By Theodore Shoebat
The Christian knight is charitable and ferocious; merciful and just; zealous and filled with the highest love. He is a warrior and a monastic, all in one person. In him the Spiritual Sword and the temporal sword are united, and strive for one glorious mission: the destruction of the devil and the victory over the diabolical. This is the goal of the Christian; this is the reason for living; this is the purpose of the sword and the aspiration of the Holy Faith, for as St. John says, “For this purpose, the Son of God appeared, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)
Let us look to the holy pioneers of the Christian armies, the first recruits to the Knights of Christ, who stood in the sacred presence of our Lord and His Apostles — the most pious patriarchs and the pillars of the Faith. Let us look to Cornelius the Centurion, who was of the Italian band, and of whom the Scripture describes as “A religious man, and fearing God with all his house, giving much alms to the people, and always praying to God.” (Acts 10:1-2) He was the first of the Gentiles to join with “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9), and through Cornelius were the gates of the Church opened to the Gentiles.
And who was the first of the Gentiles to find the true path, but a warrior? And who are the greatest warriors of Christendom, but the Gentiles? The doors to the Church were opened to a gentile warrior, and the greatest protectors of the Church are the gentile warriors. When the Muslims were tyrannizing the Christians of the East, and were striving to destroy the churches of Syria, Egypt, Iraq, the Holy Land, Greece and Asia Minor, who was it but those armies who sprung from the West, who was it but the French, the Germans, the Italians, the English, the Irish, the Scottish, who rushed to their defense? It was the inheritors of Cornelius who took up their swords and fought for the cause of God, and for the advancement of the Divine Law.
Let us not forget that the Scripture calls Cornelius “a centurion of that which is called the Italian band” (Acts 10:1), and thus does this verse have a prophetic and mystical significance: it foreshadows the armies of Christendom that were formed in the centuries after the Apostles, and the armies that is to come. For Cornelius and the numerous other soldiers who joined the Faith in the time of Christ — like the centurion — and in the time of the Apostles and their successors, were the earliest warriors to join the flock of Christ, but their numbers would grow, and by the time of the glorious Constantine, so many soldiers were walking upon the path of the Spirit, and such were willing to fight and die for the most Blessed Trinity, and the True Way that conquers the nefarious wiles of the demons.
Soon did the Christians eventually dominate the armies of the empire, and in due time, did they eventually make all of the armies in the era of majestic Christendom. This formation of the armies of Christ, though, did not begin in the Middle Ages, nor even in the time of Constantine, but it began with Cornelius, with the centurion of whom Christ declared, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (Matthew 8:10), with those noble soldiers who, desiring to “bear fruits worthy of repentance,” (Luke 3:8) approached the holy monastic John the Baptist who told them, not to leave the army, but to “not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14). Such were the earliest of Christ’s warriors; these paved the way for the future Christian soldiers who were to partake in Holy War against the pagans and the heretics, against the Muslims and the heathens who sought out to destroy the Church.
Moreover, that Cornelius was of the Italian Division foreshadows the coming Christian armies that will destroy the Antichrist, for as we read in Daniel, the Lord will send the valiant warriors of Italy, Greece and Cyprus,
For the ships of Chittim shall come against him: therefore he shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation against the holy covenant: so shall he do; he shall even return, and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant. (Daniel 11:30)
Chittim is of course the Sea Peoples, or the Italians, Greeks, and Spaniards, and of course the position of Cornelius — the patriarch of Holy War! — as of the Italian Division signifies just how instrumental Italy’s military will be in the Last Crusade against the Antichrist. This Douay-Rheims translation makes this more conspicuous, since it renders the same passage of Daniel as such:
And the galleys and the Romans shall come upon him, and he shall be struck, and shall return, and shall have indignation against the covenant of the sanctuary, and he shall succeed: and he shall return and shall devise against them that have forsaken the covenant of the sanctuary. (Daniel 11:30)
When we read such passages of holy writ, let us not forget that such an event happened in providential history, in the Battle of Lepanto, in which the fleets of Italy and Spain were guided by destiny an strengthened in God their Lord, to destroy the navy of the Antichrist Ottomans. Such a beautiful victory left one anonymous poet to write:
High peaks of Leucadia, watch over that final day: you who saw the Roman fleet and the people of Christ taking their vengeance, and the brutal Muhammadan fall before sword and fire. You saw the Spanish youth return with a thousand ships, proud with his banners and his vast spoils. (Anonymous, I will Now Sing of the Happy Deeds, 415-419, trans. Wright, Sarah, & Lemons)
And when we read from the Muslims, of how much they wish to destroy Rome, let us not turn away from a most obvious truth: that the devil wants to hinder the plan of God; he is working ever so connivingly and vigorously to make Rome Muslim, knowing what threat it poses to his plans. But most definitely he will not succeed, for even though Europe has gone the way of the heathen, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful;” (1 Timothy 2:13) we cannot think that God is so unjust that He will forsake the nations that He brought into His Church, and from the prophecy of Daniel, are we certain that Europe will come back to holiness and combat, alongside America and other nations, the sinister forces of Antichrist.
The Christian soldier does not follow modern ideals, his ways were established through those earliest warriors who took up their crosses and denied themselves. The holy Cornelius was “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.” (Acts 10:2) Such is the ways of the Christian knight, enflamed with zeal and devotion, charitable and just. And when Cornelius met St. Peter, he told the Apostle, “I was fasting until this hour” (Acts 10:30) This one man, Cornelius, gives us the ideal image of the Christian knight: pious, valiant and always willing to subject himself to mortification, or fasting, to vanquish the flesh and be a servant to the Spirit.
Many argue and say, “I don’t see the Apostles calling for crusades!” But such do not understand the ways of Holy War, for the Apostles did not have a state by which they could execute wars, but they most definitely witnessed and taught the spiritual teachings of the Christian warrior, who would bear the sword in the future against the enemies of God.
In this man named Cornelius, we have the most pristine image of the Crusader. The warrior is ferocious, for he is a centurion, he is pious, for he is charitable and always praying and fasting. The Christian warrior is a monastic, following the ways of the monk, wielding both the Spiritual Sword — to fight off the devils — and the temporal sword — to slay the demons’ agents. Monastic piety, ferocity, mercy and justice — these are the virtues by which the knight governs himself, and this law of chivalry all began with Cornelius. St. Bernard, one of the great cultivators of the monastic way, tells us that the Christian must be compassionate toward those who are in despair, and moved to the flames of zeal against the wicked:
You sadly lack humanity if you are not drawn towards a man whose heart is full of grief through the wrong which has been done him, the toilsome journey, and the expenses which he has incurred. But there is no less sad lack of spirit if you are roused against him who is partly the direct, partly the indirect, cause of so many calamities. Rouse thee, man of God, when these things happen; let both your pity and your indignation be stirred. The one you owe to the injured, the other to him who inflicts the injury. Let the former be consoled for his loses, by satisfaction for his wrongs, by putting a stop to the malicious charges; let the latter be so handled that he may be sorry for having done what he was not afraid not to do, and may not laugh at the punishment of the innocent. (St. Bernard, On Consideration, 3.2)
This harmony between justice and mercy is a reflection of the divine nature of God glimmering within the heart of the faithful warrior. St. Paulinus of Nola wrote of this profound character:
So great is the love of our highest Father that even His anger springs from mercy, and He punishes to spare. (St. Paulinus of Nola, letter 29.8)
Moses “was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3), and he did say, “You shall not take vengeance,” (Leviticus 19:18) but when the time came to fight the wicked, the holy prophet became an instrument of God’s wrath and vengeance against those who deserved it, for he did not even spare the women when he commanded the Hebrews to slaughter the Midianites, when he said, “Arm some of yourselves for war, and let them go against the Midianites to take vengeance for the Lord on Midian.” (Numbers 31:3) Notice how he says to take vengeance “for the Lord,” what does this mean but that righteous men are used by God as instruments of his justice? This is the purpose of monasticism, and the path of the Christian life, to be a weapon of God against Satan.
Moses himself was a monastic, for he ascended the holy mountain, mortified his flesh through fasting, and received the Divine Law, and after this did he impose the Law on the evildoers when he slaughtered the three thousand pagans who worshipped the golden calf. It is in this moment by which we determine that Moses was a monastic warrior, fasting and praying, being committed to humility, and fully zealous for the Law of God that he was willing to fight and kill for the holy precepts.
He went upon the top of the mountain, and received the Law for which the armies Christendom raise up their swords to establish, for the Apostle wanted the Law of God to be established and imposed through a righteous ruler, when he wrote to Timothy:
But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. (1 Timothy 1:8-11)
Let the temporal sword of St. Peter be unsheathed, and let it be unleashed on the wicked murderers, the sodomites and the pagans who are enemies of God; let us do away with this evil concept of tolerance, and stop giving license to the homosexuals, to the Muslims, to all the wicked people who wish to bring paganism to our lands, who desire to destroy the Church, let their ways be extirpated so that Christendom may be formed.
Christ gave us the true way, He brought humanity the true path, so let righteous nations destroy and vanquish those who wish to destroy the sacred path, so that it could illuminate the whole world without the hinderance of tyranny and the workers of the diabolical.
When the holy Moses kept his arms stretched out while holding the sacred wooden staff for the victory of the Hebrew warriors against the pagan Amelekites, he was as Christ Whose divine body was held to a Cross and Whose sacred limbs were outstretched for the valiant conquest over our enemy the devil. In the words of St. Gregory of Nysa, “the outstretched hands of the lawgiver became the cause of victory foreshadowing the mystery of the cross” (St. Gregory of Nysa, Life of Moses, 2.153).
And such is the life of the warrior, picking up his cross and following Christ, denying himself and no longer clinging onto the things of the world, breaking the chains of the flesh and liberating himself in the Spirit, he becomes an instrument for the divine justice through his crucifixion, fighting even until the death. St. Paulinus of Nola, no opponent of Holy War, wrote of the sacrificial nature of the Holy Cross:
Let us be cast down for the sake of Him, for if we fall it means resurrection. Let us die with Him in whom is life. (St. Paulinus of Nola, letter 23.42)
The most Holy Cross, the Glorious Wood of our victory, our light, our hope, truly is it the emblem of the pious crusader and the knights of Christ! Let the Holy Cross be our banner, let it be our sword against the devil when the gallant fighters of God strike with the blade and spill the blood of infidels!
Let the Majestic Cross repel the demons, let it repulse Satan, for by this most profound sign shall the saints conquer! St. Maximus of Turin declared the Cross our sign of victory, called for it to be placed on the forehead of every Christian, and connected the Holy Cross with warfare by referencing it to the slaughter of the heretics in the time of Ezekiel:
The Son of God had no need to be born and to be baptized, for He had not committed any sin that needed to be forgiven Him to be baptized, for He had not committed any sin that needed to be forgiven Him in baptism, but His humiliation is our exaltation, His cross our victory, and His gibbet our triumph. With joy let us take this sign on our shoulders, let us bear the banners of victory, let us bear such an imperial banner, indeed, on our foreheads! When the devil sees this sign on our doorposts he trembles. Those who are not afraid of gilded temples are afraid of the cross, and those who disdain regal scepters and the purple and the banquets of the Caesars stand in fear of the meanness and the fasts of the Christian. In Ezekiel the prophet, when the angel who had been sent had slain everyone and the slaughter had begun at the holy places, only they remained unharmed who he had signed with the letter tau — that is, with the mark of the cross. Let us rejoice, then, dearest brethren, and let us lift holy hands to heaven in the form of the cross! When the demons see us thus armed they will be cast down. When Moses’ hands were lifted up Amalek was conquered; when they came down a little he grew strong. (St. Maximus of Turin, sermon 45.2-3)
When Constantine went into battle with the pagans, he held the Cross aloft, when the Crusaders warred with the Muslims, they too ascended the Cross with vigor and valiency, and when Cortez led his army of righteous conquistadors, he hoisted a flag on which were embroidered the words: “Friends, let us follow the Cross, and with faith in this symbol we shall conquer.” (Gomara, Cortes, 8) When John of Austria led the Spanish and Italian warriors to combat the Muslim Ottomans, his ships were in the formation of the Cross, and the golden versed poet, Juan Latino, praised the glorious Battle of Lepanto by declaring that it was Christ Who led the men into victory:
Christ, head bowed, rallies the troops. Nailed to the wooden cross, he led the fleet to face the enemy. (Juan Latino, The Song of John of Austria,
The Cross was the image upheld by the warriors of old, so let us as well bear its image upon our foreheads! Look to the saints of Egypt, of Syria, of Iraq, of Russia, of Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia, and yes, of the Roman Church, and you will see how they place the Cross on their foreheads. Let us as well carry this holy and most ancient rite, for it is the rite of warriors, the rite of Crusaders, the rite of the Knights of Christ! It is through the Cross that we are victorious, and it is through the Cross that we throw off all fears of death. As St. Maximus the Confessor says of Christ and the Cross:
For he put off the principalities and powers at the moment of his death on the cross, when he remained impervious to his sufferings and, what is more, manifested the (natural human) fear of death, thereby driving from our nature the passion associated with pain. (Maximus the Confessor, The Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, Ad Thalassium 21, On Christ’s Conquest of the Human Passions, trans. Blowers & Wilken)
The Cross is the emblem of Holy War, and not only do we bear its image, we as well crucify our flesh to live by the Spirit, becoming “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), and thus being soldiers of God in this great struggle and fray against the wicked and the forces of darkness.
In this state do the warriors of God follow their patriarch, Cornelius the Centurion, being “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.” (Acts 10:2) This is the pioneer of the holy knight, and it is his ways who the knights of old followed. Cornelius was charitable, and so Crusader knights were charitable. For example, we read in the Latin Rule for the Order of the Knights Templars, written in the Council of Troyes in 1129, that the knights must always be willing to care for the sick:
Care and attention are to be given as a priority to the sick; they are to be served as if they were Christ so that the Gospel message, “I was sick and you visited me”, should be kept in mind. They are to be diligently and patiently treated since heavenly rewards are undoubtedly earned through them. The necessities of life should always be given to the sick. We command the intendants of infirmities to administer to them with every attention and watchful care, faithfully and diligently, as far as the capacities of the house permit, whatever is necessary for the sustenance of people of differing infirmities, namely meat and poultry etc., until they are restored to health.” (Latin Rule of 1129, 49-50, in Barber and Bate, The Templars)
Cornelius prayed always to God, and so the Templars prayed with much devotion, following their rule:
As a general rule we order that brothers should pray, standing or sitting according to the inclination of mind or body, but with the utmost reverence, simplicity and quiet so as not to disturb one’s neighbor. (Ibid, 57)
Cornelius fasted, and so did the Templars fast to sear their flesh and subdue it for the triumph of the Spirit, and to strengthen their own selves in the battle against the Muslims. As the monastic Hugh ‘Peccator’ wrote in a letter to the Templars:
In the second task you have trampled your adversary underfoot; in time of peace by abstinence and fasting you fight against your own flesh, and when he [Satan] temps with pride in your good deeds you resist and you defeat him; but in war you fight with arms against the enemies of peace who harm or wish to harm. (Hugh ‘Peccator, to the Templars in the East, ibid)
Such is the life of the monastic warrior, and so many were they in Christendom’s battles, and as well in the battles of the Hebrew saints. The Aaronites were priests, and they were three thousand seven hundred in David’s army, and so too was Zadok a priest, and he was called “a young man, a valiant warrior,” (1 Chronicles 12:28), and from his father’s house there were twenty-two captains in David’s army, and all of these men are described as amongst the “numbers of the divisions that were equipped for war” (1 Chronicles 12:23).
Hashabah and his brethren, seventeen hundred strong, were “men of valour” “in all the business of the Lord, and in the service of the king.” (1 Chronicles 26:30) This signifies that there was a holy army, crusaders really, who dedicated themselves to God and to protecting the law of God, and the king God commissioned over Israel, from evil doers.
They were a manifestation of what St. Peter commanded of us: “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (1 Peter 2:17) They were not a secular army, but a religious order, completely dedicated to God and defending His nation. Christendom continued this system of religious warrior orders, who used the temporal sword to defend the spiritual sword.
In the most glorious Battle of the Kulikovo Field, in which the brave Russian Christians defeated the Muslim Tatars, the prince of Moscow, Dimitry Ivanovich, went to the monastery of the monk, St. Sergius, and begged him for his two monastic warriors, Peresvet and Osliaba, to join him in battle. He said to the monk:
Good father, give me two warriors of your monastic troop, two brethren, Peresvet and Osliaba. For they are universally acclaimed as mighty warriors and valorous knights, highly expert in the art and practice of warfare. (The Tale of the Battle of the Kulikovo Field, p. 60)
Let the pillars of Christendom be uncovered from the rubble of modern decay; soon will Christendom arise from its slumber, and with Christ as our Captain, our General, with the armies of Heaven, the glorious saints and martyrs, with the chariots of fire, with the flames of zeal, shall we with the sword unleash the divine wrath, with our Savior leading us into the most holy fray. And when this finally occurs, let us remember the first of the Christian armies, the pious Cornelius.