Chivalry and the Great Mystery

Medieval Chivalry was a truly Christian, or better yet, a Catholic institution. The first virtue of Chivalry is loyalty, which is synonymous with fidelity, defined as, “full of faith.” Many contemporary attempts to resurrect Chivalry as a kind of secular “code of ethics” reduce faith and loyalty to a generic faithfulness to principles and to one’s friends. This is similar to the attempt to squeeze mere etiquette out of the venerable Chivalry tradition. The customs of Chivalry without faith in God are matter without form. They are only the broken shards of the real thing.

Loyalty, first of all, is faithfulness to God. For males that translates into the acceptance of authority and the willingness to be faithful to duty and responsibility. More importantly, it means being faithful to those entrusted to one’s care. This is what Christ did for His Church. It was what He did first and foremost for His Mother, and it is what He did for each and every individual soul.

St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Ephesians that husbands are to love their wives in imitation of Christ’s love for the Church. They are to imitate the One who delivered Himself up to death for it, …that he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life, that he might present it to himself, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish (5:26-27). These verses are first of all applied to the Blessed Mother, who was prepared from all time to be the Mother of Jesus, and became His damsel in distress, so to speak, at the foot of the Cross. Jesus died to make His Mother holy and immaculate.

St. Paul tells us that this is the image of Holy Matrimony, which is a great mystery (32). Indeed, Christ’s love for the Church, especially as it is manifested in His unique love for His Mother, is the foundation of all true love. Men who have been entrusted with the moral headship of the family, and the Church, must truly cherish those under their care. In a particular way, they must learn to cherish the mystery of womanhood and the vocation of women to be mothers. Women are indeed the weaker sex, in part, because only they are capable of becoming mothers; and in that sense, they must trust in the honorable behavior of men. Hence, we see the importance of Chivalry with respect to the way in which men treat women. Conversely, it is then easy to understand why feminists, who have no room for Chivalry, have cleared the way for contraception and abortion. They no longer need to trust men, and thus, they will be “weak” no more. But, in actuality, it is Our Lady who is the perfect ideal of womanhood, personified and lived. She is the image of all that is true, good and beautiful, that which is worth living for, because it is worth dying for.

Men will never understand what true love is without living the mystery of chastity, and they will never live it, unless they learn it from a woman. Every woman, then, needs to be another Mary; but every man, also, must be another Christ. This means he must humble himself, as Christ did, who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant (Philippians 2:6-7). Jesus was not only the child of Mary, but also Her Knight and defender, just as every man today needs to be.

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