The spirituality peculiar to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem began in the Middle Ages and has developed over the centuries. It now consists of two fundamental elements. One, based on the noble spirit of chivalry, is derived from the past, and was particularly manifest at the time of the Crusades, when it put itself freely at the service of the Catholic Faith and the defence of the Church. The other, which has its place in the present and is adapted to mod­ern times, takes the form of courageous daily witness to the Faith, in the certainty of hope and in active and gener­ous charitable dedication to the world today. This second element has to face challenges and difficulties of all kinds, but it is also full of the joy and beauties of God's natural order, His creation in which we are all called to live. Moreover, the special character common to these two as­pects is the priority they give to active commitment to the Holy Land, where Christ fulfilled his earthly work of Re­demption. The harmonious and balanced merging of the two elements ensures the fruitful achievement of the aims and objectives of the Order in today's world, which has already begun its journey through the third millennium of Christianity.

The noble, historic element enriches and is part of the present daily life of members of the Order, thanks to the study, acquired knowledge of and meditation on values that are now traditional and have been handed down over the centuries, yet which often still have to be carefully ex­amined and rd1ected upon. The current element, on the other hand, must be constantly adapted to the continuing evolution of social lifestyles. Today, we must know how to interpret and evaluate this rich spiritual inheritance, how to make it part of our lives and adapt it to the lifestyle and ways of the Third Millennium, to the current demands of the Holy Land, to the special needs of the local Churches in which each individual lives. Today we need to know how to find new ways of exercising, in our own environment, that noble and ancient spiritual heritage which typifies and is unique to the Order.

We need to take steps so that our profound faith, which gives the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre the awareness and certainty that enable them to live according to the laws of God and of the Church and to adopt the ideals and commitments of the Order, will give each member ever-increasing strength to demonstrate continual and steadfast witness of that faith in everyday life, in ways that are up to date and appropriate to our times and the environment in which each of us lives. We need to ensure that our theological hope and trust in the redemption, which opens our eyes to the promise of future glory, can give each one of us security, serenity and joy in this life, full though it often is of difficulties, sadness and pain. Above all, the generous charity which propels us towards our fellows, especially the Christians in the Holy Land, must continually develop forms that are more appropriate to meeting the demands of the moment, but which retain unchanged the spirit of the Order's origins.

If spiritual values are to be kept alive in a society that is becoming ever more secularised, in which such values often seem to be derided and scorned, if not actually trodden down and contested, in which the demands of in­culturation are increasingly powerful and insistent, we must proclaim and bear witness to the Gospels in language and approaches that are suitable and understandable to the people of our time, and by appropriate means.

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem possesses and must retain its own specific and strong spirituality, which distinguishes it from any other Order or Institution in the Catholic Church. Belonging to the Order does not mean simply being decorated with an honour; on the contrary, it means witnessing to the Faith, making a lifetime commitment and accepting an ongoing obligation to work toward the common aim. It is not a Religious Order, but a "public and lay association of men and women faithful" (Can. 298 of the Code of Canon Law), with noble traditions, but with no statutory requirement for noble status; an Order that also admits ecclesiastics and religious, and has as its special distinguishing feature its commitment to the Holy Land.

If, in the various Lieutenancies around the world, some members of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre devote their whole time and effort to its activities, many others make their membership and commitment to the Order an adjunct to their ordinary daily work and activities, their family life, career or profession. If, in God's wonderful universal plan, we all have a vocation to holiness, we should all exercise it first of all in our work, in our everyday life, in our individual commitment to our own families, our own professional activities, our own manual or intellectual work. For each one of us, daily life must be a continual demonstration of faith, service and charity. There is no work done by man that cannot be made holy, that offers no opportunity for personal sanctification, that does not provide a means of working with God to sanctify those around us, and that cannot become a worthy path to the eternaJ reward promised by Christ, who won it for us with His blood.

So we must bear witness. First, foremost and always, witness of a Christian lifestyle as we go about our own daily tasks. In fact, we are all caJled to give external proof, in our daily behaviour and achievements, of the richness and depth of our faith, the certainty of our hopes and, above all, the generosity of our commitment to charity. Life sometimes demands great sacrifices, important decisions, heavy responsibilities that require personal strength to overcome them. More often, it is full of little things, repeated actions, that constantly require us to face minor difficulties and temptations of all kinds. Often it is more difficult to be good in the face of this persistent series of small, everyday things than to become martyrs in one sin­gle, supreme, generous and valiant act of giving up one's own life.

The holiness we are all called to aim for is not, in fact, only a matter of doing big things well every now and then, or of giving the right answers at the most crucial times of our Jives. Essentially, it means doing little things well all the time, achieving all the tasks that fill our days. And the key to solving those problems, to finding strength in those little decisions, to being constant in our - often tiring ­daily commitments and in our continual witness is: chari­ty. Charity as love for God and for His universaJ law; charity to oneself, out of respect for the being God created and to achieve order and equilibrium in the way we act; charity to one's neighbours who are, firstly, one's own family, one's colleagues and acquaintances, then the sick, those in need of care and attention, the poor, the marginalised.

Jesus tells us, "In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me" (Mt. 25:40). If all this should, in itself, be the blueprint for the life of every Christian, it must be even truer for the life (inwardly lived and outwardly professed) of a member of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, whose cloak and in­signia of the Order indicate deeper inner commitment and more active, joyful and generous external witness.

As true and convinced members of the Catholic Church committed to the life of the Church and of the Order, every Knight and Lady of the Holy Sepulchre must fully respect and be well informed about the Holy father and the Magisterium of the Church, which should therefore be reflected in his or her life and behaviour. Membership of the Order commits each member to tak­ing part in the prescribed manner in the programmes of his or her own Lieutenancy or Section and to contribut­ing, as far as his or her own circumstances and local con­ditions permit, to the provision of aid for the Holy Land. Membership of the Order does not prevent members [rom being active and participating in suitable ways in the life of their local Church, in respect for and obedience to the local Bishop and in co-operation with any appropriate local initiatives or activities. Quite the opposite: it is par­ticipation in diocesan activities as an openly declared member of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre that will keep the image and prestige of the Order in high esteem.

In an Apostolic Exhortation at the beginning of his pontificate, the Holy Father John Paul II cried out to all Catholics, "Do not be afraid!" It was a forceful call to pro­fess their faith openly and to live a daily life respectful of the commandments of God and of the Church because, if they do so, the strength of grace will not be lacking. That strong and reassuring voice continues to be totally valid today, especially for the members of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, as a call to live the faith, to witness to it with conviction, to demonstrate it not only with humility and simplicity, but with courage and generosity.

When he received the members of the Order's Consulta in an Audience in October 1998, the Pope concentrat­ed his speech on Ecumenism, which must have a clear-cut intluence on all the Order's activities, even if the priority is the Catholic Church in Palestine, in particular, the Latin Patriarchate ofJerusalem. On the one hand, the ec­umenical spirit requires members of the Order to seek to co-operate in joint activities with other Christian Church­es in the areas in which the members live; on the other, it encourages the possibility of practical action by means of projects and initiatives in the Holy Land, not only with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem but also with other Catholic, Christian and even non-Christian communities, provided of course that such action does not have a nega­tive effect on activities or institutions of the Latin Patriarchate and that it is in accordance with the programmes of the Lieutenancy concerned.

Once again, at the beginning of this third millennium, the invitation "Duc in altum" (from the Gospel of Luke 5:4) rings out in the Pope's strong, sure voice. After they had fished all night and caught nothing, the Lord invited Peter and the apostles to cast their nets in deeper, more open waters. They caught so many fish that the nets broke. Today, the Pope issues the same invitation to us, to have the confidence to profess our Faith and bear witness generously and with courage, even in deep and difficult waters, even in today's ever more defiled, secularised and consumer-orientated world, in the knowledge that the more commitment we make, the more effective the grace will be.

The Pope is speaking to and teaching all the Church's faithful. As good Catholics, the Knights and Ladies of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre should, first of all, have the certain vision and solid spiritual foundation that charac­terises every Christian. To this they add - like the new cloak they have deliberately chosen - the spirituality of the Order, with its noble historic traditions, with its strong bent towards the Holy Land, the land God chose for the Covenant, for the act of Salvation, and to offer us the way to a blessed destiny. The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, from which the Order takes its name, is not only the tomb that reminds us of the place where the body of Christ, dead on the Cross, was laid; more than anything, it is the place of life, where Christ rose again and where he hailed the world and history with His cry of redemption, because His sacrifice on the Cross, made for the whole of mankind, had been accepted by the Father and had opened up, for all of us, the means of redemption of sins and reconciliation with God.

It is impossible to think of a committed Christian without thinking of a person devoted to prayer. So a member of the Order must be all the more dedicated in that way. Prayer is the oxygen of a person's spiritual life, the vital sap that gives strength and guides our actions, the guarantee of God's grace. Amongst every Knight and Lady of the Holy Sepulchre's obligations to the Order, the first is certainly prayer. Jesus himself taught us to pray and set us an example. The Church repeatedly and insis­tently asks us to do so. In October 2002, the Holy Father made a point of inviting everyone to recite the special prayer of the Holy Rosary, in particular during the "Year of the Rosary" (October 2002 - October 2003), a period which, for the Order, coincides with preparations for that important event, the "Consulta of the Order". We must accept the invitation and pray this prayer that, in the words of the Pope, "marks the rhythm of human life". We must send up our prayers to God for the life of the Order and especially for the peoples of the Holy Land, who are today so tortured and await a true and just peace, as the longed-for gift of God.

Hence, to the daily duties of every good Christian, we must add the extra commitment that is the distinguishing mark of every member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. A commitment that draws strength from the past and from history, that finds its place in the present and in the Church, that heads faith­fully towards the future.

View of the Holy City of Jerusalem from the Damascus Gate. The dOilies of the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre are visible in the ce/7 t reo

'Assessore' of the Order
Annales 1996
(c)Grand Magisterium Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem