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The Goose and the Swan

At our afternoon session in the ministers' Week of Prayer today Rev. Ron Johnstone, chairman of the Presbytery's Reformation Committee, referred to a 'prophecy' made by Bohemian martyr Jan Hus 100 years before Martin Luther appeared on the Reformation stage.

To counteract the notion that this story is a mere Protestant invention, I will quote from the writings of Poggius Florentini, a Roman Catholic priest and an observer at Huss’ martyrdom. As an eyewitness he wrote about all that happened. These are his words: “In Thee, O Lord, I put my trust, bow down thine ear to me.” With such Christian prayers, Hus arrived at the stake, looking at it without fear. He climbed upon it, after two assistants of the hangman had torn his clothes from him and had clad him into a shirt drenched with pitch. At that moment, one of the electors, Prince Ludwig of the Palatinate, rode up and pleaded with Hus to recant, so that he might be spared a death in the flames. But Hus replied: “Today you will roast a lean goose, but hundred years from now you will hear a swan sing, whom you will leave unroasted and no trap or net will catch him for you.” Full of pity and filled with much admiration, the Prince turned away.

100 years later, Martin Luther picked up his 'goose quill' and penned his famous 95 Theses ... .

After Luther's death, the great Reformer was frequently portrayed with a swan in sculptures, paintings, woodcuts, engravings, weather vanes, hymnals and commemorative coins. Many of these were assembled for an exhibit at the Lutherhalle in Wittenberg by its Director, Dr. Martin Treu, in celebration of the 450th anniversary of Luther's death. A famous painting by Friedrich List, 1698, is titled, "Luther with the Swan," is located in the Lutheran Church, Strümpfelbach, Germany. Contrary to what some now allege, neither Luther nor the Reformers invented this story. It is confirmed by a Roman Catholic eyewitness who placed the incident on record.

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