Ceremonial History And Significance
The Eastern Lieutenancy normally holds its Investiture weekend around the end of September. At that time, new candidates are invested into the Order during a Mass and Ceremony alongside members who have been granted promotions in rank.
In preparation for their acceptance, candidates are asked to attend a Vigil Service on the day prior to the Investiture ceremony. In the early days of the Order, it was customary to spend the evening before in prayer and reflection. The Vigil was considered a “liturgical waiting for an act of the spirit of God.”
The ceremonial history of the Investiture mostly likely originates from the investiture of knights who traveled to the Holy Land in the 12th century. In 1496, Pope Alexander VI empowered the Franciscan Custodian of Mount Sion, the Commissary Apostolic of the Holy Land with the privilege of conferring knighthood in the Order in the name of the Pope. Candidates were received into the Order during a dubbing ceremony only at the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem by a knight recognized by the popes and by the sovereigns.
In 1847, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem was re-established by Pope Pius IX. The Order’s new statutes provided for the possibility of new members being invested outside of Jerusalem by those acting in the Patriarch’s name. In 1888, Pope Leo XIII approved the practice, initiated by the Patriarch, of investing ladies among the knights of the Order.
Today the ecclesiastical ceremony known as the Investiture combines a profession of faith with this ancient ritual in churches throughout the Order’s lieutenancies. Candidates promise to live an upright Christian life in accordance with the Commandments of God and the precepts of the Roman Catholic Church.
One of the most important symbols used in the ceremony of the Investiture is the sword, sometimes called the sword of Godfrey. Originally it recalled the origins of the Order linked with the Crusader conquest of the Holy Land and the protection of Christians and pilgrims. In today’s society, which appreciates less and less symbols connected with weapons and which increasingly is concerned for justice and peace, especially in the Holy Land, it is important to stress the spiritual symbolism of the sword.
St. Paul tells how to vest ourselves for the battle against evil (Eph 6, 13-17):
The sword is also a symbol of that important ideal of ancient knighthood which is also part of the mission of the Knight of the Holy Sepulchre today, to defend the weak and those without protection. It also evokes another important aspect of the spirituality and the life of the modern Knight or Lady, the courageous struggle for justice and peace.