Often when someone thinks of chivalry, knights in shining armor immediately come to mind – up until a week or so ago, the same was true for me. However, chivalry need not be tied to a certain time. It only defines how you treat people – anywhere at any time. The people in the medieval age came up with the Chivalric code because they struggled with how to act when. They wanted to show the worth of others and have respect for authority. Thus came chivalry.
What made up the Code of Chivalry? There were twelve virtues of a godly knight.
First, there was integritas, trustworthiness. The word of a knight would be his bond; his yes would be yes and his no, no. Whatever he said he would do – whether he said “I promise,” or just, “I will.”
Second came fidelitas, or, loyalty. The Medievals were rooted in covenantal relationships that did not change. This is partly what made the villages so strong and together – they wanted to build strong relationships that would last.
Succurrere means helpful. But it does not just mean helping others when they come to you for help. Succurrere means that you will go out and seek out ways to serve. Seek out maidens in distress, someone needing help with homework or carrying their groceries home.
Benevolus. Going out of your way to make others feel welcome. I fail at benevolus at least once a week. (I fail at all of these all the time…) For me it is so easy to come up with an excuse that I should not make someone feel welcome. However, I know how much I like – no, how much I love to feel welcome.
Urbanus – courtesy to everyone. Not just to your friends, not just courtesy to a few people here and there apart from your circle of daily life. People respect someone who is courteous much more than they respect someone who is rude. I know, I respect people a lot more when they don’t burp in front of me or when they keep their trousers up.
Sixth, benignus is being kind and showing forth goodness. Really, it is celebrating others, being happy for them being in your life. It’s not kind because you have to abide by the Chivalric code. I’d say Chivalry is actually more of a heart thing – your heart has to be in the right place to accomplish these twelve virtues. I’m not going to offer someone my seat out of a grudging “here, you can have my seat, it’s the right thing to do when someone doesn’t have a chair.” No, it should be out of love. “Here, you can sit in my seat because I love you and I want the best for you.”
Referrere, obedience. Referrere does not just refer to obedience in doing what someone tells you to do… eventually… it means obedience right now. Right when someone tells you to do something. Not finish up what you’re doing online then go set the table for dinner. No, it’s go set the table, then finish up online. This chivalric virtue engages obedience outside of me, myself, and I. This obedience refers to God’s standards of obedience, not man’s.
Hilaris, my favorite, is being cheerful. God is working everything out in any circumstance, so we can be happy about anything whatever the problem might be (even if there isn’t a problem… that’s all the more reason to be happy!). I think that if we nail hilaris down, the rest of them will be easier. How can we be kind when we are angry? How about truly obedient when we are obeying grudgingly? Life doesn’t quite work that way.
Frugalis is being thrifty. In the Medieval age, they knew that God had given them what they had. And they knew they should not squander it. Advancing ahead a little in time, the Native Americans used every part of a buffalo. They knew they had to protect the buffalo so they wouldn’t run out of food eventually. And although they needed the buffalo to live, they used it well, unlike the American settlers who only took meat.
Fortitudis. For me, this is the hardest. Fortitudis means courage. Some people think courage is showing no fear. But you know what? Showing no fear is stupidity. Courage is not having no fear. Courage is going forward even when we fear. The famed Lightning Brigade from Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade had courage. “Cannon to right of them/ Cannon to left of them / Cannon behind them/Volley'd and thunder'd / Storm'd at with shot and shell, / While horse and hero fell / They that had fought so well / Came thro' the jaws of Death / Back from the mouth of Hell / All that was left of them /Left of six hundred.” Courage. Going forward when fear is staring you right in the face, saying, “There are cannons all around you, ready to kill you. Turn back, turn back.” Our reply? Onward, Christian Soldiers!
Abulere. Abulere means cleanliness. One way to show respect for others is by being clean and making it so others will not see you and go, “ugh, there’s so-and-so who smells so bad and never washes their hands…” Cleanliness will make others like you more and want to be around you.
Finally, sanctus, reverence. This is not just reverence for the things around us and respect for them. This is reverence for the holiness of God and giving Him the glory He deserves.
So whatever happened to chivalry? It’s a very good thing, I wish it hadn’t disappeared from our culture (however, it hasn’t completely vanished, there are still traces of it… in very few places). Chivalry seems to have vanished because of the works-righteousness it led to. It made it seem like if a knight did all of those things, they would be righteous and not have to do anything else to gain righteousness. It became the right thing, the wrong way. The reason we have crude culture now, the reason people laugh at crude jokes instead of the pure, clean, truly funny things, is because chivalry is gone. It defined how you treated people anywhere, it wanted respect for authority. When that disappeared, we end up with what we have today – a world full of disrespect for others and for elders. A world where the moment of crisis shows the bad that’s inside – not the good. A place where warfare is no longer just among those who are fighting – there is no longer the Peace of God, which meant that the moment someone surrenders (or if they were never fighting, i.e., a woman, child, craftsman…) it was considered murder to kill them.
I see people without sanctus, without fortitudis, without urbanus, benevolus, hilaris, frugalis, abulere, referrere, benignus, succerrere, fidelitas, and integritas every single day. I know it’s not possible to be perfect at all of these (we all sin in one way or another, many times by not following one of these virtues), but I see no one striving to seek out respect for others. Chivalry has all but vanished from the world today.
What can we do about this?
We are “knights” for Jesus.
Should we not try to put into action these twelve virtues of a Christian knight?
Should we not return to the honor and courtesy that abounded in the Medieval age?
And I've come up with some goals to accomplish before November is out...
- Finish reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame (won't have any trouble with that, I started it Sunday and I'm about halfway).
- Write 50,000 words. (almost there!)
- Finish my Anakin, d'Arque (done!), and Orion drawings.
- Find an oboe teacher... it's getting harder and harder to teach myself. *sigh* This will be the hardest to accomplish within November.