We have established that to be adequate to the task of wielding the sword, serious spiritual preparation is necessary; now we can complete our picture by adding that, after returning from the battlefield, a spiritual cleansing is essential.
This should have been obvious from the start, but in a secularized age it is easily overlooked. How could a spiritually awakened soul hope to cope with the demands of this harsh vocation without recourse to the purification rituals facilitated by religion?
Just as religion was shown to be indispensable for the maintenance of a healthy warrior vocation, so that it does not become monstrous, so also religion is necessary for the on-going recuperation and sanity of these men.
The very existence of evil draws us away from the contemplation of the divine. Merely by looking at it and seeing it for what it is, we become marked by it and even at this early stage we can feel the need for cleansing. People readily admit this when, after witnessing some atrocity, they say that they ‘feel dirty’. The problem is so much more extreme for the fighter who must interact with evil through force and physical contact. It is ridiculous to imagine that these inroads into hell do not tear us away from whatever spiritual harmony we might have enjoyed back at home. This harmony must be re-established at every chance. The warrior, after defending the temple, must enter into it and be cleansed.
Here is the key to true victory over evil. Here the warrior truly and decisively vanquishes his foe. We are not victorious when we repel evil by force; we are not victorious in the act of killing our enemies, no matter how necessary it might be. We are victorious when, after this contact with evil, and after the suffering of this departure from righteousness, we return and wash ourselves clean in the presence of the divine. It is only at that moment of absolution that the laurels are bestowed and only then is evil truly vanquished, since whatever ‘transfer’ it brought about by forcing us to enter into relationship with it is reversed and nullified.
It goes without saying that, since everyone experiences evil and resists it, everyone must make a habit of spiritual cleansing, and this is of course the whole reason for the Catholic sacrament of Reconciliation; but for the warrior, this all takes on a special meaning.
Even for the brave and the most noble, even for the strongest among us, it is not possible to withstand these repeated excursions deep into enemy territory without becoming weakened by the trial and in some way tainted by it. If the warrior does not frequently return to the temple for purification, he risks forgetting where it is, and holy places may even become odious to him.
The purification following the shedding of blood removes incurred traces of corruption and is therefore the salvation of the warrior, and more pressing for him than for vocations not subject to such tests of spiritual endurance. For one who has faced death and dealt out death to other men on any scale, it is spiritually risky in the highest degree to ignore the cleansing rites of religion.