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Part 1 Birth Pangs
Part 2 Birth
Part 3 Maturity
Part 4 Sick unto Death
Part 5 Burial
Part 6 The Hidden Seed
Part 7 Lessons from the Bohemians
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Fired by the WORD
“The Czech Reformation was born under the impetus of the Word of God”.1
It does to me!
Countless times I have heard a testimony along the following strain: “And then I started to read the Bible…”
The revival that occurred in 14th and 15th-century Bohemia was started when men and women began once again to take the Word of God at face value. One of the quickest ways to drown a revival is to separate it from what God has said. Once there is no more “Thus saith the Lord”, death is at the door, if not already over the threshold.
Peter Waldo obeyed Jesus by giving away his wealth.
And... There were a people in Bohemia that proclaimed God’s Word during the so-called “dark ages”. Peter Waldo, a famed Waldensian2, was said to have died there in 1218, after being chased out of his native Lyons for “heresy”. For the next couple of decades, these “Waldensian” believers followed Jesus, preached itinerantly, and lived in simplicity in Bohemia, gathering in little groups at night or in secluded places, for fear of reprisal by the “official” church.
But God has no grandchildren, and the following generations slowly began to conform themselves to the society around them to soften the persecution. Some attended mass and baptized their babies, even though officially they did not all agree with such practices. And besides, instead of practicing what they had previously called “apostolic poverty”, they now began to accumulate wealth. There were those among them who did not compromise as much, and these were willing to admit the drift. Brother Gregory, whom we shall meet a little later, wrote of them as follows:
Certain Waldensians admitted that they had strayed from the paths of their predecessors, and that there existed among them the iniquity of taking money away from the people, amassing wealth, and neglecting the poor; whereas it is certainly opposed to Christian belief that a minister should accumulate wealth, since he should employ his own worldly possessions, and even those inherited from his parents, in the giving of alms, and not leave the poor in their necessity…
The Waldensians are not to be thought of as one homogeneous group with a unified doctrinal statement and practice of faith.3 At the time of our story, one Fred Reiser was a leader among the German Waldensians. The son of a Waldensian barba4, Fred had contact with the early Bohemian revival, and certainly had some influence and input into it. As well, he was on the receiving end, being ordained among the Bohemian Taborites as some point. Traveling about Europe, from Poland to Switzerland and into various regions of Germany, he preached and helped reorganize the faltering Waldensian communities. At Strasburg, he met his end, tied to a stake and burned in the year 1435.
Chastened by the Plague
One should not look into medieval history without considering the effect of the Black Plague that swept through the land in the mid 14th century.
Killing thousands, literally, every day, the “Great Mortality” as it was then called eventually took 1/3 of Europe's people to their grave: and fast! Within seven days of infection, 50% of infected humans die, barring modern medical intervention or an act of mercy from God.
Jews, vagabonds, and other minorities were blamed and banished or burned at the stake. But the real culprit was the tiny flea and its host, the black rat. Actually, the culprit was even smaller than the flea, since it was the Yersinia pestis bacterium that has claimed 200 million lives.5
However, we are not so concerned about the cause in our study, as we are the effect. To imagine the effect, just imagine 1 out of every 3 of your neighbors dying within a couple weeks time. You have no certain information as to what the cause is, and neither does anyone else.
Suddenly, preparation for the future—the “after-life”— comes barging into your thoughts.
Bohemia was “spared” from the plague; only about 10-15% of the population died. While that is certainly a better statistic than the 30-60% that other areas of Europe reported, it was enough to put death on the forefront of everyone's mind.
As with modern AIDS, many people, preachers included, felt that God was punishing Europe for its sins. Calls to repentance began to sound forth. People became serious about eternity. And, importantly for our story, many people began to look to the Church for answers to life's serious questions: like, how does one get saved from his sins?
To further understand the spiritual conditions of 14th-century Bohemia, we must needs study the history of the Roman Catholic Church. For centuries, the Church and the State had walked together in an unholy alliance. There was the “Holy Roman Emperor”,6 who was supposed to be secular king over “corpus cristianum”,7 or Christendom; and there was the pope, who was to be the spiritual leader over the same.
Sometimes the relationship between the Emperor and the Pope was sweet, more often than not, sour. Each side jostled for more authority. Finally, the French King Philip “The Fair” captured Pope Boniface VIII at his French summer home and basically had him murdered by cruel treatment8. For some sixty years, the popes ruled Rome from France, until Pope Gregory XI finally had enough of French oversight and returned to Italy. France “fixed” the situation by electing its own pope, Clement VII. In some places, this created rival cardinals and bishops in the same city, some holding to the French pope, some to the Italian. In the end, both sets of Cardinals got tired of the whole mess and, hoping to end the controversy, called a conference—without either of the two popes there—to elect a true pope. They succeeded in choosing John XXIII.
Good King Wenceslas
While the story of this song may not have one lick of historical veracity to it, it does represent the idealism that many medieval people looked up to in reference to the king/serf relationship. The “Good King Wenceslas” referred to was actually a Duke, but the stories of his piety and humility had been handed down for centuries among the Bohemians. He is the main patron saint of the modern Czech Republic even today. This is traditionally a “Christmas carol”, as St. Stephen's feast is the day after Christmas.
Now there were three rival popes! The popely rich but obviously confused Catholic Church was at a loss as to who was its vicar of Christ: three men all claimed the position. Added to this was a running distrust and sometimes open antagonism between local priests and the monastic orders, all across Europe. All this, of course, contributed to a rising feeling of distrust towards the Church by the laity.
In Bohemia, on the political scene, King Wencesles IV9 decided to not support any of the rival popes, and called for the Bohemian people to back him in this move.
Not only was the “head” sick; even modern Catholic historians acknowledge that it was a time of general laxity in the church. Of the monks, it is reported that they hunted, they gambled, they caroused, they committed adultery, and the suggestion was solemnly made that they should be provided with concubines. It certainly did not help matters for the Church to hold title to 1/3 of the land in Bohemia.10
In the midst of this, came the preaching of the Word…
Conrad and John
The scene is a town some forty miles north of Prague. A traveling preacher is scheduled to speak. He begins his sermon.
From across the street, church bells start pealing. Are they calling the faithful to listen? No, some Franciscan monks are trying to drown out a certain Conrad. His preaching grates on them...probably because he preaches against their lax lifestyle.
The next day when the preacher begins his sermon again, they do not ring the bells: they enter the crowd that has gathered and begin to openly shout Conrad down. Push comes to shove, quite literally, and the gathering turns into an open fray between those supporting Conrad and those supporting the mendicant friars.11 When things get out of hand, the friars sneak away as best as they can.
From Austria, Conrad Stiekm (d. 1369)—more commonly called “Waldhauser”, from the convent he originated from in northern Austria—had been asked to preach12 in Bohemia. Denouncing the prevalent evils, thousands came to listen to his expositions of the Gospels. Since the crowds could not fit in the chapels, he preached in the open air. The later Moravian bishop Edmund de Schweinitz described Conrad in the following terms:
His bearing was calm, his thoughts were set forth with great clearness, his language was plain, but forcible and eloquent. With a boldness that came from God and feared neither man nor the devil, he exposed the vices of the times and called sinners to repentance. The result was wonderful. Women who had been leaders of extravagant and immodest fashions laid aside their costly robes, glittering with gold and pearls, and devoted themselves to works of charity. Usurers fattening themselves on unrighteous gains made restitution. Notorious libertines set an example of holy living.
Conrad had a “special” message for the begging friars: “If the men who founded your orders would see the worldliness in which you live,” he said, “they would be horrified.” Raising the challenge further, he told them that if their founders could return to earth, they would be stoned by their present disciples. In the same strain, they were reproved for the asking of alms for themselves.
Of course the monks did not like Conrad’s challenge, and threatened to kill him. However, when push came to shove this time, they did not show their faces at a trial charging Conrad with heresy.
Charles IV put Prague on the map by choosing it to be his imperial seat. The former “frontier town” suddenly became a bustling city with people of all sorts of people passing through. But perhaps the most important consequence was the connection made with Britain, when Charles' daughter Anne married Richard II, King of England. Among the resulting cultural exchanges was that of Lollard and Wycliffian ideas being brought to Prague. “Infected” with these ideas, John Huss began to preach them.
So Conrad just kept on preaching. As well as moral reform, Conrad preached against prevailing social evils, where proud nobility snuffed noses at the serf. Conrad ‘stood with the underdog’ and proclaimed the equality of all men. In fact, he upheld the simple country life as an ideal: “More deceit and disbelief arises from the towns than the village,” he wrote.
He describes his own preaching in the following words:
Not willing that the blood of souls should be required at my hands, I traced, as I was able, in the Holy Scripture, the future dangers impending the souls of men.
No wonder he had the reputation as “a disturber of public peace!”
During an earlier journey to Rome, Conrad had seen first-hand the invalidity of pilgrimages and indulgences: multitudes went to Rome to buy forgiveness for their sins;13 without one streak of genuine repentance in their heart. Then while there, they added insult to injury in getting seduced by the debauchery of the papal city.
About the same time, John Milic began to preach. He, in contrast to Conrad’s German and Latin, initially used the local dialect—a new thing—and worked among the poor sections of Prague. At one time, he had been a private secretary for Emperor Charles IV,14 the owner of an estate that produced a very healthy income, and an arch-deacon. But in the year 1363, he renounced his position and income so as to disassociate himself from all simony,15 and devoted the remainder of his life to preaching the Gospel and doing charitable deeds.
His labours came to fruitition in the form of a whole city block of brothels16 that closed down when the women that staffed them—hundreds of them17—became new creatures in Christ Jesus. From these converts and others, Milic helped raze the debauched “Little Venice” section of Prague and in its place founded “New Jerusalem”, a home for wayward girls and a school to prepare evangelists. To expand the sphere of his message into the upper classes, he, in spite of his advanced age, set himself to learn German, eventually becoming fluent in this tongue.
He hoped that his labors—which by now included preaching daily for two or three hours, and Sundays and fast days two to five times to huge crowds18—would put together a model congregation that others would be stimulated to copy. Both Conrad and John were priests basically hoping to restore the Catholic Church from within; obviously with a deeper spirituality than was found among the average church leader of their times. It is written of Conrad that he taught “the necessity of a living Christianity, of a renewal of the heart, and of saving faith.”
Thomas of Stitny (c. 1331-c. 1401) was another one of the men that began to call for reform of the church, “in head and members”. He wrote in the language of the common people, urging for moral reforms. While he supported the doctrine of a three-tiered Corpus Cristianum19, he had a maxim for it: ‘The lord is made in order to serve the people.’ In other words, those in privileged positions were obligated to minister to the “lower” positions. He wrote:
“I was instigated by a sermon of St. Augustine’s to write Bohemian books, relating to Holy scriptures, with greater boldness; for from it anyone can observe how good a thing it is to read Holy Scripture. … Anyone would be rightly terrified who should stop a king’s letters which he sends to his queen; if he learned that the king knew it. And how much greater is the Lord God than any king! How much dearer to him is His Bride—that is, any soul that longs after Him—than was ever queen dear to any king!
...But because our king is so merciful, more so than anyone can imagine, He hath been pleased to send us by patriarchs and prophets the Holy Scripture—missionary letters as it were—whereby He invites us to return to our fatherland, and points out the way. And if this be so, dear brethren, what mean those servants who are so neglectful of their Lord that they will not even read the letters from Him, in which He invites them to His blissful kingdom!
“‘It is proper to love God in such a manner as not to desire any recompense from Him, that it may not be a hireling and slavish love.’ I know that I ought not to love Him for any other recompense which is not Himself, if I wish to love Him rightly... And what manner of love would that be, if anyone were to say to me, ‘I love you, but I pay no regard to you?’ And if such love cannot be pleasing to a poor creature like myself, how can it be pleasing to God...?
A wise and noble mistress is like the moon. For as the moon receives all its beauty from the sun, so has she honor from her husband, if they look upon each other faithfully and truly with true love, so that there is no impediment between them through which true love may vanish. As we see, when the earth is between the sun and the moon, because the sun cannot look directly upon the moon owing to it, the moon immediately vanishes; if the sun also were to lose its beauty, the moon would not be beauteous at all. Therefore mistresses do err who hold their husbands cheap or ridicule them, or who say to anyone whatsoever, without very urgent need, what is to the disgrace of their husbands.20
Concerning the monks, he wrote21:
And thus have they fallen away from love, they have not the peace of God in the mind, they do not rejoice with God in devotion, but quarrel, hate each other, condemn each other, priding themselves against each other, for love has sunken low in them on account of avarice because they have forsaken God for money, breaking his holy laws and the oath of their own promise. And besides this—which is the most dreadful wickedness—they are irritated, they are annoyed at every good preacher or every good man who understands their error; they would gladly make him out to be a heretic that they may have greater freedom for their cunning.
In regards to sports, Milic drew some lines:
...The tourney, because that injurious pastime ought not to be termed a pastime...is prohibited in the spiritual laws. Thus it has been appointed as a penalty...that he who is killed in a tournament, or dies from an injury there received, is not to be buried in consecrated ground... Dances, too, have much evil attaching to them—pride, licentiousness, envy. Therefore...holy men condemn dances as being the cause of much evil. Games at dice, too, are an ill pastime, for avarice will ere long be there.
Of hunting I say this, that those hunts which are connected with vain-glory—as, for instance, awaiting the attack of a bear or boar—are not good. It is not good to risk life without other necessity for that vainglorious idea... We are not placed here to give ourselves up to pastimes, but to do what is needful for ourselves or our neighbors, each according to his station...
And then Matt
Of all who listened to these capital city preachers, none, perhaps, let the words of Christ transform his life more drastically than a young man named Matthias, the son of a Czech nobleman from Johnov.
No one expected Matt to turn out different from his friends—riding horses, playing, dancing, and jousting on feast days. When he discovered the joy of following Christ, nothing else attracted him anymore. He wrote:
“Once, my mind was encompassed by a thick wall; I thought of nothing but what delighted the eye and the ear, till it pleased the Lord Jesus to deliver me as a brand from the burning. And while I, worst slave to my passions, was resisting him in every way, he delivered me from the flames of Sodom, and brought me into the place of sorrow, of great adversities, and of much contempt. Then first I became poor and contrite, and searched with trembling the word of God. [Into my heart had] entered...a certain fire, subtle, low, strong, and unusual, but exceeding sweet.22
Instead of seeking lively company, Matt spent long periods out on the fields and in the woods, alone. He spoke continually with Christ, and when his former companions met him, he warned them earnestly to “turn from images to the real person.”
Like John Milic, his teacher, Matt spoke to the people in ordinary Bohemian. He believed Christians should take part in frequent—daily if possible—communion in bread and wine. He spoke against the exaltation of the clergy and identified the “many rules made by the church to take the place of Scripture” as the “chief cause of corruption” in medieval Europe.
“I consider it essential,” he wrote, “to root out all weeds, to restore the Word of God on earth, to bring back the Church of Christ to its original, healthy, condensed condition, and to keep only such regulations as date from the time of the Apostles.” “All works of men,” he added, “their ceremonies and traditions, shall soon be totally destroyed; the Lord Jesus shall alone be exalted, and His Word shall stand forever.”
The temptation to go with the flow at times haunted him. Should he simply shut his mouth and accept generous offers of promotion or material gain? He tells of his experience in these things:
“My feet had almost gone; my steps had well-nigh slipped; and, unless a crucified Jesus had come to my rescue, my soul had sunk to hell. But He, my most faithful and loving Saviour, in whom is no guile, showed to me their counsels; and I knew the face of the harlot, by which she allures all that stand at the corners of the streets and the entrances of the paths. Nevertheless, I prayed to God and the Father of Jesus Christ my Lord, holding up the Bible in my hands; and I cried out, with heart and voice, ‘O Lord and Father, who ordains my life, leave me not to their thoughts and counsels, and let me not be taken in their net, lest I fall under that reproachful sin which shall sting my conscience, and drive out wisdom from my soul!’
...I confess, before God and his Christ, that so alluring was this harlot, Antichrist, that she so well feigned herself the true spouse of Jesus Christ—or rather, Satan by his arts so tricked her out—that from my early years I was long in doubt what I should choose, or what keep: whether I should seek out and chase after benefices,23 and thirstily grasp for honors, which to some extent I did, or rather, go forth without the camp, bearing the poverty and reproach of Christ: whether, with the many, I should live in quest of an easy and quiet life for the moment, or rather, cling to the faithful and holy truth of the gospel: whether to commend what almost all commend; lay my plans as many do; dispense with and gloss over the scriptures, as many of the great and learned and famous of this day do; or rather, manfully inculpate and accuse their unfruitful works of darkness, and so hold to the simple truth of the divine words, which plainly contravene the lives and morals of men of this age, and prove them false brethren: whether I should follow the spirit of wisdom with its suggestions, which I believe the divine Spirit of Jesus, or follow the sentiment of the great multitude, which, in their self-indulgence, without show of mercy or charity, while lovers of this world and full of carnal vanities, they claim to be safe.
The interior of Bethlehem Chapel, where John Huss and other preachers began to return to preaching the Word of God, to large crowds.
I confess that between these two courses I hung wavering in doubt; and unless our Lord Jesus be our keeper, none will escape the honeyed face and smile of this harlot—the tricks of Satan and the snares of Antichrist.”
Advocating the primacy of Scripture, his ideal of a Christian was “the simple man” and a return to primitive Christianity24—with its community of goods and agape love—as in the early days of the New Testament church. He was not out to establish another sect; he, like the German Pietists some 200 years later, wanted to establish an “ecclesiola in ecclesiola”.25 As well, Matt felt that the State was not capable of reforming the church, even though this idea was the accepted mentality of his day.
In 1389, a meeting of bishops in Prague decided to stop Matt's influence at all costs. They ordered him to stop preaching on pain of death and forbade him to attend religious meetings outside his hometown. Five years later, suffering continual harassment, he died. But the seeds he had sown lived on.
Milic’s New Jerusalem was forced to close—by people jealous of its success—but some of the city’s more spiritual element had Bethlehem Chapel built in its place. This was a private chapel with seating for 3000, in which the Word of God would be expounded in the local dialect. As a sign of the times, side by side on its walls were paintings of the pope, resplendent on horseback, and of Jesus, cross-laden on foot.
In the coming days, this chapel would be a center-of-sorts for the preaching that would shake the people of Prague and Bohemia, with ripples touching every corner of Europe.
While all these rumblings jostled Bohemia, in England things were shaking a bit also. The Lollard26 movement was taking off, and John Wycliffe was preaching “strange” things at Oxford. He was bold enough to say that the Scriptures took precedence over tradition, the church should not be a holder of property,27 and that the doctrine of Peterine Supremacy28 and the doctrine of transubstantiation29 were a farce.
A young Praguite in the audience, Jerome, became enthused with his teaching and carried it back to his homeland. Preaching that the Roman Church had apostatized, he caught the attention of John Huss, theological doctor and confessor to the Queen of Bohemia.
Using local Bohemian, John began to preach some of the same things, introduced congregational singing, and denounced simony. When Pope John XXIII sent sellers of indulgences to Bohemia to support his war on Naples, John vehemently protested.30
By the year 1411, John’s teachings, which drew large numbers of hearers, were making enough waves to cause the Catholic Church to tell him to stop preaching. In reaction, some University students burned the papal bull. King Wencesles executed several of these rioters, and the pope put Prague under an interdict.31 A short while later, Huss was excommunicated and spent the next two years in exile in south Bohemia.
His exile was not wasted time. He wrote fifteen books and studied the Bohemian language. Without necessarily trying to do so, he set the standards of writing for this otherwise little-used tongue. As well, he preached to the poor farmers in the region, who soaked in his messages and admired him as a great man of God.
Then came the great council of the Catholic Church on Lake Constance in 1414.32 This was called to settle once for all the “great schism” caused by having three popes each claiming to be the legitimate one. As well, this reunion of Catholic leaders was to deal with the rising storm of “heresy” that was rumbling in Prague and Bohemia.
John Huss was summoned to appear before the council to defend his orthodoxy.
The Emperor Sigismund granted Huss a guarantee of safe conduct. Thinking it would be a great opportunity to expound the truths he had “discovered”, John went. He tried to explain his views. Ears were closed. He was accused of espousing doctrines which he had never taught. His defense was useless, even though he had only tried to reform, and never agitate separation from, the Church. The pope declared that the church is not required to keep faith with heretics, and hence his guaranty of safe-conduct was worthless.
The Council took matters in their hands—and out of the hands of the three popes. They charged John XXIII with some serious sins; he left town “in a huff”. Now, instead of the pope as final authority over Christendom, the Council considered itself as the chief earthly authority. In vain, they tried to persuade John Huss of this “truth”. One of the “doctors” told Huss:
Even though the council should tell you that you have but one eye, and you have two, you would be bound to assent to their statement.
John was of better character than that, and replied, “And I, while God spares my reason, would never allow such a thing, though the whole world were agreed upon it, because I could not say it without wounding my conscience.”
For his obstinacy and refusal to accept the Council's doctrines as truth, he was thrown into a dungeon and sentenced to be burned to death as an arch-heretic.
Shortly before the flames were lit, John told them, “Today you roast a live goose”—the name Huss meant goose in Bohemian—“but within 100 years there will arise a swan that you will not be able to catch nor harm.33 The flame was lit, and when it had done its duty, John’s ashes were thrown into the nearby river. In the place of his execution, a dead mule was buried: supposedly to convince any passersby that all arch-heretics stink pretty bad after they die.
The day after his execution, the following was posted—by an anonymous person—on every chapel door in Constance:
The Holy Ghost, to the believers in Constance, greeting: Pay attention to your own business. As to us, being occupied elsewhere, we cannot remain any longer in the midst of you. Adieu.
Not too long after these events, Jerome of Prague met the same fate as the Goose.
Tabor, base of the Taborites. Old fortifications can still be seen on the lower left of this photo.
The Hussites are Born
The news of Huss’ execution stirred the Bohemian nation to its depths. He and Jerome were looked upon as a national heroes and martyrs. The revolt which followed threatened the very existence of the papal rule in Bohemia. The populace of Prague stoned the houses of the priests unfriendly to the Huss; and the archbishop himself was attacked in his palace, and with difficulty eluded the popular rage by fleeing. The popular excitement ran so high that, during a Hussite procession, the crowd rushed into the council-house and threw out of the window seven of the councilors who had dared to insult the procession.
John Zizca was a brilliant general, one of the very few in history who never lost a battle. Maneuvering farm wagons mounted with fortifications and guns into strategic positions, he set the example for modern tanks and artillery.
His reputation was that of daring and brilliancy, yet he was considered by some to be pious—he forced his soldiers to act mercifully and once even ordered his entire army pray to God for forgiveness of their sins when they disobeyed.
He never seemed to learn though, that God's true righteousness can never be brought about by force of the sword.
The Hussites, the name given to the adherents of the new body, soon divided into two organized parties: the Taborites rejected transubstantiation, the worship of saints, purgatory, prayers for the dead, indulgences and priestly confession, and renounced oaths, dances and other amusements. They admitted laymen to the office of preaching, and used the national tongue in all parts of the public service. Partially blind John Zizka, one of their first leaders, held the sword in the spirit of one of the Old Testament Judges. After his death, the stricter wing of the Taborites of which he directed received the name of The Orphans, owing to their almost fanatical following of him. One of his dying wishes was that his skin could be turned into drums so he could still lead his army on after his death.
The Calixtines,34 or Utraquists,35 agreed in demanding the distribution of the communion cup to the laity, but when it came down to it, they disagreed on how far the reform should go. The Prague Utraquists were not ready to go as far as the Taborites, some of whom entered chapels and smashed statues and destroyed the pictures of the “saints”. At Tabor, their center in south Bohemia, they set up stone tables and had mass communion services, in which up to 40,000 people at a time partook of the bread and wine.
Chiliast ideas of a visible kingdom of God imminently to come had invaded their midst, as well as a vision to practice the Sermon on the Mount. But when the predicted date for Christ’s return to set up his Kingdom came and passed without any Jesus appearing, the chiliast ideas began to fade away.
Emperor Martin V now summoned Europe to a crusade against Bohemia, offering the usual indulgences,36 as Innocent III had done two centuries before when he summoned a crusade against the Albigensians in southern France. In obedience to the papal mandate, 150,000 men gathered from all parts of Europe and began marching towards Prague to destroy “the heretics”.
In spite of differences in how far to reform the church, practically all the “Hussites” were united in one thing: they did not want to be Catholics. A conference was called in Prague to determine how to handle the impending attack of the Catholic crusaders. Should they follow the teachings of Wycliffe and Huss, who in spite of some misgivings, had determined that “just war” was not sin for Christians? Or should they follow the non-resistant ideals—based on the sermon on the mount—that many of the south Bohemians had upheld for several years now?
So they gathered in Prague to make a decision. Time was short. The Crusaders were on their way from Germany.
“The time to wander with a pilgrim's staff is over,” one of them said. “Now we shall have to march, sword in hand.”Go to- Part 2 Birth
1A quote from Rudolf Rican’s book, “The History of the Unity of Brethren”.
2Many historians now believe that this Peter Waldo did not begin the “Waldensian” movement as many have previously believed. Some medieval Waldensians referred to Waldo as the “Restorer”, with the understanding that Waldensian-type churches had existed for centuries before Peter Waldo came on the scene. And, there is historical evidence for this view.
3There are a number of broad histories written about the Waldensians, but the problem is that these histories tend to focus on one aspect or lineage of the story. Were the facts really known about just exactly what the “Waldensians” believed and practiced, many of us who point to them as our spiritual ancestors might just get red-faced. But that is another book...
4Italian for “uncle”. The itinerant Waldensian ministers were called this, probably in contrast to the Catholic use of “father” for a priest.
5There are various other suspects as to the cause of the Black Plague, but this one is the most suspicious. Perhaps the most enigmatic point of the whole thing is that while the bacterium are still extant, the plague itself has “disappeared”.
6Voltaire said the “Holy Roman Empire” was “neither holy, nor Roman, nor empire”. This was certainly true in his time, and mostly true in the time of our story. It was not holy, and it was not Roman. It was barely a unified empire. The political maps of medieval Europe seem to have changed at every whim. With over 100 little States in Europe at the time, loyalties were changed as often as men change gloves. And many times these little States were included in the map of “The Empire”, but the reality was that their loyalty to the Emperor was only on paper.
7Latin for 'Body of Christ'
9He was named after “Good King Wencesles” of the Christmas song on the preceding page. This first Wencesles was a devout Catholic Duke that supported missionary efforts to convert the Slavs. He was murdered on the way to a church meeting, at the very door of the chapel, by three men working in collaboration with his very own brother.
10Why go on a crusade? “All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant them through the power of God with which I am invested.” Thus promised Pope Urban II. And if you died in the process, your land was turned over to the Church. By this means, the Church became owner of a huge amount of property.
11'Mendicant' means begging, and 'friar' means 'brother'. These were the “poor” Church orders who sometimes acted like professional beggars. Conrad himself was an Augustinian 'brother', but he had little sympathy for the begging friars who had little spiritual desires, but much interest in being leeches on others.
12By the Emperor himself!
13A pilgrimage to Rome could obtain forgiveness of sins, according to the pope that made that offer. It is recorded that somewhere around 1 million souls found themselves at Rome during Conrad’s time there.
14He later became convinced that Charles was Anti-Christ, even posting a notice on the door of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome that Anti-Christ had come—which occasioned him a spell in jail. On another occasion, he publicly reproved Charles by name in a sermon, in the Emperor's presence. But Charles saw him as a zealot with good motives and did nothing to suppress him.
15 The buying of church offices, like Simon the Sorcerer tried to do.
16Legalized prostitution was an accepted norm in medieval Europe, even in Catholic cities. The idea was that it was better that the young men be guided towards marriage, rather than sodomy. For this reason, the law only allowed single men to do business with the houses of disrepute.
17One historian reports “thousands” of rescued women. This number is probably stretched. Be it hundreds of thousands, God send us some John Milics!
18Besides private counseling...
19We will deal with this idea shortly, but to help us understand the term, “three-tiered” refers to the three classes of society: Secular rulers, ecclesiastical rulers, and the common man. The latter made up 97% of the population of Europe.
20He is referring, I presume, of Christ and the church.
21Remember while reading the following, he was not anti-Catholic.
22Only those who have tasted can understand the rapture of those words!
23Income producing assts that were given as part of a ministerial position.
24The word 'primitive' here is used in the sense of 'prime' or 'first', not in the idea of 'old-fashioned' as many use it today in the USA. At the council of Basil—which we will come to in a few pages—Palomar of Barcelona mocked primitive Christianity as a fellowship of the “stupid and the gloomy”. Is the book of Acts a fellowship of the “stupid and gloomy”?
25Latin for “church within a church”
26From a Dutch word meaning “mumbler”, as mockery of their prayers. Our English “lullaby” is rooted in the same word. This movement deserves its own book, so I only briefly touch it here.
27That is, lands and estates other than perhaps chapels.
28This doctrine teaches that the Apostle Peter had supremacy over the other bishops. Whoever then took Peter’s place became the chief bishop, or pope.
29A big word that means that upon the blessing of a priest, the Catholic wafer turned, quite literally, into the body of Christ.
30Remember, this was 100 years before Martin Luther.
31 Basically an embargo that did not allow anyone to do “spiritual” business in Prague: no weddings, funerals, etc.
32 This lasted 3 ½ years.
33 Historical evidence of this saying is scanty. Some feel this was a prophecy of Martin Luther, who came a century later. But as our story proceeds, we could well deduce that this was fulfilled right in Bohemia!
34 Means “people of the chalice (cup)”.
35 From the Latin phrase “comunion sub Utraquist especie” which means “communion under both kinds”. In the Roman Catholic Church, only priests are allowed to partake of the wine. Lay members receive bread only. Thus the communion cup became the symbol of the Hussite reformation.
36 Supposedly, one could have his sins forgiven by joining in a crusade to eliminate heretics.