Moravian Roots

prague hus

Statue of Jan Hus in Prague

On this Sunday, Moravians observe the martyrdom of John Hus, burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.

In 1965 my husband and I were founding members of Redeemer Moravian Church,  and it is dear to our hearts. I still use the Moravian Daily Text as a spiritual guide.

I knew Hus was a hero — and he was among the first rebel in the Reformation, predating Martin Luther by a century. He promoted the teachings of Wycliffe, objected to indulgences, and thought of the Lord’s Supper as consubstantiation rether than transubstantiation.

I just learned, reading Fox’s Book of Martyrs that Hus was a popular hero — acclaimed by commoners, nobles, and the clergy of Bohemia, now Czechoslovakia. And a colorful one. When stripped by the church court, forced to wear a paper dunce cap with devils on it, he reportedly said “My Lord Jesus Christ, for my sake, did wear a crown of thorns; why should not I then, for His sake, again wear this light crown, be it ever so ignominious? Truly I will do it, and that willingly.”

When the chain was put about him at the stake, he said, with a smiling countenance, “My Lord Jesus Christ was bound with a harder chain than this for my sake, and why then should I be ashamed of this rusty one?”
When the fagots were piled up to his very neck, the duke of Bavaria was so officious as to desire him to abjure. “No, (said Huss;) I never preached any doctrine of an evil tendency; and what I taught with my lips I now seal with my blood.” He then said to the executioner, “You are now going to burn a goose, (Huss signifying goose in the Bohemian language:) but in a century you will have a swan which you can neither roast nor boil.” If he were prophetic, he must have meant Martin Luther, who shone about a hundred years after, and who had a swan for his arms.

The flames were now applied to the fagots, when our martyr sung a hymn with so loud and cheerful a voice that he was heard through all the cracklings of the combustibles, and the noise of the multitude.

Read the Wikipedia version of his life for a more historical account, complete with political intrigues involving King Wenceslaus, of Christmas carol renown.

In 1457 the followers of John Hus founded Unitas Fratrum, now known as the Moravian Church. Moravians are known for colorful spiritual practices, including their “Daily Text” selections, their early efforts in missionary work, their Easter celebrations (they are the ‘Easter people’), their Love Feasts — and their four-part harmonies. Moravians really known how to sing.


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