Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers…. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying. And it has held up ever since above the European lances the banner of the mystery of chivalry: the Christian courage, which is a disdain of death…
-G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Courage is the fundamental virtue of Chivalry, and one of the foundational virtues of Civilization. What exactly is courage? It is the unbreaking soul that has passed the breaking point of despair, firmness under the stress of every evil, resolve in the face of Death himself. And this ultimate Courage is only possible to him who has Love of True Life, Faith in what is Good and Free, and the Hope born of Faith in Final Victory.
In a world so full of Death and the fear of Death, this courage is utterly foreign and strange. Surrounded by destruction, survival becomes the priority, and solution to do anything to ensure survival. To be willing to die in order to truly live? Is that even possible? A Pagan can only look upon death with fear or stoic acceptance; the Catholic looks upon death with the gleam of battle in his eyes, and defies death by living and living rightly.
What then is Chivalry? It is living rightly, taking true courage from the realm of the will into the realm of action and thought. It is following the rules (Natural Law), even if by doing so defeat is guaranteed. To be Chivalrous is to do what is Right and Just, due reverence, due justice, and due mercy. Not only being willing to face death for the sake of a rightly ordered life, but doing the right thing, ultimately facing death for sake of other lives, as unique and inherently valuable as one’s own. Action founded on Love (the deliberate willing of the Good) of Friend and Enemy, Faith in the Just Laws, and Hope born of that Faith in the guidance of Divine Providence.
The world may have lost Chivalry, but the West never shall. It is part of the very fabric of Civilization, an integral guard against deathly barbarism, far above “national or racial interests”. Indeed, if we consider the origins of knighthood, we find “the great Orders of Chivalry were international institutions, whose members, having consecrated themselves a military priesthood, had no longer any country of their own, and could therefore be subject to no one save the Emperor and the Pope. For knighthood was constructed on the analogy of priesthood, and knights were conceived of as being to the world in its secular aspect exactly what priests, and more especially the monastic orders, were to it in its religious aspect: to the one body was given the sword of the flesh, to the other the sword of the spirit; each was universal…(James Bryce, The Holy Roman Empire)”. Virtuous Men, Free Men (for the only true freedom is the virtuous life), Guardians of Peace and Freedom, Knights-Errant on a quest for the Light which endures beyond all shadows.
And now the question is put to us, we who of the remnants of Christendom still remain; do we heed the great Ite Missa Est, do we fight thanklessly without titles or rewards, and without any earthly hope of success; do we each go willingly to our deaths with a smile upon our face and Deo Gratias in our heart?
Now forward, with God! And Christus is our battle-cry!
As He died for us on the bloody Wood,
So also are we willing to die for the Right,
Whether the unjust offer us goods and even life.
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