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Holy Order of Saints

Knights
What is a Knight?

Without doubt, the definition has changed throughout the centuries, metamorphosing from a crude warrior, the milites, growing with society as it changed, first into the officer and gentleman, and more recently, back towards the original ideal, into a seeker of virtue and a defender of the weak.

Never has their been a perfect knight. Knighthood is, by definition, an office that strives for a distant ideal, a changing ideal, but one that seeks to emulate the ancient virtues associated with chivalric office. Knights will be definition fail as they are human, but attain their grace in the striving for virtue, for the perseverance of seeking to overcome the vanities of the body and soul, to do what is 'right'. It is a striving for excellence even as we know that perfection is beyond our grasp, but that fact alone does not allow us to stop in our quest for it.

And this is not a right conceived in each individual mind, but is rather a shared ideal of rightness that resonates in the human breast with each beat of the heart. It is a 'rightness' that we as human beings recognize intuitively; it is 'hardwired' into nearly all of us; that partially explains why the ideal of knighthood still speaks to us after all this time. I wish it was this basic law that gave strength to our modern ones, but I digress-that is an argument for another day.
Lord Knight
Lord Knight
Grand Knight
Grand Knight
Holy Knight
Holy Knight
Squire
Squire
Lady
Lady
Maiden
Maiden
Warrior
Warrior


Master Warrior
Master Warrior
Warrior Priest(ess)
Warrior Priest(ess)
Historically, knights were the defenders. Beginning as warriors, some defended the populace while others pillaged. Their virtues were warrior ones, revered by warrior cultures the world over; prowess, strength, courage, loyalty. These are the virtues of the pure soldier, the killing machine who when he uses his considerable strength for good, contributes greatly to society even as he is estranged from it. Estranged because to excel in the extreme, be jettisons the concerns of hearth and of the soul, focusing his whole being upon the martial task at hand-he must not fail or the society to which be belongs will perish.

Society quickly settled from the warfare of the dark ages that spawned this free-roaming warrior. The church grew in power and influence alongside the growth of ease at court. These developments, made possible owing to the leisure accorded by a more stable Europe, gave voice to others concerned with what the knights were and what they should become. The clerk and the lady, chiefly, were the two main influences upon the course of knighthood, next to the influences of the warriors themselves.

The church believed the knights should become 'knights of Christ', using their considerable strength to defend the faith and to become the physical defenders of the church and her ideals. And many knights did just this, following even to extremes as they cast themselves into Holy War during the many crusades that punctuated the whole of the Middle Ages. The church contributed the powerful virtues of faith, temperance and humility; three cornerstone virtues of what has come to be knighthood.

The lady and the demands of court also shaped what the knight was to become. She demanded, through the romance literature that remains a powerful influence today, that the knight act with strength on one hand, and courtesy and respect on the other. A knight should respect women, he should defend them in their hour of need, eschewing the magnetic gravity of mere lust. Love could be a powerful influence over the knight, a strengthening force, that could propel the knight to greatness beyond his own capability. The church agreed, arguing only that the spiritual love of Christ was superior to the love of a woman; but the important detail was that love as an ennobling motivator was added as a chivalric element that was to stay. As a nobleman and dispenser of justice, the knight was required to seek justice, to defend the right, and to dispense of his wealth with largesse, showing the generosity that thwarted greed and thus helped the knight to ennoble himself in deed as well as blood.

These things are of course ideals. The expectations for 'chivalrous conduct' have certainly changed throughout the history of knighthood; these elements of virtue have stood the test of time in their purity, changing only in how we interpret them from age to age. Does that make them worthless? I answer this with another question-As long as the pursuit of these virtues drives men to excel, to seek goodness in their hearts, and to fight for something higher than themselves, to recognize in their humility that they are far from grace but continue to strive for it, is this worthless?

The days of the steel armored knight have all but passed; though some true knights do indeed seek to strengthen their character and their arms through the practice of arms, today the knight must rather rely on the armor of his soul to defend himself, seeking to ennoble himself in the same way as his ancestors-by his deeds.

Renown is the key quality of a knight. Renown, the fame by which a knight is known for his virtue or malice, is not glory, it is not honor, it is the 'good name' earned through the pursuit of virtue. A pursuit that others have recognized, according you honor because of it, honoring you enough to increase your fame both in their own hearts and in the estimation of others. Renown is what you earn; you thus earn the armor that will defend you when you fail; provided that you continue to strive for excellence, keeping the virtue of humility close to the heart that the knight not fall to the sin of vainglory, a black peril that dwells next to the heart of all men, a seed buried deep in a man's character, a seed that grows, infected and undetected, swelling a man's breast with boasting and bravado, robbing him of the perspective to take a better view of his motivations and his own armor-his renown.

Knights today face a battle no different from their historical counterparts. They seek the right, the higher right that we all recognize and believe that we have, seeking to gain honor within their own actions as well as to defend what they believe in both in deed and in word. Some knights today pursue this excellence through the tournament or martial exercise; some through confraternity organizations that defend charity and support their brethren as well as advance the causes of right. As in history, none of these groups, let alone the nobles within them, will attain the ideal that drives them. Bitter divisions sometimes rend the best companies of knights, quietly ushering them further from the basic ideals that empower them, starting them on the journey to vainglory that defeats humility, overcomes charity, makes a mockery of courtesy, and in short blackens the heart against chivalry.

Today there are many paths to knighthood. You can seek membership in a knightly order; you can use a martial art or the tournament; you can seek these virtues on your own in 'errancy'. But these are all external, not worth very much unless the spark of knighthood is ignited within you. It is the spark of nobility that has been recognized since the earliest age within certain men and women of character and spirit. Seek this spark within yourself--it is there--seek first to find it, then to use whatever tools are required to fan this spark into a great fire of your passion--perchance through the effort of striving you will meet with more success than you will ever know.

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