The letters of John Hus/Letter 71, To Gallus (Hawlik), Preacher in the Bethlehem

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For other English-language translations of this work, see Letter of Jan Hus to Gallus, preacher in Bethlehem.

LXXI. To Gallus (Hawlik[1]), Preacher in the Bethlehem

(June 21, 1415)

My beloved brother, Master[2] Gallus, preacher of Christ’s word, do not oppose the sacrament of the Lord’s cup, which was instituted of Christ both of Himself and through His apostles. For there is no Scripture against it; but only a custom which hath grown up, as I think, through negligence. Only we ought not to follow custom, but the example and truth of Christ. Now[3] the Council, on the plea of custom, hath condemned as an error the communion of the cup so far as the laity are concerned, and he who practises it must be punished as a heretic, unless he come to his senses. What a piece of wickedness, to condemn after all these years Christ’s institution as an error! I beg you for God’s sake cease your attack on Master Jakoubek,[4] lest there be a schism among the faithful to the delight of the devil. Also, dear friend, prepare to suffer for the eating of the bread and the communion of the cup, and take a brave stand on Christ’s truth, laying aside all unlawful fears and comforting the other brethren in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They will, I think, give you the arguments for the communion of the cup, which I wrote in Constance.[5] Greet Christ’s faithful ones. Written in chains on the eve of the ten thousand soldier-martyrs (militum.[6])

In these last days the thoughts of Hus turned once more to his old friend and comrade in past struggles, Christian Prachaticz. Christian unfortunately, as the reader will remember, had some what fallen away. We feel the shadow of this fall cast over this last brief letter of Hus to one who had been at one period his closest correspondent. (See supra, p. 196, n. 1.)

  1. See p. 177, and for Hawlík pp. 172, 236, 275.
  2. D. (dominus) which, like the old English “Sir,” was applied to priests. Cf. p. 187.
  3. Jam. But jam and nunc are interchangeable in mediæval Latin.
  4. See pp. 169, 177.
  5. See p. 170 and Mon. i. 42–4.
  6. For the legend of the ‘Ten Thousand Martyrs’ see Acta Sanctorum, June 22, vol. v. 151–62. The authority for this legend originally cited seems to have been Bede’s Martyrologium (Migne, vol. xciv. p. 954), but this work in its present form owes much to twelfth-century additions. June 22 is the Day of St. Alban and the two thousand British martyrs. I imagine the ‘Ten Thousand’ was due to continental rivalry. The ‘Ten Thousand’ were said to have been crucified on Mount Ararat under Marcus Aurelius. Their feast was celebrated at Cracow, Breslau, at Paris in the Church of the Celestines, and especially at Prague, in the treasury of which were many relics of these fabled heroes. Hence the allusion of Hus, for whom relics had a charm (see p. 85). Spanish writers crowned the absurdity by claiming that they were Spaniards.

    This tale was one of the earliest to be discredited. Before the end of fourteenth century Ralph de Rivo in his book De Observatione Canonum (in Hittorpius, De div. Cath. Eccles. Officiis, Paris, 1560, pp. 1103–63) mentions this among the fables to which Rome lent no sanction (‘de decern millibus martyrum, quæ fabulosæ—dicam donec aliud videro—finguntur,ib. p . 1121).

    I may add that Hus’s reading ‘militum’ if genuine is probably a corruption from ‘millia,’ and certainly is not found in the usual versions of the tale (e.g. Usuard’s Martyrologium, ed. Louvain, 1568).