Jan Hus is an influential person in Czech history. At the beginning of the 15th century he became a leading thinker and a representative of the reform movement in Bohemia, being a century ahead of his successors Luther, Calvin and Zwingli.
The Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren and the Czechoslovak Hussite Church are preparing a “Hus´s Festival 2015”, which will culminate in Prague 6 July 2015. The goal of this project is to commemorate the legacy and ideas of Jan Hus on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of his martyrdom. Jan Hus is an influential person in Czech history. At the beginning of the 15th century he became a leading thinker and a representative of the reform movement in Bohemia, being a century ahead of his successors Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. The churches which arose from the Czech Reformation see him as God‘s witness, and in a democratic society he is seen as a model of a true, responsible and brave man.
For centuries two completely different evaluations and emotions have been associated with his name. On one hand the churches arising from the Czech Reformation revered him as God‘s witness and in a democratic society as a model of a true, responsible and brave man. On the other hand, he was considered a heretic, whose attitudes threaten the church and whose memory should be erased.
Jan Hus worked as a university lecturer, but more especially as a preacher in the Bethlehem Chapel. Defending ideas calling for a redress of church life and society brought him numerous difficulties. He got into a dispute with the former ecclesiastical power, he was given to the ban and because of an interdict he had to leave Prague. Upon arrival at the Council of Constance he was arrested, thrown into prison and forced to withdraw as a „heretic“, he was deprived of priestly ordination and handed over to be burnt at the stake on July 6, 1415.
Hus influenced by his work a number of things: adherence to Scripture increased in the Catholic Church too; receiving communion in both kinds which was intended to equalize the laity and priesthood largely fulfilled its mission; the sale of indulgences does not finance war parties anymore and the current Pope is anything but anti-Christ incarnate.
Evangelical piety was later formalized by world reformation and Hus influenced it as a martyr for truth, though not everyone knew it was right on the law of Christ. His legacy is recognized by the Czechoslovakian Church and Pope John Paul II. included him among the reformers of the Church. Hus‘s legacy has become the bridge of confidence between denominations. The controversial figure has become an ecumenical link.
The most current from the Hus legacy is his appeal to Christ – „the most rightful judge“. Hus wanted to express that above all the visible institutions are the truth that makes sense of all human learning and decision making. Like Jesus he appealed from the council to the Son of Man (Mark 14.62). Our society today, with all its faults, is still so democratic that no institution can claim absolute authority and referring to the last instance is seemingly futile. Democracy by its very nature indicates that the different institutions of the people do not have the last word. In this there is a big chance. But it cannot refute doubts about whether any final truth exists. It depends on those who have experienced this truth, who in Jesus of Nazareth have met this truth‘s incarnation, like Jan Hus from Husinec. One of the conditions of an authentic witness is that the witness of such testimony has no benefit for himself. Jan Hus, burned at the stake, is a famous witness for today’s society that our life is not meaningless, that good works have a future and everything will be judged by the fairest judge of all. It is Hus´s gospel for us, for the Czech and the entire European Union.
The rare honor was given to Bohemia in the history of European humanity that it was not only the first country to defend its own religious beliefs against the all-powerful Church, armed with omnipotent arms of serious violence, but that it encouraged peaceful coexistence between two confessions. Bohemia thus became for one and half centuries an island of religious freedom and remained a refuge for the persecuted of many faiths, although the Reformation of the 16th century significantly expanded this area of religious freedom.
Jan Hus has become a symbol of truth, which is not just information but knowledge that has value for life. Despite the council´s opinion, many Czech Catholics did not cease to esteem Jan Hus. Also Cardinal Josef Beran who was released in 1963 after his many years of internment by the communist authorities (although he was not allowed to return to Prague to take up his office) spoke out at the 2nd Vatican Council in 1965 publicly appealing to deal to deal with the legacy of Jan Hus.