July 7 – Jan Hus & Peter Waldo                                           

These weekly “People to Commemorate” posts are a kind of calendar for the commemoration of the saints, reproduced here from a Uniting Church Assembly document which can be found in full here. They are intended for copying and pasting into congregational pew sheets on the Sunday closest to the nominated date.

Images (where provided) are of icons by Peter Blackwood; click on the image to download a high resolution copy of the image.

Jan Hus & Peter Waldo, reformers of the Church

These two men were ‘reformers before the Reformation’, and the 16th century European Reformers entered into their tradition. Waldo of Lyons, a merchant, was converted ca 1170 and began preaching in the streets, calling his considerable audiences to a faith and life of evangelical simplicity. His movement was one of lay people, and spread into Europe until settling in the Alpine Valleys and around the River Po in northern Italy where the Waldensian Church of today is still centred. They applied to Calvin in 1732 to join his reform. Throughout their history, they have been a persecuted community in a country dominated by the Roman Catholic Church (Pope Francis apologised for this in 2015) and now form a ‘double Synod’ with the Methodist Church of Italy.

Jan Hus (or John Hus) was born ca 1369. He was a bright student and graduated from the University of Prague; soon after his ordination in 1400 he became the University’s Vice-Chancellor. He was known for his public criticism of the morals of the clergy, bishops and the papacy, but the influence on him of the English divine John Wyclif (ca 1331-1384), regarded also as an early reformer, brought him to attention of the papal powers, who had issued a decree against Wyclif, especially over his views on the eucharist. Ironically, the criticism of the papacy occurred at the time when a schism occurred which produced two rival popes. It was a low point in Catholic history, and Wyclif and Hus were both condemned by the Council of Constance; Wyclif had already died, but Hus was burned at the stake and died on this day in 1415. These reformers were part of a movement in Bohemia for frequent communion, and the regular offer of the chalice to the laity, a century before Luther. Hus’s death encouraged this movement further, until the revolution in his name in 1419 was defeated by the king and they were forced underground.  Their views emerged again in the Unitas Fratrum (Unity of Brethren), the spiritual ancestors of the Moravian church, who also influenced John Wesley.

It is now ecumenically agreed that the Church is semper reformanda, always being reformed. This principle is at the heart of the Uniting Church, which, like Waldo and Hus, insists that reform is led by the Holy Spirit, and soundly based in a reading of the Holy Scriptures (Basis of Union, para. 10-11).

Robert Gribben