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Knighthood today in the technological age
Author: Otto von Habsburg

Copyright by Priory of the Maltese Islands
of the Military and Hospitaller Order
of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem

Today only the concept of the knighthood is not called quite often outdated, and this. This might be to be gone back to a great extent on the fact that one, like in many other questions, outward appearances and time-engaged manifestations for principles mistakes. In an age in which the writing is edged out by the always changing, brief picture the sense also flattens for internal and more continual values.

Thus many understand by knighthood a kind of fashionable position or social function. If it concerned now exclusively such a phenomenon, one could drop it safely. Because it is, however, historically seen, more than bare ruling structure or satisfaction of snobby cravings, it is offered to investigate his roots to ask itself whether it can offer something else to our time.

In his brilliant time was the knighthood and was his advancement, the knightly orders, a deliberate attempt of the élite education. This job corresponded to the needs of the upcoming agrarian age. When the hunters and fishermen settled and had to give way, hence, the tent communities and trunks to territorial administrative districts, the knighthood from the self-defence unities of the farmers originated. Thought first as a purely military organisation, a management and with it a political role also closed to him necessarily in the course of the time. To do justice to this, the knighthood needed the higher basic principles by which it could orientate itself. Also the destiny of the Lazarus order was defeated by this legitimacy, although he had been active, in contrast to the other big orders, at first exclusively charitable. Thus seen, the knighthood appears less than two aspects. One of it is time-conditioned to the beginning agrarian age engaged ones; however, the other is substantial, so to speak: Since the job to form élites positions itself, under all always changing conditions, over and over again on new.

This means that also in the times in which the forms adequate to the agrarian age of the knighthood have disappeared long ago internal appeal continues as a real substance, also furthermore.

Analogies are found in the church history. Also the church had her orders which corresponded to the circumstances of her century. Thus there was a benediktical age which that of the Franciscans and Dominicans followed. The Jesuits arose from the vibrations of the religious splitting. Today the traditional organisations still have her authorisation; however, the church needs new institutions who appeal in particular to the laymen and carry with it the religious message in our secularized life. The immense success the religious amateur north, as for example of "Opus Dei", is to be understood as a fulfilment of a time-conditioned need.

It is a matter just of separating the essentials from the inessential with all organisation forms. If one is capable of this, the job of an order always remains topical because she could adapt herself to the circumstances.

The biggest value of the knighthood lay in the ideals which his bearers were held to fulfil in her life. Indeed a lot of bad person has also happened in the times of the high-level blossom - one thinks here only of the predatory knighthood which played a role fateful for the empire in the time without emperor. Because, however, the knights had to orientate themselves by high values, those which did not correspond to these values from the community were always excluded at the end, nevertheless.

The first job of the knighthood was the service in the faith, and the nicest expression of this servitude were the orders of knights which were appointed to defend the Christian West, to protect the holy sites and to accomplish the works of the Christian charity at the same time with her soldarable function also. The knights who belonged to no orders were not bound religiously less. Indeed, it was quite in general a religious-firm age - but this was not decisive. With the same right can be said vice versa, the religious-strong knights would have formed her epoch.

The faith, the anchorage in the transcendent, led to the unselfishness of the service. Exemplary in it was the Burgundian knighthood which had to search a balance between the nations, between German and French as a backing of a multinational state, already to receive this. The knights as officials of the state embodied the exact opposite of the bureaucracy, the rule of the desk or the office, and the Burgundian ideal lived on in the administrative apparatus of old Austria till our century.

The concept personal honour also played an important role. One respected God and, hence, also his image to earth, the people. The religious ideal put in the everyday life those higher graduations which can be expected from a man of honour. Indeed his way nobody will be lighter. However, this is not also the purpose of the life on this earth, as soon as one has recognised that it is only a brief prelude of our existence.

With the honour is also used to think after Thomas von Aquin, the knightly virtue high disposition, so tallness of himself and to be confident, on God trusting, tallness. From the noble person is valid the word of the Psalmist: „Nothing is the villain in his eyes."

Finally, is one of the most important criteria of the knighthood personal courage which not consists, in being not afraid but in overcoming in it, they and in trading in spite of all fear how it orders the conscience. Courage may not be understood exclusively for the purposes of solderable virtue, but also as an intrepid appearance for that what one believes in. The moral courage often demands of us substantially more than the physical one. He also shows a durable challenge. To become a hero for the purposes of the warrior, the act of one moment can be; however, moral heroism means obligation, obligatorily for the whole life.

Today most knightly virtues have become rare. The faith goes to ruin and with him the unselfish service around God's wage; also the courage sets in the general conformity. The personal honour withdraws compared with the supposed ideal of the standard of living. There are only few people who say no the material temptation to win spiritual values or to defend. The more is spoken of quality of life, the less one understands what should mean this word, actually. Since quality of life can be reached neither by the explanation of a government nor by laws. This is the deeper reason, why our Europe which a spiritual-religious inheritance has to administer is today in the deepest crisis.

During our days, like always and more than ever, knightly virtues act. The renewal of our continent, but also our native countries, is above all a question of the personal application. In our community people must get up who confess again to the knightly virtues and which are ready to enter openly for these ideals. Then only they will be convincing, steer, can anew form. However, such an application requires the readiness to the personal risk. All too often one meets person who make way on a neutral activity field to calm her conscience without having to risk, besides, own security. however, The really knightly person will be ready to appear where it does mostly need and where for himself the danger is the biggest

Our time is no time for avalanche. The history will fell everybody a relentless judgment about us because the future of Europe is given now and here in our hand. Over and over again in the course of the history the Almighty God has assigned a broadcasting to single people or also continents. If they became disloyal this, God has taken „the light of them" and they had to resign temporarily or for good to the stage of the history. Our Europe had obviously the job to spread the Christianity and the Christian civilisation all over the world. Should we not be able, however, any more to fulfil this duty, our appeal on others will be transferred. Rightly a German thinker has said, the cross does not need Europe, however, Europe needs the cross.

Here only the single one can order stop to the evil. Europe dies of the materialism; to break this, we need the knights and the saints of our days. Also a few are able to do determining - would not have seven fair Sodom preserved from the dreadful end?

Spring: Extract from the work "Memento", author: † Erich Feigl, published by the chancellor's office of the great piorates of Austria of the Ordre Militaire et Hospitalier de Saint-Lazare de Jerusalem, Vienna, in 1978, pages 13 to 16

Note of the webmaster: So much for the noble theory. What about the chivalry and moral values today in the Order of Lazarus looks practice, is short on the Homepage of this website.

Last updated 14.12.2017

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