by Robert Booth
As his executioners were about to burn John Hus at the stake, he wrote in his prison cell, “Today you burn a goose, but in one hundred years a swan will arise which you will prove unable to boil or roast.” Why did Hus identify himself as a goose and what was he referring to about a swan?
Hus was born about 1372 in a Bohemian town of called Husinec. The actual meaning of Husinec is Goosetown. His surname, which comes from his place of birth, means goose.
Hus was influenced by the morning star of the Reformation, Wycliffe. Hus wanted to make Scripture accessible to the people. He began to believe that some of the practices of the Church, were against Scripture. He was critical of the veneration of Mary and the saints. He didn’t believe that the practice of withholding the chalice from the common people was right. Several times Hus referred to priests and popes as “antichrist.” He even disregarded papal bulls when they contradicted Scripture.
Huss preached passionately against this misuse of the church’s authority not only to sell forgiveness. He came to believe that only Scripture was infallible, and that the church fathers and popes could err. This was later included in what the Reformers called sola Scriptura. He became known as God’s little goose. His beliefs angered the church, and on July 6, 1415, Hus was stripped of his clerical robes, and burned to death at the stake.
Nearly 100 years later, 102 years to be exact, a man by the name Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of Wittenburg Church. Ordained as a monk, in his quest for truth, he discovered the message of Wycliffe and Hus, and was profoundly shaped by them. As you study the life, writings, and influence of Luther, you will discover that he is closely associated with a swan. Whether this was intentional or not, we do know that Luther continued the Reformation that was started by Wycliffe and Huss. Though I have yet to experience it for myself, I am told that many Lutheran Churches today embrace the swan as one of their symbols.
Coincidence or not, many believe that Hus’s prophecy about a swan doing a unstoppable work was fulfilled in the life of Martin Luther.
READ MORE FROM ROBERT BOOTH'S SERIES "PEOPLE OF THE REFORMATION"