Cohesion, Justice, Truth!

Also I beseech you, that you love one another, do not permit good to be oppressed by violence, and desire that every one learns the truth.

I have come to Constance... Pray therefore to God to grant me perseverance, because many enemies and powerful opponents are rising up against me... But I do not fear anything, neither am I worried. I am sustained by the hope that after this great battle will come a great victory, and after the victory a greater reward and greater dishonour for my persecutors. M.J.Hus: Letter from Constance

Students and the guest of the evening Prof Petr Čornej gathered in a Prague’s university students’ club K4 on April 17th 2013 to hold the first of a series of gatherings of Students read Hus! project. The pleasant medieval cellar in the Prague’s centre hosted discussion of some 30 participants of this new project to discuss selected texts of Master Jan Hus.

This first gathering was held under the first statement of Hus’ Septalogue: “Search for truth!” and dealt with two letters written by Hus during his work in Prague and with his famous “Appeal to Christ”. Prof Čornej opened the evening with lively introduction to the historical context of Hus’ letters and brought to attention some interesting and sometimes even amusing connections of the time when Hus was writing.

The first text concerned was a letter to Archbishop of Prague Zbyněk of Hazmburk written in 1408 on matter of arresting young spirituals who sympathized with the reformational thoughts. To defend them, Hus included into his letter a criticism of inner Church conditions, when spirituals could live a life of free manners without fear of their superiors’ anger meanwhile the Church nobility literary “hindered” honest priests in their living in poverty and service to their parishioners and to foreign people.

The second text was a letter from 1411 addressed to the Polish king Ladislaus. Hus hoped in the king’s support and in his letter even expressed his wish to meet with the king. Later Hus really managed to meet him. In his letter Hus on one hand praises the successful campaign against the Czech king Zikmund whom Hus criticised for his pride, that didn’t serve him well in the fight. On the other hand, the letter concludes in a spirit of reconciliation and urges both kings to get reconciled, because the fight of a Christian against a Christian doesn’t contribute to anything good. Prof Čornej pointed out, that there are two letters of the same name. The other one was according to researchers written by a student, who used the name of famous personality to practice rhetoric. In the middle ages, this discipline included not only speeches, but also written discourse.

The third text was the famous Hus’s “Appeal from the Pope to Jesus Christ”. This text coming from 1412 explains, why Hus until this time didn’t take much care about the quarrels about his opinions. According to Prof Čornej, Hus, probably with the help of his lawyer, proves here, that many Church and non-Church representatives confirmed, that his opinions are not a heresy. Also he states here his fears of being mugged or of any other danger, if he set for the long way to the court in Rome. It is a paradox, that before the Council in Basel he gave up his caution.

This gathering on three letters of Jan Hus served as a general introduction to the time and thinking of Hus. Prof Čornej pointed out important Hus’ thoughts and acts, including the misunderstandings about the nature of his struggle – if it is a struggle civic or canonical – what actually led in the end to serious accusations of heresy and subsequently to his burning to death at a Council in Konstanz, Germany. As we could see especially in the last text read, Hus perceived his struggle to be more civic all the time and was relying on the stand of the provincial court. This but had no significance in this case, according to the Church. In a following discussion an opinion appeared, that the Church and the society were merging with one another in these times. Prof Čornej stated, that this was actually the reason, why Hus didn’t make any difference between the reform of the Church and reform of the society. The reform of one was directly interconnected with the reform of the other.

The participants discussed the above-mentioned texts, but because of time reasons, it was not possible to finish all thoughts and particular discussions. Therefore we invite you to discuss the texts here below, though you might not be present at the first gathering. You can find also a transcription and a record of the whole evening on this website (both in Czech). If you would like to organize your own reading group, please, let us know about your plan. We can help you with getting the texts and background materials or help you to find specialists on Hus and his times in your country. Later you can enrich our online discussion with the outcomes of your own reading. Next reading will be held in Prague in October with the presence of Prof. Jan B. Lášek, dean of the Hussite Theological Faculty of Charles University.

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