Knighting Ceremony of the Order of Saint John

September 19, 2019

The ceremonies for the reception of a knight were very solemn and impressive. The following account of them is given by a modern author.

The postulant presented himself with a lighted taper in his hand and carrying his naked sword. The priest, after blessing the sword, returned it to the candidate with these words: “Receive this sword in the holy name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen, and use it for thine own defense and that of the Church of God to the confusion of the enemies of Jesus Christ and of the Christian faith, and take heed that no human frailty move thee to strike any man with it unjustly.”  The postulant then resheathed the blessed sword as the priest solemnly admonished him: “Gird thyself with the sword of Jesus Christ and remember that it is not with the sword but with faith that the saints have conquered kingdoms.”

The knight once more drew his sword as the following words were addressed to him: “Let the brilliancy of this sword represent to thee the brightness of faith; let its point signify hope, and its hilt, charity. Use it for the Catholic faith, for justice, and for the consolation of widows and orphans, for this is the true faith and justification of a Christian knight”  He then brandished it thrice, in the name and honor of the Holy Trinity.

The brethren then presented him his golden spurs, saying, “Seest thou these spurs? They signify that as the horse feels them when he deviates from his duty, so shouldest thou fear to depart from thy post or from thy vows.”

Medals of the Knight of the Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem and Malta.

Then the mantle was thrown over his shoulders, they pointed to the cross of eight points embroidered on the left side of the cloak and said, “We wear this white cross as a sign of purity; wear it as well within thy heart as outwardly and keep it without soil or stain. The eight points are the signs of the eight beatitudes which thou must ever preserve: 1) Spiritual joy.  2) Life without malice.  3) Tears for thy sins.  4) Humility before those who injure thee.  5) Love of justice.  6) Mercy.  7) Sincerity and pure of heart.  8) Readiness to suffer persecution.”

The new knight then kissed the cross, and the mantle was fastened whilst the ministering knight continued: “Take this cross and mantle in the name of the Holy Trinity, for the repose and salvation of thy soul, the defense of the Catholic faith, and the honour of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I place it on thy left side near thy heart that thou mayest love it and that thy right hand may defend it, and I charge thee never to abandon it, since it is the standard of our holy faith. Shouldest thou ever desert thy standard and fly when combating the enemies of Jesus Christ, thou wilt be stripped of this holy sign, according to the statutes of the Order, as having broken the vow thou hast taken, and shalt be cut off from our body as an unsound member.”

On the mantle were also embroidered all the instruments of the Passion. Each was pointed out to the new made knight. “In order that thou mayest put all thy hope in the Passion of Jesus Christ, behold the cord whereby He was bound; see, too, His crown of thorns; behold the Column to which He was tied; this is the Lance which pierced His Side; this is the Sponge with which He was offered vinegar and gall; these are the whips that scourged Him; here is the Cross on which He suffered. We offer thee nothing but bread and water and a simple habit and of little worth, but we promise thee and thy parents and relations a share in the good works performed by the Order and by our brethren now and hereafter throughout the world, Amen.”

The knight was then received with the kiss of peace.

The Military Religious Orders of the Middle Ages: by F.C. Woodhouse, M.A.


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