’s sake ask you: Do not follow me in any carelessness you saw in me. You yourself know that earlier before becoming a priest, I liked playing chess and was wasting time thereby, and often provoking myself and others to anger through the game. Because of this failure and because of many other ones I committed, I entrust myself to your prayers so that the Lord may forgive me. Do not hesitate to call upon God’s mercy so that the Lord may kindly lead my life, and after overcoming sins of this world, flesh and the devil, on the day of judgment He may settle me in the heavenly homeland.”
Hus also managed to humble himself very much when he apologized to his worst enemy, who had been his closest friend before, Štěpán Páleč. It was he who strived for Hus’s execution in the council, and achieved that. Hus, a few days before execution, had him [Páleč] called to his cell and with tears asked him for forgiveness for labelling him an “eavesdropper and forger” in his writings. Both things were true, but Hus still asked for forgiveness from the one, who fabricated false articles of the accusation.
Hus did not look on whether others had a clean conscience, but irrespective of them he almost anxiously endeavoured to have his own conscience clean before God. When standing in front of the council and being asked whether he wanted to recant his teaching, he always replied he would like to recant and regret what he had taught when they would instruct him what was in contradiction with the truth contained in the Bible. Hus was not a proud and obstinate man. On the contrary, he admitted to being wrong in many things, but to change his opinion he needed to be persuaded inwardly that he had been wrong.
- F o r g i v e n e s s
Jan Hus: He is peace-loving, who asks forgiveness for the person who harms him… Nobody harms me more than Páleč, may the Almighty God forgive him.
Forgiveness is a great thing. It is impossible to live without forgiveness. All of us need forgiveness, because no one is so perfect as not to harm anybody, and also there is no man on the earth whom nobody harmed. Acceptance of forgiveness is a condition for the growth of mental health. For self-denouncing leads to the loss of inner confidence and stability as well as to psychic problems. If man cannot forgive to himself, it can lead to further evil acting and presents an obstacle for quality and stable relationships, because then the man does not trust in himself. Also the forgiveness to others is delivering. If we humble ourselves and apologize, we can be free from remorse and violence. When we forgive others we are free again from bitterness, inner suffering and the grip which our unwillingness to forgive causes. By the grace of God Hus managed to forgive even to his former friend Páleč who prepared the articles of accusation in Constance which lead to Hus’s condemnation and burning. He also prayed for Páleč, so that God may forgive him. He was able to do so, because he knew that God had forgiven him his own sins. In the same way as Christ has forgiven His torturers, so also Hus did.
Quotations of Jan Hus on forgiveness
For almost the entire night I was writing answers to the articles made up by Páleč. In a straightforward way he strives for my condemnation. May God forgive him and give me strength. Nobody harms me more than Páleč, may the Almighty God forgive him. He, Páleč, is a leader of them all and an eavesdropper.
Letter to friends who were in Constance, on 3rd January 1415
I exhort you by the most gracious Jesus Himself to love one another, endeavour to bring an end to divisions and take heed first of all to God’s honour. Remember how I always endeavoured to lift up the University to God’s honour, and how I was sorrowed over your discords and riots, and how I wanted to unite our most glorious nation in one. And behold, how it led to bitterness in some of you, my dearest, for whom I would give my life. They afflict me by offences, insults, and later even by bitter death. May the Almighty God forgive them, for they do not know what they did. With sincere heart I plead for them so that God may save them.
Letter to Prague University, from Constance on 27th June 1415
Forgiveness in the life of Hus – friend Páleč, friend truth
Jan Hus gave us an example when he forgave a great treachery to his close friend Štěpán Páleč.
Štěpán Páleč was a master at the Faculty of Theology. As one of the first masters at Prague University he accepted the writings and teaching of the English scholar John Wycliffe and began to defend this reformational teaching in a bold way. The turning point for Štěpán’s opinions came after 1408 when, together with Stanislav from Znojmo, he was sent to a council in Pisa where they were arrested as heretics, and as lately as after one year’s imprisonment they were released after the intervention of King Václav IV.
Yet, until the indulgence riots in 1412, he was still Hus’s adherent and friend. Eventhough from the beginning, the sale of indulgences in Prague was opposed by the Faculty of Theology, it changed its attitude soon, and Páleč who was its dean at that time forbade bachelors of theology (including Hus) to criticize the indulgence bulls. In commotions that turned up, King Wenceslas IV banished Páleč and three other masters from the Kingdom. Then Páleč and Hus undoubtedly parted ways. Hus said: “Friend Páleč, friend truth, if it is necessary to choose, it is right to give preference to the truth.”
The old Czech proverb applies to Páleč: Where the wind is, there’s his cape (i.e. he trims his sails to any wind). He was a typical example of an influenceable man: fear of death (as a heretic he could be sentenced to burning at the stake like later Hus was) made him betray his friend Hus, betray his faith and conviction. But not only that. After the council of Constance was opened, Páleč went to the proceedings and later he amply supplied the commission, which was inquiring Hus, with hateful accusations against his person. He hurt Hus very much when he came to his cell with the inquiring commission and cardinals and gave him the following greeting: “Since the days of Jesus Christ, except for Wycliffe, no heretic worse than you arose.” Nevertheless Hus forgave him.
Shortly before the execution, Hus had him up into his cell and in tears asked him for forgiveness because of the fact that in his writing he wrote about him that he was a “forger”. It was certainly true, because in the council Páleč strived after Hus’s burning and was altering his articles, so that his heresy might be evident. Despite this, Hus apologized to him and asked him for forgiveness. Also Páleč wept and said that he had not wanted it to turn out this way. However, immediately upon his leaving the cell he continued in his dirty work against the former friend. Hus wrote a report about it in his letter, where he added: “But know that I did not write it in order to take revenge on him, because I have left vengeance to God, but I pray for him to God fervently.”
- J o y
Jan Hus: He who fears death loses the joys of life.
There is a lot of merry-making and entertainment around us, but genuine joy is very rare. Joy can be kept even in the situations that are not pleasant – when one has a deeper reason to rejoice in the things and values that are more long-standing. The joy of forgiveness and awareness of one’s own value is a mighty weapon. Those who are afraid of this kind of joy, therefore seek to steal it from us all the time. And somebody else wishes with his whole heart that we might have it. Joy is a token of victory. Joy is an inner light that will illuminate the soul like sunrays. All people long for joy, but few people have it and keep it. Jan Hus was a cheerful man who liked jokes, and even often made them in his sermons! He was able to rejoice even in the most difficult moment of his life when at the place of execution he exclaimed: “And in the truth that I proclaimed through all my life, I will gladly die today!” The foundation of his joy surpassed this earthly life – his joy reached into eternity.
Quotations of Jan Hus on joy
(Dialogue with the devil) Sixthly, when you say, devil: „How difficult is the law that God commanded you!“, you are wondering falsely, for He said: “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30). What can be lighter and easier for a true son of God than to love God above all other things and one’s neighbour as oneself? When a man has this he carries his cross like Jesus did. When you say: “And who could fulfil the law?” I tell you, devil, everybody who wants to. And when you say: “He forbade you every little joy!” you lie, devil! On the contrary, He commands all of His people to be cheerful and rejoice; but He forbade every pleasure that is evil, which actually is not a good cheer, but vanity… Lo, devil, your arguments are not any good. If you don’t have better ones, as you don’t, depart from me, for I don’t want to listen to you, a liar, but to my dear Father and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who is the Eternal Truth!
The Daughter, Chapter 4
Because it is natural that man is attracted by that which he considers to be the highest good, it is also true that the closer he gets to the goal, the more he hurries to reach it. As far as a man lives a holy life, loves his God, then the saying holds true that‚ the closer he comes to Him, the more cheerful he is.‘ Because the good, which that man recognized from afar, brings about joy in the heart when he is approaching it. This is valid not only for man, but also for animals, for even a dog, ox or horse go in the direction for that which is contentment for them, and the closer they come to their destination, the faster they run and do not allow themselves to be driven away; the same holds even for a boy toward a girl and for a girl toward a boy.
And this is the reason why good people want to die and wait for death cheerfully, because they approach the good which they love. The opposite is also true: people who come to love sin, fear death, because they don’t love God.
Exposition of faith, Chapter 39
Joy in the life of Hus – Write it down, hooded man!
Jan Hus was a cheerful man who from his young age liked humour. Joy helped him to endure difficulties and wrongs from his adversaries and to retain a good and victorious mind. Many assume that Hus was a medieval preacher, and being as such, they thought him to be a strict ascetic who did not like earthly life, who was serious all the time and pretended to be holy. Hus was not like that. On the contrary, there was a lot of fun with him, as we can learn from his writings and sermons. He was not about fun in a vain way, of course, but he had a joyous heart – and this because of God’s grace, which was in his heart. The source of Hus’s joy was not earthly well-being, but God’s presence that he could experience.
Many a time Hus uttered words we can hardly understand. For example, before his death he confessed that in the truth he proclaimed, he would gladly die. Or when in Constance where imprisonment and burning threatened him, he said that the goose was not roasted yet and it did not fear roasting. Or when before the leaving for Constance with his friend Jeroným Pražský they cracked jokes about death – that they heard about it many times what it was able to do, and now they were going to check it out personally. For Hus, death was only a gate into the Kingdom of God, therefore he was not afraid of it and embraced it with an eye on eternity. He was reconciled with God.
His sense of humour can be seen in his Bethlehem sermons that have been preserved for us. Once, when preaching, among his listeners he glimpsed a monk with a hood on his head, jotting down something zealously. Hus interrupted his sermon and said: “Write it down, hooded man, and carry it yonder!” He had in mind – let him bring it to the court of the archbishop who watched what was taking place and was being preached in the Bethlehem Chapel. Such notices amused the listeners, because they sensed Hus’s superiority over the mighty of the then world. Hus was not afraid of somebody’s squealing on him to the archbishop, he was not afraid of the consequences of following the truth and the Man of Truth, namely Christ.
At another time, while being interrogated in Constance, Hus was exhausted, ill, had a toothache and started shivering with fever. Englishmen submitted a copy of an Oxford University letter that had been brought to Prague, and asked him whether he had read this (forbidden) letter from Wycliffe in the Bethlehem Chapel. Hus, so much as he was tired, pointed at his former friend Štěpán Páleč and said: “This former friend of mine remembers well Mikuláš Faulfiš who brought the letter with another man, whom I did not know.” They asked Hus where the man was at the moment. Master replied: “He died somewhere, I guess between Spain and England.” They sneered at him.
Also before his very death, Hus retained his joy and typical humour when in the course of his desecration (Hus was a priest, and before they executed him, they had to deprive him of his priestly consecration) he was commenting on every act of his enemies. When they were not able to come to an agreement how to debase the tonsure (priests had a close-shaven circlet on their heads called a tonsure), whether with scissors or with a razor, they started quarreling about who was right, Hus made a taunting remark: “Lo, even in the blashemy they are not able to concur.” When they were putting a paper hat on his head, upon which devils were depicted tearing at his soul, and pronounced the words: “We commit your soul to the devil!” Hus commented on it composedly: “And I commit it to the most gracious Jesus Christ! He was pleased to carry the crown of thorns on behalf of me, although He was innocent, and I, miserable and sinful, want to humbly carry this feathery crown for His name and truth.”
- L o v e
Jan Hus: To love someone means to strive in the right way for his good. Please, love one another, do not oppress anyone and wish the truth to everyone.
Love is the greatest thing in the world, but also the most trampled down. Love is more than sex. Love is more than a wonderful feeling. Love is more than a friendship. Love is a tremendous gift that cannot be forced or bought, it can only be obtained free of charge. Love is a sacrifice. A sacrifice is proof of love, a manifestation of seriousness. Without a sacrifice, love would not have its power and depth. Without a sacrifice there would not be love. Someone had to sacrifice Himself. So that all people could receive unconditional love, somebody had to pay with His life for it. Jesus Christ is the source of infinite love which gave Himself as a sacrifice. He who has reached as far as love in his life has reached the goal. Hus challenged Czechs to love and not to oppress one another.
Quotations of Jan Hus on love
Also please, love one another, do not allow violent oppression of good people and wish the truth to everyone.
Letter to the people of Prague, from Constance on 10th June, 1415
Love consists in a clean heart, a good conscience and true faith.
Sermon on 7th June, 1411
What is the roof of our spiritual house? Love. And the roof of this house is loving all people, because the apostle says that in God’s love our roof is unbreakable. “Love never fails,” writes the apostle (1 Corinthians 13:8). Let us build a house for the Lord God to dwell in. A physical house is not the matter, because Solomon says: ”Who is able to build Him a temple, since heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him?” (2 Chronicles 2:6) Therefore God holds a spiritual house in our heart higher than the whole heaven. Certainly, a faithful Christian is anyone that prepares the house of his conscience in such a way so that it may be a dwelling worthy of the Holy Spirit and the whole Trinity. Build up houses, monasteries, altars, and you will still be rejected forever, if you do not build your house by love. If then somebody builds up many monasteries, and does not have love by which to prepare his soul as the dwelling for God, he does not build worthy of God, he does not even please God, because God is more pleased to dwell in one faithful soul than in all earthly monasteries of the whole world combined.
Sermon on 19th December, 1410
True love begins with oneself. If you do not start with yourself to love yourself, know that you will not be merciful to anybody else, as Sirach puts it: “He who is evil to himself, to whom will he be good?” But he who commits iniquity, hates his spirit. When you have mercy on yourself, then do not forget to have mercy on others. And because the biggest wretchedness is sin, if you know that your neighbour sins, pull him out of the wretchedness and sooner take mercy on the soul of Christ than on the body.
Sermon on 19th December, 1410
Do you ask what it means to love God? My answer is that to love God means to wish good for God (to want it to go well for Him). In the same way, to love your neighbour means to wish good for him… What has God done for you? He decided to take on human form, became a man, underwent death, so that through His death He might bring you back to life, who were dead to God, and you, who were sold, redeem by His precious blood to restore you to Himself. Look, what good He has done for you! Therefore love Him, not just for show, but truly. Such true love excludes the courting of sin. He, who condemns every sin and every opportunity to sin, loves God indeed.
Sermon on 6th September, 1411
And because, as I said, the thing which is not known, is not loved, the same applies when God is loved a little, it is because people known Him a little. God can be recognized in three ways, and thus is also loved: first, on the basis of people’s own experience, as people in heaven do, who can see God intimately, and therefore love Him intimately; second, on the basis of intellectual understanding and comprehension of the Bible, as scholars learn to recognize Him; thirdly, God is loved by mere faith, as common Christians do, who love Him with a clean heart, and if such lovers of God avoid sins, then they love Him in the same way as the former two groups recognize Him. And because there are many Christians, but also many sins, this loving was darkened and confused by the devil himself, so that we might have dead faith and thus not love or see God. For we do not love Him as the saints in heaven do, nor recognize His image with the scholars, because we are deep in the dung of this world, mired by the desire for wealth, and very few love Him with a pure heart. We are like swine standing in mud, wallowing there, and as long as acorns fall on them, they devour them. And when the acorns cease falling they lift up their heads with difficulty and look up to the oak tree. We act just like them.”
Sermon on 6th September, 1411
He who loves his neighbour does not inflict any evil upon him, he does not accuse him, he does not even oppress him. Augustine said: ”Where there is love, what exists that would not prosper; where there is not love, what exists that could prosper?” Love is fulfilment of the law: to love God over everything, one’s neighbour as oneself. He who lives in line with this, has fulfilled the whole law and does not need monastic orders or hoods, but is brother of Jesus Christ and can stay with his Brother in the heavenly kingdom for ages. May Jesus Christ kindly grant it to us.
Sermon on 1st February, 1411
Love in the life of Hus – I am persuaded that neither death nor life shall be able to separate us from the love of God
It is said that Hus died for the truth. This is true. He himself said he wanted to die in the truth he had proclaimed. Thereby he meant that he would not back down from it and would not abandon it by recanting it. Hus died, first of all, for the sake of love and in the love. The truth led him to loving. Loving God in the first place, loving people in the second place. Love was the chief driving force in Hus’s life. Hus did not fight for his own truth, but for the truth of God, and his desire was that people might get to know God’s love, which transforms human hearts. Therefore his sacrifice was a sacrifice of love. By his sacrifice Hus proved his love for God and people, so that, as Komenský said, out of his ashes the glorious Unity of the Brethren might arise in Bohemia. And not only the Unity of the Brethren, but also many other movements that influenced the cultural and spiritual development of the Czech nation.
Hus said that to love means to strive for the best for the loved one, to work on it, that he may do as well as possible and be happy. This was his definition of love. Love, however, cannot be defined, because it is something incomprehensible and beyond the grasp of human reason.
Jan Hus loved, and therefore his sacrifice speaks to people up to the present day. The Bible writes about love in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, it is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
In the early church Christians were afflicted, tortured and given over to lions to be devoured, and yet the church was growing and prevailing. Communists tried to wipe the church out, but just at the places where they exerted the utmost violence, today there are most Christians, e.g. in China. A true believer will not be separated from God’s love by anything, as Hus quotes the apostle Paul: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35–39)
- E t e r n i t y
Jan Hus: Eternal life is infinite happiness that consists in the knowledge of God.
He who has reached as far as love in his life has reached the goal. But is there death at the end of love, and no other continuation? Is there darkness and emptiness? Or, is there eternity? What is eternity? What meaning would the life of man have, if once it should end up in darkness anyway, as if a sheet of paper is squeezed and thrown away into a waste basket? Eternity is something that transcends us and where Hus’s footprints lead us to.
Jan Hus believed in eternal life, and that is why he had courage to expose himself to death without fear of the future. When the church authorities of that time were committing his soul to the devil, he knew that no man had power over his soul, because he himself presented it to God. Therefore he could composedly and audibly reply that he committed his soul to the most gracious Jesus Christ. For he said that death is gain for him, and rejoiced that soon he would be with his Lord who gave him strength to remain faithful until death. He was not afraid of death, in the course of the execution he was singing praises to God and was praying even for his enemies. He departed reconciled both with God and people.
Quotations of Jan Hus on eternity
Everyone is to believe in Jesus Christ and love Him above everything as God and believe firmly that He is the true God and true man, and is to believe that everything He said is the truth. He who believes it and endures till the end will not perish, because Jesus Himself says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son – understand that He let Him be crucified – that whoever believes in Him should not perish – understand, so that he would not eternally perish in his soul and body – but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
And therefore He is called Jesus, which means a Saviour, for this reason He came to the world in human flesh to save people. Therefore, eventhough He was eternal, without suffering and an immortal God, He decided to become earth-born, suffering and mortal, and so He became a man and because of our sins He had been working hard for thirty-three years, and at the end redeemed us through His bitter death.
Exposition of the faith, Chapter 10
The faith in the resurrection from the dead overcomes the dread of death… Therefore saint Paul says: “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” (Hebrews 11:35). In compliance with their example, let us also think about the resurrection, do not let us fear death in such a way as to withdraw from God’s commandment, but let us stand in it boldly till death and let us desire even now to leave this world as sailors from the ship that is sinking, as a pilgrim from a foreign country, as a resident from the collapsing house, as a prisoner from the cruel prison; for we are on the sea, on journeys in a foreign country, in the collapsing world and in the prison of the body which is a heavy jail.
Exposition of the faith, Chapter 23
Therefore I assure you, Honourable Mister Rector, that I never worry on account of difficulties and persecution, but because of my sins and the indiscipline of God’s people. For what can harm me, if I lose worldly riches that are nothing else than rubbish? Or if I lose the favour of the world and the appreciation that leads away from the way of Christ? Does not the disgrace that is humbly accepted purify and brighten up God’s sons to shine forth as the sun in in kingdom of their Father? Does not he who will lose his life here, which is nothing but dying, find true life, and in this way lose death? But the people who are blindfolded by pride, ambition and greed do not understand it, and then also those who through fear turned away from the truth even where there was no ground for fear. Such are without love and virtue, they waste away and are confused, owing to the fact, that from one side they are weighed down by the known truth, and from the other side by the fear of losing their reputation and that their perishing body would be delivered to death. But I hope in the Lord Jesus that with the help of His mercy I will deliver my body up, because I do not want to live in this miserable world if I could not encourage myself and others to repentance in line with God’s will.
Letter to the Rector of Prague University, M. Křišťan from Prachatice, 1412
However, so that you may better understand the words of the Lord Jesus: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3), notice that the eternal life consists in knowledge, in loving and in satisfaction so that every saint in the heavenly kingdom will get to know God as He is and when he knows Him, will also love Him, and when he loves Him, will take delight in Him, and in this delight he will find satisfaction…
Therefore the heavenly bliss is called full satiation without shortcomings… Saint Augustine as well as pagan Seneca say about it that blessed is he who has what he wishes, and does not wish anything evil.
Exposition of the faith, Chapter 24
Therefore saint Augustine says about heaven: “It is easier to say about eternal life what is not there than what is there. There is no death there. There is no lament there. There is no fatigue from work there. There is no illness there. There is no hunger, heat, thirst, nor anything spoiled, no need, no sorrow, nor pain there. There is no toil there. There is no fear, anger, nuisance, nor temptations from enemies, nor power to sin, nor power to forced service. But there will be a rest from labour, ease from enemies, safety from sorrow and violence. People will be like God’s angels there. The righteous will shine there as the sun in God’s kingdom. Forever there will be life without death, day without night, certainty without errors, joy without pain, safety without fear, silence without strain, knowledge without heresy, peace without end. Strength without weakening, sincerity without turning things upside down, beauty without ugliness, health without illness, truth without cunning, love without annoyance, happiness without disaster, welfare without shortcomings, genuine possession without insincerity, honour without disregard. Fame with glory, loving without any defilement or impurity. Memory without forgetting, mind without errors, will without dolefulness, favour with purity, unity among all and joy without end.”
Exposition of the faith, Chapter 24
O, because He, the true God and Almighty, is with us, a most powerful and sure Defender, our King and most generous Giver, who can stand in the fight against us, what fear can divide us from Him, which death can separate us? And what are we going to lose when for His sake we give up possessions, friends, appreciation, this miserable world and even our own life? Right at that moment we will rid ourselves of earthly gravitation and will accept a hundred times better possessions, more loving friends, more enjoyable appreciation, and not even death can deprive us of these things anymore. Because he who will die for Christ, will overcome, will escape all suffering and will experience the eternal joy, to which the merciful Saviour Jesus Christ will help me and other faithful ones arrive.
Letter to the people of Prague, 1412
Eternity in the life of Hus – It is improper to go from the feasts of this world straight to the feasts of the other world.
Here the footprints of Hus end. But is it really true that they end? Hus lives in the Czech nation and in other nations further on in his footprints. It means that everybody who follows him by professing the same values as he does, is his successor. And even his successor leaves footprints behind which others will see, and will be able to follow them anew.
Hus does not only live in his followers, he lives in the Kingdom of God. He knew he had an immortal soul and that people might kill his body, but they could not do anything more to him. Eternity. Hus is in eternity. This may sound like an empty phrase. Eternity is an infinite space where those who gave their lives over to Christ are rejoicing in the presence of God. Hus used to say that it is improper to go from the feasts of this world straight to the feasts of the other world. Thereby he expressed that the life of the lovers of the truth includes also pain and suffering. So people enter the Kingdom of God by the gate of difficulties, pains, suffering and dying. Somebody dies in a quick and calm way, another one in severe and lengthy pains and in the suffering of the soul. Hus was dying in severe pains, experienced strong aches also in the cold and damp prison, yet he was dying peacefully. He was heading for eternity. He was looking forward to the infinite splendour awaiting him, about which he knew in advance, because he had the witness of God.
Today people do not believe in eternity, but many believe in the life after life. In other words, they believe that they have an immortal soul. And this is true. Thus the Czech atheist is actually believing (something), and isn’t even aware of it. The only way to God’s kingdom is Jesus Christ. The one in whom Hus believed. Not the one whom many would-be Christians represent. And Jesus gives us advice to enter life by the narrow gate, because the other gate, the wide one, leads to destruction. Christ came and sacrificed Himself in order to reopen eternity to people. He did so out of pure love.
Hus became one of the greatest Czechs of all times. The example of his life has been inspiring others to follow for centuries. Hus’s ashes were swept into the Rhine, but his teaching and values, which he confessed and for which he lived and died, still influence entire nations and communities up to the present day.
Hus left footprints behind. These footprints – values – lay under our feet, and we can ignore and overlook them, but they are still here. We can even trample them by despising them in our hearts, because they are too old and incovenient for our days. Or, we can acknowledge them and back them by our own belief of them and follow them in our everyday lives.
Goose footprints of Master Jan Hus refer to a kind of symbol which he often and gladly applied to himself when speaking about himself like a silly goose. For example, he wrote that in spite of the fact that the goose is a domestic, silly bird, not flying high, he did not allow himself to be frightened by an interdict and instead began to fly. And thanks to his courageous example, other birds that did not dare to fly until then, also took flight.