Lent Study 2015 – The Bohemian Reformation

Part of our Lent Study Group, with Dr Hana Tonzarová on the right © Ricky Yates

Part of our Lent Study Group, with Dr Hana Tonzarová on the right © Ricky Yates

As I mentioned in my first post of 2015, this year marks the six-hundredth anniversary of the martyrdom of the early Czech Church reformer, Jan Hus. So at the suggestion of my good friend and colleague Rev’d Dr Karen Moritz, our 2015 St Clement’s Lent Course has been looking at various aspects of the Bohemian Reformation, in which Hus was a major figure.

The course has been held on successive Tuesday evenings during Lent, commencing on Tuesday 24th February, and will conclude in two days time, on Tuesday 24th March. It has been really encouraging to have between ten to twelve attendees each week, nearly all of whom have been present for every session.

In our first session, Karen Moritz presented an excellent overview of the period in question; cca. 1350 – 1620. She explained how the reform movement began during the reign of Charles IV (1346 -1378), and continued after his death. Its theological foundations were then established over the following forty years, with the preaching and writing of Jan Hus being central.

Following Hus being burnt at the stake in Konstanz in 1415, there followed a period of both revolution and radicalisation, before a settlement was reached in 1434, whereby the Utraquist Church, giving Communion in both kinds, was allowed to exist alongside the unreformed Roman Catholic Church, where only bread was given, and then only on rare occasions.

However, from 1520 onwards, following the beginning of the German Reformation initiated by Martin Luther, the next one hundred years saw ever-increasing efforts to suppress the Utraquist Church, culminating in the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. This then led to the re-Catholicization of the Church in Czech lands.

It fell to me to lead our second session, where I explained the influence of the teaching and writing of the early English Church reformer, John Wycliffe, upon Jan Hus. My own alma mater is Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, named to celebrate his legacy.

Wycliffe lived from c1328/30 – 1384. Hus from c1371/2 – 1415. There was therefore, no direct communication between them as Hus was just entering his teens when Wycliffe died. But Wycliffe’s writings in Latin, circulated in Bohemia and greatly influenced the philosophy and teaching of Hus. Some of the published works of Hus, most notably his De ecclesia, are plagiarised versions of the writings of Wycliffe, in an era when no law of copyright existed!

I pointed out the irony of language. Wycliffe preached & taught in vernacular English, Hus in vernacular Czech. But Latin, the language of the educated elite, was their means of communication :-)

The presenter for our third session, was Father William Faix, an American Roman Catholic priest living and working in Prague and a member of the Augustinian order. He mainly spoke about Martin Luther and his Roman Catholic years, also as a member of the Augustinian order! But at the end of his presentation, he remarked how Luther realised that his own writings which began the German Reformation, actually brought his thinking into line with that of Jan Hus.

The presenter of our fourth session last Tuesday, at which both photographs in this post were taken, was Dr Hana Tonzarová, a priest in the Czechoslovak Hussite Church. Her Church, until 1970, the Czechoslovak National Church, was formed in 1920. It arose from a movement within the Roman Catholic Church of the newly created nation of Czechoslovakia, wanting to celebrate mass in vernacular Czech or Slovak. When the request to do so was refused by Pope Benedict XV, with strong encouragement of the new Czechoslovak government, around 10-15% of the Roman Catholic Church within the new nation, broke away to form this new national Church.

Hana gave an excellent power point presentation, both explaining more about Jan Hus and his life and teaching, but also how her own Church sees him, and how his martyrdom in 1415, is going to be commemorated this year – the six-hundredth anniversary of his death in Konstanz.

Our final session this coming Tuesday, will be presented by Dr Peter Moree, a Dutchman married to a Czech, who teaches in the Protestant Faculty of Charles University. He is going to speak about the legacy of Jan Hus and how his teaching and writing have been both used and abused, down the past six hundred years.

In very simple terms, this course has been both educative and inspirational, one from which I have gained a great deal.

The other half or our Lent Study Group with Dr Hana Tonzarová on the left © Ricky Yates

The other half or our Lent Study Group with Dr Hana Tonzarová the second on the left © Ricky Yates

Spring seems to be arriving!

Snowdrops in Stromovka Park © Ricky Yates



During the past three weeks, we’ve had numerous bright sunny days, enhanced by the hours of daylight getting longer each day. This has encouraged Sybille and I to get out walking and exploring again, especially on Mondays which are meant to be my regular weekly day-off.

As I wrote in an earlier post, three weeks ago on Monday 16th February, we made a round trip to Prague Zoo. A week later on Monday 23rd February, late in the morning, we left the flat, took the tram and travelled to Hlubocepy in the southern suburbs of Prague. From the tram stop, we made our way down to the side of the Vltava River and then walked all along the river bank to the village of Zbraslav.






The . . . → Read More: Spring seems to be arriving!

Celebrating our birthdays

Our birthday dessert © Sybille Yates

As many of our friends know, Sybille and I have birthdays that are just two days, but several years apart. 24th February for Sybille – 26th February for me. Our usual plan is to have a joint celebration on the intervening day, which is what we successfully managed to do last Wednesday. However, sometimes the liturgical calendar conspires against us. The last time our birthdays respectively fell on a Tuesday and a Thursday, as they did this year, was in 2009. Then the intervening day was Ash Wednesday

Whilst attending the Christmas Party at the British Embassy last December, we met Paul and Michaela, a British/Czech couple who have a business with the interesting name of ‘The Happy Monkey s.r.o.’ Their company run a butchers shop, another butchers shop combined with a bar – . . . → Read More: Celebrating our birthdays

A round trip to Prague Zoo

As Monday 16th February dawned cold, but fine and sunny, Sybille suggested that we should take advantage of the weather on my day-off, and pay our first visit of 2015 to Prague Zoo. Here is an illustrated account of our most enjoyable day out.

The ferry boat waiting at Pobabe © Ricky Yates

Prague Zoo lies directly opposite from where we live in Podbaba, on the other side of the Vltava River. As there is no immediate bridge, the only way to get there is by ferry. So we walked down to the Podbaba bus stop and took the bus, two stops to Podbabe from where the ferry departs.

Approaching Podhorí © Ricky Yates

Here we are, approaching the arrival and departure point of the ferry at Podhorí, on the other side of the river. I love the sticker that . . . → Read More: A round trip to Prague Zoo

Anglican worship in Brno

The rear of Kostel Nanebevzetí Panny Marie with the entrance to ‘The Upper Room’ on the bottom right © Ricky Yates

On 18th December 2011, aided by several members of the Prague Anglican congregation, we held the first ever English-language Anglican service in Brno – a Service of Lessons and Carols for Christmas. Since the beginning of 2012, I have conducted a regular monthly service in Brno, usually on the second Sunday evening of each month, along with an additional service each year, on the evening of Easter Day.

As I explained in my post entitled ‘Holy Week and Easter Day 2014 in Prague and Brno‘, in March 2014, we suddenly lost the use of our previous Brno worship venue. Fortunately, the Roman Catholic Jesuits came to our rescue, offering us the use of the most appropriately named ‘Upper Room’. . . . → Read More: Anglican worship in Brno