In a lantern lit dank basement, hiding beneath a humble stone house, gathered five not-so-common people.
All university students in Prague, they sat in silence, hearing only the howling Bohemian wind whistle through worn window shutters upstairs.
The comforting aroma of fresh bread and potato soup saturated the room.
There were no smiles on the unshaven faces of the young men, no adornment brightening the countenance of the lone female. They were all clad in black.
Jan Hus was dead.
Their gathering used to be larger. In the weeks following the news of their friend being burned at the stake in Constance, fear and confusion caused many to flee or hide.
The group were members of the Bethlehem Church in Prague where Jan Hus preached his controversial ecclesiastical reforms, maintaining the Church consisted of more than just clergy. His teachings disturbed Church leaders, but inspired the people of Bohemia.
This 15th Century home group encouraged each other weekly; artists mostly, all sharing their interpretations of scripture in various art forms.
Dusan was first to rise from his stool. His long, black hair was pulled back in a pony tail. He opened with prayer.
“Almighty God, who gave your servant Jan Hus boldness to confess the name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of the world, and courage to die for his faith; grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.”
Jakub, a pale looking young man, picked up his bagpipe and was joined in front of the small group by Beta who wore a high paper hat on her head with the inscription Haeresiarcha.
Jakub played Hus’ favorite hymn, Oh, Ye Warriors of the Lord.
Josef, the youngest of the group, stood wearing a black executioner’s mask. He bound Beta’s hands behind her back and chained her neck to a pole in the basement. He began piling straw up to her shoulders.
Tears streamed from Beta’s eyes.
Josef’s voice trembled as he spoke, “Save your life now by a recantation.”
Beta’s sadness transformed into boldness, proclaiming, “God is my witness that I have never taught that which I have been accused by a false witness. In the truth of the Gospel which I have written about, taught and preached I will die today with gladness.”
Dusan rose again, clad now in a red cape and wearing red gloves, as Josef scattered the writings of Jon Hus as kindling on the straw heap. Dusan danced as fire around Beta, his red cape slapping her face, as she sang, ”Christ, thou Son of the living God, have mercy upon me.”
Jakob’s bagpipe played with greater fervor.
Dusan then stretched his red gloved fingers around Beta’s throat as she stated, “In 100 years, God will rise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed.” She then sunk her head, feigning death, and slid to the floor beneath the straw.
The music from Jakob‘s bagpipe deflated as it went silent.
A tall, muscular young man named Viktor stood with a broom. He swept away the straw and poured a sack of ash on and around Beta’s prone body. He then picked up a darkly cast oil painting he created depicting the Church that executed his mentor. He nailed it to the post to which Beta was still chained. Viktor then returned to his stool and grabbed a piece of paper. He walked slowly over the ashes and nailed it onto the painting. The paper had the number 95 written on it.
With the four men back on their stools, Beta rose from the ashes. Her hands and neck were free from the rope and chains that had her bound. She walked to each of her friends, giving them strong embraces.
The Lord’s presence in the room was so strong, none could move.
Josef finally spoke.
“What about the 95, Viktor?”
“I don’t know, friend. It’s what the Lord showed me to do.”
“What now?” Beta asked.
“I still smell soup and bread,” Jakub added.
“What would Jan have done?” Dusan wondered.
They smiled simultaneously and went upstairs and blessed the food. Minutes later the group had the pot of soup and bread out in the rain feeding the poor and encouraging them in the Lord.
Jan Hus was dead, but…
Author’s Note: In the year 1517, almost 100 years after Jan Hus’s death in 1415, Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses of Contention (a list of 95 issues of heretical theology and crimes of the Church at that time) into the church door at Wittenberg. Luther is considered to be founder of Protestantism.
Haeresiarcha: Late Latin for a leader in heresy.
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