"The Religious Spirit of the Slavs" (1916)
by Nikolai Velimirovic


Your great compatriot, Wycliffe, is rightly considered as the beginner of
the Reformation. Wycliffe spoke, and his word was his great mission on
earth. But his word in Bohemia became flesh–yea, more than flesh–blood
and fire. Human words are never great except when transformed into a
drama–when incarnated into life. Wycliffe was never so great in England as
he became in Bohemia. Christianity in Bohemia was at that time relatively
young, nearly three times younger than in Rome. But since Prince Borivoj
was baptised by the Slav Apostle, Methodius, never did Bohemian
Christianity stand nearer to the primitive Bohemian paganism than at the
time when King Wenceslas ruled in Bohemia, and Pope John XXIII ruled in
Rome, and Jan Huss served as preacher in a Prague chapel called the
Bethlehemian. The paganism under the style of poor Jesus, against which
fought Huss, was much more obstinate and aggressive than the paganism under
the style of Perun, against which fought St. Methodius. Everywhere was
found a substitute for Christ, everywhere a pretext for an easy life and
for a broad way instead of the narrow one. Sins and virtues had been
equalised by means of money. The Church buildings had been transformed into
public places for the exchange of sins and virtues. "_Repentance_, not
_Money!_"–exclaimed Jan Huss. But his voice was stifled by the piercing
sounds of the drums by which the sale of absolution for sin was announced
in the streets. Again exclaimed Jan Huss: "The whole Bohemian nation is
longing after Truth." But the traders in Christ’s blood and tears laughed
him to scorn. The doctors of theology asked their colleague Huss to confess
that "the Pope is the head and the Bishops the body of the Church, and all
their orders must be obeyed." But Huss did not care very much either about
the head or the body, but principally about the _spirit_ of the Christian
Church. And this spirit he saw eclipsed. He saw men again falling back to
the creed of serving "two masters." He looked to the heart of the Christian
religion and saw that it was sick, and his soul revolted against it. But
his righteous revolution was regarded as a malevolent innovation, his words
as a scandalous licence, and his tendencies as a deliberate destruction of
Christianity. Therefore Jan Huss was brought before a tribunal of Christian
judges, condemned to death and burnt to ashes, _ad magnam Dei gloriam_, as
the Bishop of Lodi preached on that occasion.

The fact was that the Council of Constance was a great innovator, and that
Huss stood for the true catholicity of old. He fought for the primitive
Christian spirit which always inspired, vivified and purified the Christian
world, and his judges introduced a quite anti-Christian, a quite new spirit
into the Church, the spirit of _judging_ and _killing_. The sufficient
proof–if you need proof at all–of this is that Huss suffered as a
Christian martyr and through painful _suffering_ brought his cause to
glory; whereas his judges killed him in the hope through a _crime_ to
promote the Christian cause, and so covered their names with shame. The
truth and glory of Jan Huss’s cause were manifested last year throughout
the whole of the globe. The whole world celebrated the quincentenary of his
martyr death. I participated in this celebration in New York. It was a rare
spectacle, that the New World saw. The Orthodox Christians, Roman
Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans, Methodists and Baptists, all the
Churches and denominations participated in it. We went together, we prayed
together, and we felt united in one and the same spirit. That was a great
moment, for many of us the unique moment, when we _experienced_ what is
meant by the _catholicity_, by the noble catholicity, of the Christian
Church, as Bishop Westcott called it. It was an elevated and sweet feeling.
The diabolical spirit of the Council of Constance never could unite us, but
the Christian Catholic spirit of Jan Huss united us. The memory of Pope
John XXIII divides the world, whereas the memory of the great apostle of
the Bohemian nation unites it. Yet the revolution of Jan Huss was not of a
personal character. It was not directed against John XXIII, or against the
Vatican as Vatican–it was directed against the spirit of _Forum Romanum_
which crept into the Vatican and dwelled there. It was directed against
Jupiter, who took the place of Christ in Rome and who invisibly inspired
the Council of Constance; and against Perun, who, disguised, smiled from
every church in Prague, and with a smile ruled over the souls in Bohemia
under the name of Christ.

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