Today we have an early Reformer of the Church versus one of Jesus’ first disciples. It is precisely such odd juxtapositions that make Lent Madness so much fun. Will John Huss be re-martyred in the next 24 hours? Or will Mary Magdalene have her name further besmirched? Only time, and your one vote, will tell.
In recent action, Thomas Cranmer soundly defeated Ephrem of Edessa (58% to 42% with 1,825 votes cast) although the vote was a lot closer than the Vegas bookies anticipated. If you didn’t catch the latest Monday Madness video featuring Tim and Scott, go watch it right away.
John Huss (1371? – 1415) or Jan Hus, was a Bohemian (born in what is now the Czech Republic) priest, theologian, and professor. Against the backdrop of the papal crisis in the Church known as the Babylonian Captivity during which there were two popes, one in Rome and one in Avignon (France), Hus wrote many treatises urging reform of the Church in the face of papal and clergy abuses and corruption a century before Martin Luther posted his famous 95 Theses in Wittenburg. In addition to his objection to the sale of indulgences and the practice of simony (the buying/selling of spiritual things, from sacraments to relics to Holy Orders), Hus was, following John Wycliff, a champion of of broad participation of the laity in the life of the church. He believed that people should be able to own and read their own Bibles in their own tongue and that worship should be conducted in the local language. He denounced the practice of withholding the chalice from everyone except the priests at Holy Communion and argued from his pulpit in Prague (the Bethlehem Chapel) that Christ, not the Pope (neither the French nor the Italian one) was the true head of the Church. For this he was excommunicated for insubordination by his archbishop in 1412.
The excommunication did not put a stop to Hus’ preaching, however, and he continued to minister in Bethlehem Chapel until he went into voluntary exile after his whole town was put under interdict because of him. Hus was summoned to the Council of Constance in Switzerland to defend himself, but his appeals to Scripture in matters of church governance did not win the day, and he was condemned as a heretic along with Wycliff (who was by then 44 years dead and buried) on July 6, 1415.
Hus was chained to a stake and wood and straw were piled up to his neck and set ablaze, and afterwards his ashes were thrown into the Rhine. The new Pope proclaimed a Crusade against his followers, the Hussites, and five Crusades later, a settlement was reached which, among other things, restored communion in both kinds to the laity in Bohemia and Moravia. Today’s Moravian Church traces its roots to Hus and his persecuted followers.
Collect for John Huss: Almighty God, who gave to your servant Jan Hus boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this 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. Amen.
— Penny Nash
Mary of Magdala (1st century), one of the faithful women who traveled with Jesus throughout his ministry, is arguably his most devoted disciple. But whatever we know about her is filtered through the lens of Gospel stories and myth-making. Author James Carroll notes how she has “served as a scrim onto which a succession of fantasies have been projected.”
Mary Magdalene is often confused with “the sinner” mentioned in Luke’s Gospel, Mary of Bethany (sister of Lazarus), and unnamed others including the woman possessed by demons. That she was the first witness to the Resurrection of Jesus as Christ is one of the few points of agreement among theologians and Biblical scholars. Despite ongoing disputes about who and what she was, her feast day is celebrated by the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, the Church of England, the Episcopal Church USA, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as well as the Roman Catholic Church.
Collect for Mary Magdalene: Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and of mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection: Mercifully grant we may be healed from all our infirmities and know you in the power of his unending life; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and resigns, one God, now and forever. Amen.
— Meredith Gould
John Huss vs. Mary Magdalene
- Mary Magdalene (66%, 1,154 Votes)
- John Huss (34%, 597 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,749