Saturday 27 October 2012

Order of St Lazarus - Clarification

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Many of my readers will know that I am chaplain general in Great Britain of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem, as I often put up reports of our events and the good works the Order does - most recently, donating £10,000 to SUROL, a Leprosy Charity with Cardinal Ranjith as its patron.  There is often some misunderstanding about the Order, particularly here in Britain where it is so small and the recent document from Rome concerning Equestrian orders produced a flurry of not always favourable comment fuelled by such misunderstanding.  Perhaps it is the startling colour of the Order - green - particularly when seen on the priest's biretta etc that makes some people jump to the conclusion that it must be some outrageous modern invention.

Anyway the above statement issued by the Order of St Lazarus makes it clear where we stand in relation to the recent document from Rome.

Perhaps a word of explanation about the use of the glorious green.
Chaplains of the Order have worn green on their accouterments for many centuries, even though green was a more usual colour for bishops to wear.
An engraving of an Ecclesiastical Knight of the Order from 1714
The Church only began to regulate the colours for ecclesiastical dress in the 1200s, although these became formalised because of heraldry rather than as a result of Church directives. For a long time (originating in Spain) green was the colour for bishops and archbishops and even today, it is the heraldic colour for these prelates, as seen in their galero and fiocchi, the silk cord upon which hangs the Pectoral Cross, and the traditional instruction that a bishop's biretta be lined with green, rather than purple.
In his book on the ceremonial life and protocol of the Roman Catholic Church, The Church Visible, James-Charles Noonan, Jr. tells how green, had by the eleventh century, become the colour for bishops and archbishops.  The Fourth Lateran Council required the colour green for patriarchs in 1215.  In the Second Council of Lyons, 1274, Pope Gregory X granted the red galero so that his cardinals would stand out in council processions.  It was also the tradition in many places to upholster the cathedra in green.  According to Noonan the tradition of green as the colour for bishop’s heraldry was also the colour of their vesture.  He describes this as “forest green” or a “cloth of the darkest green.”  The change to the present violet (Amaranth Red) for bishops began as early as the pontificate of Gregory XIII (1572-1585) and by the reign of Urban VIII (1623-1644) the change was complete.

Arms of Archbishop Duka of Prague, before he was created Cardinal
Bishop Athanasius Schneider wearing the green and gold silk cord
A bishop's Saturno sporting green and  gold tassles

The Order's use of the colour green, however, is unlikely to be connected to its use by prelates as it spans the past millennium. Several legends concern King Baldwin IV who ruled Jerusalem from 1174 to 1183. After founding the Lazarus Hospital and Commandery at Seedorf in Switzerland he had a vision which included finding a green cross in his hand upon waking. Another legend surrounding King Baldwin IV is that during his coronation in Jerusalem, an eagle dropped onto his head a gold ring with a green cross embedded. What is certain is that the green cross and the colour green have been intimatelly associated with the Order of Saint Lazarus throughout the second millennium. There is documentary evidence from 1314 wherein the Commander of Seedorf ordered that the green cross should be worn by the brothers on their habits.

The green cross of Saint Lazarus is also the origin of the international symbol for healthcare. which we see outside Chemists and Pharmacies and on First Aid boxes. The influence of the Hospitaller Orders can still be seen today. (St. John's Ambulance, for instance, draws it's existance from the Hospitaller Order of St.John).


The Rev. M. Forbes said...

As a member of a restored non Masonic Templar Order, SMOTJ, in Ameerica and OSM internationally, I would like to thank you for the Memo and the good piece. When our old Knights served in the Holy Land, our chaplains wore a green Tauler and white capa with red cross. On the battle field they wore white gloves with gauntlets to kkeep their hands clean to minister Viaticumm to dying warior knights.

The green is explained as a sign to Moslems of the sacred office of Christian Chaplains.

Please pray for us. We are engaged in aprocess of making our way of life and work more specifically Christian and more intentionally Ecumenical.

The Rev. Michael P. Forbes GCTJ, OH

Anonymous said...

your biretta, for use at Order events only, and outside the liturgy, could be mistaken for that of a holder of and Ecclesiastical Licence of Canon Law!!!


David O'Neill said...

To Anonymous

A biretta for non ecclesiastical purposes has 4 wings rather than the 3 used on ecclesiastical birettas.

To Fr Simon

As a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, I appreciate your exposition on the status of the Order of St Lazarus. The Catholic Herald has just this weekend stated "categorically"(?) that apart from Papal Order (KSG< KSS etc) only the Order of Malta & the EOHSJ are acknowledged by the Vatican. Perhaps your cardinal should ask the Secretariate of State to clarify. As I advised earlier, we are told prior to investiture that we may only consort with those orders.

GOR said...

Frankly Father, I find the idea of chivalric orders somewhat off-putting. That they do good and charitable work I don’t dispute and commend them for it. But the ‘pomp and circumstance’ are what I find disquieting. Is all that really necessary? Must people have these trappings in order to be coaxed into charitable work…?

Much is made of the dignitaries appertaining thereto – the “Rt. Hon. This…” and “Lady That…” It all seems to smack of an untoward human respect - or even the ‘culture of celebrity’ we see so much of these days. It appears to go against the evangelical counsel to “not let your right hand know what your left is doing…” when engaged upon good works - risking the indictment that “you have had your reward already.”

But that may just be my plebeian background coming forth!

Fr Simon Henry said...

Dear GOR,
Surely we are allowed to have a little fun?
Actually, the mantle is very much like a habit that covers the outer man (or woman)and the Orders are just that - Religious Orders that are meant to provide a rule of living the Christian life that goes much beyond simple almsgiving. It is a misunderstanding to think that Orders are just Catholic versions of the Rotary Club. The titles you refer to are, in fact, secular. The titles in an Order are Prior, Hospitaller etc. If you see other appelations, they refer to the individulas accomplishments or titles from outside the Order.
The dress is part of a living tradition that stretches back into the Order's history - it may look a little anomylous to the modern eye but then so is wearing a mitre or an alb - and tradition, as we know, should not be abandoned lightly.

GOR said...

Point taken, Father – and far be from me to deny ‘a little fun’ especially to diocesan priests. God knows what you have to put up with on a daily basis. Even Our Lord took the Apostles aside from the crowd for some relaxation betimes.

While the Gospels don’t speak directly to Our Lord’s sense of humour, I suspect He had some ‘lighter moments’ with the Apostles on occasion (Peter’s vacillations and ‘swordsmanship’, James and John’s ambitions, Philip’s slowness, Zacchaeus’ tree climbing, the response of the Canaanite woman about dogs and table crumbs, the Woman at the Well, and so on).

As St. John noted, “not everything was written down…” Had it been, I’m sure we would have learned that while Our Lord’s teaching was about serious matters, it was not “all work and no play…”