Christian Knighthood

KNIGHT, KNIGHTHOOD, CHEVALERIE (French), CHIVALRY:

In English, the words ‘Knight’ and ‘Knighthood’ come from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘cniht’, meaning ‘household retainer or servant’. In French, ‘Chevalier’ (Knight), ‘one who rides a horse’, comes from cheval (French) = horse, and hence ‘la Chevalerie’ (Knighthood), ‘the cavalry’. The equivalent English word was (and still is) ‘Chivalry’, Knighthood, the state, usages and qualifications of chevaliers or knights. However, today the word ‘chivalry’ has been denatured, knightly nobility of heart and courage being largely reduced to ‘chivalrous social behaviour’. To understand the true spirit of Knighthood it is necessary to delve into its origins in history. …

THE AUTHENTIC SPIRIT OF KNIGHTHOOD IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES:

The authentic spirit of knighthood has its origins in the designs and will of God. It manifested itself in the spiritual realm in the revolt and fall of the Angels … ‘There was a war in heaven and St. Michael the Archangel (God’s champion) and the faithful angels drove them out …’ (Rev 12:7). Little wonder then that St. Michael the Archangel is the great Patron Angel of Knighthood.

The authentic spirit of knighthood has its origins on earth in the creation of man (our first parents) in their state of original integrity. In the original order established by God, Adam was established in the three principal governance functions of divine order — kingship, priesthood and prophethood. With the Fall of man came the corruption and degeneration of humankind … and later … the long journey of redemption. And, as children of God, we are apparently called to return to original order … in the new era … soon!

Melchizedek (from ‘melek’ = ‘king’; ‘tsaddiq’ = ‘justice, righteousness’) too, a pre-figuration of Jesus Christ, manifested kingship, priesthood and prophethood (Gen 14:17-24). Melchizedek was King of Salem (identified with Jerusalem), Priest of the Most High God, and prophet, because in offering bread and wine, he prefigured Jesus Christ who much later would, with bread and wine, institute the Holy Eucharist. This mysterious personage, Melchizedek, may have been Noah’s eldest son and heir, Shem, who may have been one of the oldest living survivors of The Flood at the time of Abraham. Melchizedek, both king and high priest of the post-Deluge world at the time, would apparently have overseen the development of holier post-Deluge governance institutions. But of this we cannot be sure.

When the time came, at the end of the reign of Saul, for God to give the Israelites a king of His own choice, he commanded Samuel the prophet to anoint Jesse’s youngest son David — ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will perform my entire will.’ (1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22). Anointed by Samuel … ‘the Spirit of Yahweh seized upon David from that day onwards’ (1 Sam 16:13) … and the grace of authentic anointed kingship – first manifested in Adam — manifested itself again … in the service of Yahweh.

Under the graces of authentic anointed kingship King David (1010-970 B.C.) conquered the enemies of God’s people, united them in the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, and established holy civil and religious governance institutions under the designs of God. The grace of authentic anointed kingship also manifested itself in the authentic spirit of knighthood under King David (1010-970 B.C.), who surrounded himself with an organization led by thirty six military champions (see 2 Sam 23:8-39; 1 Chron. 11:10-47). This was continued under King Solomon in his sixty military champions: “Here comes Solomon’s litter. Around it are sixty champions, the flower of the warriors of Israel, all of them skilled swordsmen, expert in war. Each man has a sword at his side, against alarms at night.” (The Song of Songs 3:7,8) This military organisation was the militant arm of the united kingdom of Judah and Israel in the service of the One True God and his people. This great military leadership organization effectively corresponded to what would later, in the Middle Ages, become known as an Order of Knighthood (Chevalerie).

REDEMPTION WROUGHT BY JESUS CHRIST:

JESUS (‘God Saves’) CHRIST (‘God’s Anointed One’), God and Man, HEAD OF ALL CREATION, is Divine Prophet (‘Light of the World’), Sovereign Priest and ‘LORD of lords and KING of kings’ OVER MANKIND and THE EARTH.

Through being falsely tried and condemned by the spiritual power and teaching magisterium of the time (the Sanhedrin), Jesus, Messiah-Prophet, conquered and redeemed the world’s spiritual institutions and teaching magisterium, and established the TRUTH, in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, for all time.

Through being falsely tried and condemned to death by the spiritual power of the time (the Sanhedrin), Jesus, Messiah-Priest, Lamb of God, perfect victim in his perfect Paschal Sacrifice on the cross, conquered and redeemed the world’s spiritual institutions (‘religion’, ‘temple’, ‘church’), for all time.

Through being falsely tried and condemned to death by the temporal power of the time (the Roman Governor), Jesus, Messiah-King, conquered and redeemed the world’s temporal institutions (civil, secular, ‘city’, ‘state’, ‘nation’, ‘international community’), for all time.

Having conquered and redeemed humanity, Jesus Christ, God and Man, Head of All Creation, reigns supreme as Prophet, Sovereign Priest, and Universal King over mankind, for these three offices establish his divine order and governance over mankind.

Jesus Christ, Head of All Creation, is ‘Lord of lords and King of kings’ over mankind’s temporal domain (civil, secular, ‘city’, ‘state’, ‘nation’, ‘international community’), for all time.

Jesus Christ, Head of All Creation, is Sovereign Priest over mankind’s spiritual domain (‘religion’, ‘temple’, ‘church’), for all time.

These are Almighty God’s twin pillars of divine governance over and for mankind.

From Jesus Christ’s office of KINGSHIP flow ‘authentic anointed kingship’, the authentic spirit of knighthood, and the legislative, executive and judicial functions of right government … and holy institutions of right order and government.

Understanding these fundamentals is a prerequisite for understanding authentic anointed kingship in New Testament times … and the mission of the Order of New Knighthood … for the new times …

The Mission of the Order is to work for the establishment of the Reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ, God and Man, Head of All Creation, Prophet (‘Light of the World’), Sovereign Priest and ‘Lord of lords and King of kings’, over the nations and the world … and according to the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.

THE AUTHENTIC SPIRIT OF KNIGHTHOOD IN NEW TESTAMENT TIMES:

The authentic spirit of knighthood emerged again in the first centuries of the Christian era, manifested and born in ‘the blood of martyrs, the seed of Christians’ (Tertullian). It manifested itself in the collapse of the western Roman Empire in militant actions of Christian heroes combating the ‘barbarian’ invasions and protecting against the barbarity of the age.

This laid the foundations of Christian Knighthood, which was purified and sanctified by the Church and its teachings. It became a great institution of Christendom in the Middle Ages, gradually becoming one of the great pillars, in one form or another, of European Christendom for centuries, for the protection of society, peoples, nations, the Church, the weak, widowed, orphaned, poor and oppressed. Authentic Christian Knighthood, even if it has had a chequered history, continues to be a pillar, in one form or another, of Christianity and modern society, albeit having faded in recent centuries and having undergone considerable transformation.

The authentic spirit of Christian Knighthood, fusing soldier, apostle and monk, takes its place under authentic anointed kingship, always in the service of the One True God, the Blessed Trinity, and His Church and God’s people on earth.

Hence Knighthood, in both Heaven and on earth, is the authentic militant condition of servants of God.

Knighthood, as Léon Gautier demonstrates in his magistral work on knighthood, derives from very old customs of Germanic peoples that were purified and idealised by the Catholic Church. Knighthood is an institution, but it is much more than that, it is an ideal. Weighty volumes have been written on this noble subject, but a few words suffice to characterise Knighthood and Knights: “Knighthood is the Christian form of the military condition (vocation): a Knight is a Christian soldier.” (Léon Gautier, ‘La Chevalerie’, 1884)

KNIGHTHOOD AND THE CRUSADES (1096-1291):

Knighthood and the Crusades is a vast subject, well beyond the scope of this website. However, the authentic spirit of knighthood that flourished in the Crusades reveals itself to the pilgrim soldier-apostle … and lives on.

In the beginning Knighthood was conferred by Kings and governing Nobility. By the 10th century, Knighthood was also conferred by the Church, through the blessing of the Knight, his weapons, armour and mission (e.g.: the Benedictio Novi Militis and the ‘De Benedictione et Impositione Crucis’, see Spirituality).

Military-religious orders of warrior-monks were established in the wake of the first Crusade (1096-99). Owing to the vexing question of the fundamental incompatibility of the cloister and the sword, St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote his treatise for the Knights of the Temple (the Knights Templar), ‘In Praise of the New Knighthood’ (‘In Laude Novae Militiae’, circa 1130). There were many successes, excesses and failures in knighthood during the Crusades (1096-1291). This was followed, over the centuries, by considerable transformation and evolution, and an ongoing struggle for the continuance and survival of the authentic spirit of knighthood ever since.

The SPIRIT of CHRISTIAN KNIGHTHOOD:

‘A Knight was a man who intended to place himself completely at the service of a noble and difficult cause, a pure and arduous ideal. Fighting evil, promoting good, defending the weak and the oppressed against injustice. Bringing low the arrogance of the more powerful. Courage and unselfishness, generosity and readiness to make sacrifices, to the point of heroism, even to the point of death, if necessary. This is the picture – the ideal picture, let us say – of the Knight in the original meaning of the term. Not for nothing was St. George the martyr, who fought the dragon to protect the defenceless maiden, the prototype of the Knight, and still is.

In early times, becoming a Knight did not merely mean receiving a title of honour, even though it was well deserved. It also demanded a vocation and a call, a preparation and a period of trial. It was an achievement and it presupposed a solemn commitment; and in its totality it was crowned by an austere and almost religious ceremonial. Becoming a Knight meant taking on a mission, before God and man.’ (Cardinal Casaroli, Papal Secretary of State, ‘l’Osservatore Romano’, 5 August 1982)

‘Though Chivalry (Knighthood) was not originally founded by the Church, but by the laity, it was the Church that set about refining it according to the Spirit of the Gospel. It was the Church who, more than any other body, understood and appreciated the spirit that moved the first Crusading Orders of Knighthood, spiritualised their military zeal and valour, granted them her approval and support, inspired their so-called ‘chivalric system of virtues’ based on ethico-aesthetic categories of a secular nature with the high Christian ideals which transformed the rude and violent soldiers into disciplined, self-controlled, refined, gentle and strong defenders of the rights of God, of Christendom, of the Church and of society, consciously endeavouring to bring religion into daily life with service to the less fortunate, honour and courtesy to all.’ (Ch 13, ‘Orders of Knighthood Awards and The Holy See’, Hyginus Eugene Cardinale, Van Duren Publishers, 1983)

The Founders