This time of the year is infused with the joys of anticipation. However, the reverse is true as well — this jovial period can be fraught with loneliness and sorrow.
In 1412, as one man endured his self-exile from his beloved adopted city, he turned his attention to the time 1,400 years before when another Exile came to Earth. This Exile gave up a regal throne to the cosmos.
Jan Hus (1372–July 6, 1415)1 had chosen exile to protect his city of Prague and its denizens. For the Exile of fourteen centuries before, He had come to save His world from the darkness of ignorance and selfishness.
As Jan Hus contemplated the events of his life as a child from Husinec, a country town, he could identify with the heavenly Exile who came to earth to live an impoverished life and teach the people the truth. Jan Hus’ parents were poor, and life was a herculean struggle in the 1300s.
For this child of peasants had never imagined, even though he had dreams of a better life, that one day he would be the leading lecturer and Rector at Charles University in Prague. From humble beginnings to the pinnacle of society, he was beloved by many.
However, as history has clearly shown, those who are beloved are also reviled when they challenge the status quo, especially the religious status quo where religion is controlled by the “chosen” few men who embrace their position with relish, a relish born of their primordial nature. The Dark Ages may have ended, but the dark ages of intolerance never seem to terminate — as it was then, so it is today.
Those who challenge religious authority are denounced as heretics. Their followers are viewed as dangerous and a threat to the natural order — in other words, the established ecclesiastical hierarchy.
Jan Hus advocated, preached, and taught what he believed to be the true teachings of the heavenly Exile. The people of his religious community were like sheep, totally naïve and foolish about the wolves hovering around them.
In this scenario, the wolves were the religious leaders and their emissaries. The problem with emissaries is that they are totally devoted to their leaders and turn antagonistic when confronted with truth, because they have been scripted, and deviation from the prepared script is not in their frame of reference.
The tension between true education and constricted theology was a boiling cauldron with a tight lid. Tradition and the fiats of the ecclesiastical hierarchy sought to control the populace by keeping them ignorant of the Scriptures.
To obey the dictates of the church was their salvation. To disobey and deviate from the teachings of the church was their damnation to the fires of hell or, if they were lucky, to purgatory, the church’s escape plan if the price was right.
Theological truth gave way to flapdoodle as advocated by the merchants of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. To someone like Jan Hus, and many like-minded people down through the centuries, this nonsense could not proceed without challenge.
All of this coursed through Jan Hus’ mind as he sat there in exile, and he decided to write a letter on December 25, 1412 to his beloved people of Prague and beyond. His words were like refreshing water and fresh bread to weary souls hungering for truth.
“Dear friends, although I am now separated from you, because perchance I am unworthy to preach much to you, nevertheless the love which I bear towards you urges me to write at least some brief words to my loved ones.
Lo! dear friends, to-day, as it were, an angel is saying to the shepherds: I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all people. And suddenly a multitude of angels breaks into praise, saying: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of goodwill!”1
There are many today who face a lonely holiday season. Their loved ones have passed the confines of this mortal coil or their family members are scattered here and there and cannot return to their native home for myriad reasons.
Jan Hus ended his letter with these words:
“…there is born a Comforter of the sorrowful, and there is given to us the Son of God that we may have great joy, and that there may be glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of goodwill. May it please God, born this day, to grant to us this goodwill, this peace, and withal this joy!”
Jan Hus in his exile found comfort in his faith with the Comforter mentioned in the Gospel of John. Many today embrace those words during this season when there are so many miseries and sorrows plaguing this orb hanging in the majesty of infinity.
If you are expecting a letter written or emailed or that phone call which brings joy to your heart or perhaps a visit from a loved one, may it be true for you. This holiday season may be a time when the miracle of love will find its way to your house, and for a few brief moments loneliness and despair will fade.
Notes & References:
2. “To the People of Prague.” Jan Huss, The Letters of John Hus. Online Library of Liberty.
G.D. Williams is recently retired after working in Adventist higher education for 30+ years. His pursuits include photography, genealogy, collecting antique books, and working on his old farmhouse.
Image: Painting of Jan Hus at the Council of Constance by Václav Brožík (1883). Wikimedia.org / Public Domain.
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