Sunday, December 19, 2010

History and Faith of the Moravians – Hidden Seed

Excerpt from "Old Salem - The Official Guidebook" by Penelope Niven and Cornelia Wright (click on the link to purchase your copy). Visit the official website of Old Salem Museums and Gardens
"The history of the Moravians comes to life at Old Salem. A unique religious group, the Moravians made the town of Salem an oasis of beauty and order in the Carolina back-country. Today in the workshops, homes, and gardens of Old Salem, men and women carry on the daily tasks of living just as they were done in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries - crafting beautiful objects, running households and businesses, and  engaging in artistic and musical pursuits. This guide will help you make the most of your visit to Old Salem, one of the most authentic living-history museums in the United States."
History and Faith of the Moravians – Hidden Seed

As soon as word of their heresy reached Rome, the brethren were declared “shameless vagabonds” and outlaws and were persecuted accordingly. Their history played out in blood and fire, in dogged footsteps through the wildernesses, in words carefully expressed in strange languages and inscribed on pages that others burned, in passive resistance and active proselytizing, in pride in work, in spiritual struggle and in stubborn faith in God and each other.

They were a half century ahead of Martin Luther’s Reformation movement. By the time that Luther nailed his ninety five theses to the Wittenberg church door in 1517, there were scattered throughout Moravian, Bohemia, and Poland four hundred Moravian congregations with 150,000 to 200,000 members. By 1501 the Moravians had published the first Protestant hymnal. In 1593, they issued the Kralice Bible, a translation into Czech that was fourteen years in the making. It was the first complete version of the Bible to be published in a vernacular language and is still read today by Czech speaking people. (In 1453, Gutenberg had been the first to print the Bible in any language. The King James translation of the Bible was completed in 1611.)

Early in the seventeenth century, thousands of the Brethren left Bohemia in a mass exodus to escape religious persecution, including imprisonment, torture and even death. Their schools and churches were destroyed and their Bibles, catechisms, hymnals, and church records were burned by religious and civil authorities. The surviving congregations of the Unitas Fratrum were forced underground by the Counter-Reformation and the prolonged struggle of the Thirty Years War, which ended in 1648. In the end, only remnants of the old congregations survived, worshipping in secret. Even in severely reduced numbers, however, the Brethren were indomitable.

John Amos Comenius
Their most zealous leader during this time was John Amos Comenius (1592-1672), an extraordinary teacher and visionary who, like so many others, was forced to flee Bohemia to live in exile in Poland. He was named bishop in 1632. Comenius called his fellow believers the “hidden seed” because they carried out their faith in secrete, passing it on from one generation to the next. He believed that one day this seed would find fertile ground, blossom and bear fruit.

As he and other refuges struggled over a snow-covered pass through the mountains of Bohemia, he prayed that God would protect the Unita Fratrum. For the rest of his life, he made it his mission to help the Brethren preserve the “hidden seed.” Comenius stressed the importance of education for all children as the key to ensuring that the ideals of the faith could survive in the hearts and minds of the believers. He died in exile in Amsterdam in 1672.

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