Jan Hus (d. 1415)

Mark Fackler

READ : Psalm 119:105-112

Your word is a lamp to my feet. (v. 105)

Born to peasants, Jan Hus learned to pray at the feet of his mother. An average but hard-working student, he was ordained a priest in 1402. Shortly before, news had arrived from England of a certain John Wycliffe, a reformer, whose ideas were changing the Christian world.

Times were dangerous. The church was split between two popes, one in France, the other in Rome. The Great Schism (1378-1417) meant that every church leader must take sides and hope his pope emerged the winner. Survival hung in the balance.

Meanwhile, Wycliffe’s influence was growing. In 1405 Hus began to denounce ecclesiastical hoaxes perpetrated on common folk. “Shall I keep silent?” he asked. “God forbid.”

Four times Hus was excommunicated. For two years he went into exile, working in villages in southern Bohemia, writing, preaching, keeping his head down.

Then in October 1414, Hus was guaranteed safe passage to attend the Council of Constance in Italy, an effort to end the schism and eradicate heresy from Europe. The promise was broken. On July 6, 1415, amid shouts and jeers, the church committed Hus’s soul to the Devil. He was pushed through the streets of Constance to the piled tinder, strapped by the neck to a stake, and set ablaze. Hus died singing “Jesus, son of the living God, have mercy on me.”


Each day, Lord, draw me closer, closer.