Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER VII: To a Certain Monk ( January 18, 1411) - The Letters of John Hus
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LETTER VII: To a Certain Monk ( January 18, 1411) - Jan Huss, The Letters of John Hus 
The Letters of John Hus. With Introductions and Explanatory Notes by Herbert B. Workman and R. Martin Pope (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1904).
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The date of this letter is inaccurately given in the one MS. in which it has been preserved as ‘ad mccccxii. Dominica Priscæ’—i.e., January 18, 1413 (N.S.). As Hus was at that time in exile, the date is improbable, while January 18 fell on a Sunday in 1411, not 1413. We therefore date accordingly, reading ‘mccccx.’ (O.S., i.e. 1411 N.S.) for ‘mccccxii.’
The illustrations in this letter, for which see the notes, were probably found by Hus in some one of the many commentaries on the famous Rule of Benedict, perhaps in Benedict Anianensis Concordia Regularum (see Migne, vol. ciii. pp. 1058 ff.). For other illustrations of this letter, see Migne, vol. lxvi. c. 33.
To a Certain Monk
Greetings and grace from the Lord Jesus Christ! Beloved brother in Christ Jesus, so far as possessions are concerned, it is the foundation-principle of the clergy, and especially of those who have taken vows, to have all things common, in accordance with the passage in Acts ii.: All things were common unto them.1 From this the blessed Augustine took the saying which is laid down in his rule as follows: These are our instructions to be observed by those who are settled in a monastery.2 Also further on:3And you are not to speak of having anything of your own. Item, Gregory in the third book of the Dialogues near the end caused brother Justin, a monk, to be flung on to a dunghill beside his three gold pieces, while the brethren were ordered to say to him, “Thy money perish with thee.”4 Item, St. Benedict in his rule saith:1Let no one presume to give or receive anything, nor have anything of his own, not a thing, neither manuscript, nor tablets, nor pen,2in fact nothing whatever, seeing that neither one’s body nor desires are lawfully in one’s keeping, but all things are common to all as it stands written: neither did any one say that aught was his own, etc.3 Item, Basil in his rule saith thus: If any man calleth aught his own, he maketh himself a stranger to the elect of God and to the love of the Lord who fulfilled indeed what He taught in word and laid down His life for His friends.4 Item, St. John Cassian writing to Pope Castorius5 concerning the institutes of the holy fathers in the fourth book of his rule, saith thus: Whereas in some monasteries where some loose customs are tolerated we see that the rule is most stringently observed, whereby no one may dare even by a word to call anything his own, and it is a great crime for anymonk to have let slip the words, “my manuscript, my tablets, my pen, my shoes,1my cap”:2let a brother make atonement for this offence by a suitable penance if by any chance through inadvertence or ignorance a word of this kind has escaped his lips. Item, the blessed Francis in his rule laid this down:3The rule and the life of the Brothers Minor is this, to wit, firmly to observe the holy gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and to live without any possession in obedience and chastity. And further on in the middle of the rule:4Let the brothers appropriate nothing for themselves, neither home, nor place, nor anything; but as pilgrims and strangers in this world and as the Lord’s menials in poverty and humility let them go about seeking for alms without fear. So much for that rule. To the same effect the blessed Jerome writes in his Ad Heliodorum.5 Item, the blessed Bernard in his book addressed to Pope Eugenius.6 Item, the blessed Augustine in his De opere monachorum.7 Item, St. Thomas in his Tractatus monachorum. Item, I have read (but I know not the passage) that the blessed Bernard saith: A monk who has a farthing is notworth a farthing.1 Even if none of these mentioned the matter, every monk is bound by his vow. Please send on to me anything you may discover elsewhere to the same effect. Pray remember me to my lord Abbot, and give a hearty welcome to Andrew, the bearer of these presents. If a convenient opportunity occurs, give him a berth for God’s sake, so that he may stay on with you. Farewell in Christ.
I write what has occurred to my mind. If I think of anything further I will write later on.
In the year of our Lord 1412 (sic) on the Lord’s day the feast of Prisca.
[1 ]Acts iv. 32, and not “Acts ii.”
[2 ]More than one rule for monks is extant attributed to St. Augustine. They are all spurious save that extracted from his 109th letter (Migne, vol. xxxiii. p. 958). Hus here quotes the last words of the preface. For the corrupt reading of the sole MS. in Palackẏ, read: Hæc sunt, quæ ut observetis, præcipimus in monasterio constituti.
[3 ]That is, Et infra in Gratian’s Decretum. See Pars ii. C. 12, q. 1, c. 11, and cp. Augustine (ed. Maur, 1685), vol. x. Sermons Nos. 52 and 53. Compare also Wyclif, De Civ. Dom. iii. 81.
[4 ]This famous tale, related by Gregory himself, will be found in Dialogues, iv. 55. There is another account in The Life of Gregory by John the Deacon, one of the parties in the Dialogues (see Vita in Migne, vol. lxxv. lib. i. cc. 15 and 16). The incident took place probably in January 590 shortly before Gregory’s election as Pope. It is interesting to note that Hus uses the same illustration in greater fulness in a sermon that he preached in November 1411 (see Mon. ii. 51b). There the name of the monk is more correctly given as Justus, while the correct reference in the sermon shows that the reading “tertio dialogorum” is a slip.
[1 ]See Migne, Patrol. Lat. vol. lxvi. c. 33.
[2 ]P.: graphum; read graphium, i.e. γραϕεον.
[3 ]Benedict wrote dicat—‘let any one say.’ Hus reads dicebat. The rule, we note, is quoted in Wyclif (De Civ. Dom. iii. 85) with dicebat. The reading alters the sense to a reference to Acts iv. 32, a mistake into which Wyclif and Hus fell through the preceding “ut scriptum est.”
[4 ]See Basil, Regulæ brevius tractatæ, Interrog. 85. [Basil Opera, ed. Garnier (Paris, 1839), ii. 629.]
[5 ]Castorius was not a ‘Pope,’ but a bishop of Apt (d. 426), to whom John Cassian, the founder of the two religious houses for men and women at Marseilles, dedicated his De Institutis Cænobiorum. In the preface Cassian twice calls Castor ‘beatissima Papa,’ a relic of the time when the title was applied to all bishops and abbots. For the quotation, see De Instit. lib. iv. c. 13 (ed. Petschenig, Vienna, 1888 [C.S.E.L.], vol. i. p. 55).
[1 ]P.: caligas. The reading of the original was probably gallicas. See Petschenig in Ed. Cit.
[2 ]An addition of Hus or his copy See Petschenig, op. cit.
[3 ]Cf. Wyclif, De Civ. Dom. iii. 88. For the rule, see De la Haye, Francisci Assisiatis Opera (Paris, 1641, p. 30: from the second rule; compare op. cit. p. 30 with p. 23).
[4 ]De la Haye, op. cit. c. 6, p. 31.
[5 ]Epistle 14 in Migne, vol. xxii. p. 347.
[6 ]Bernard’s famous De Consideratione (Migne, vol. clxxxii.). The reference is vague; for as a matter of fact there is nothing very pertinent to this matter in the De Consideratione. A better reference would have been to the Liber de modo bene vivendi, c. 48 (in Migne, vol. clxxxiv. p. 1270).
[7 ]See Migne, vol. xl. p. 547. The reference is not specially apposite.
[1 ]Inaccurately quoted from Wyclif, De Civ. Dom. iii. 253; cf. Gregory, Dial. iii. c. 14, and Wyclif, De Civ. Dom. iii. 88.