2016 YRRI Papers
Have You In Your Possession All The Rights And Light Of A Mason, As The Ancient Brethren Before You?
Richard L. Hudson Jr.
This paper will attempt to assist in departing knowledge on the York Rite Mason, which continue the ritualist work of the symbolic degrees in the Blue House. I am in agreement with Hon. Brother McNeal (Summer, 2009) that education is what we are lacking as an organization, and that the average Prince Hall Affiliated Mason cannot enlighten the less informed brethren, nor the non-initiated applicant to who is Prince Hall and what is Prince Hall Masonry.
How often have you spoken with a Master Mason and realized that they understand that the story of the craft presented in the three degrees is incomplete, and the other degrees in the York Rite were added for explanation? Have you had a young Master Mason to ask you, ?If the word is lost, how shall we go about searching for that which is lost? Why is Aaron beard mentioned in the bible, what lesson do the ruffians represent, what are the symbolic meanings of the working tools (especially the Fellow Craft tools, which are displayed on each station of the Master Mason lodge) and why was those bible verses chose to represent the craft of freemasonry? The York Rite degrees strengthen the Symbolic Lodge by empathizing a historical background on the work, although it is not a religion in itself, but the principles are absorbed and this could be one of the justification so widely used by Masons when stating that Masonry take a good man and makes him better, but in reality the meaning of Freemasonry is based more on the Medieval Crusades than religion.
We all are aware that there is thirteen degrees within the four orders of York Rite Prince Hall Masonry. The first being the symbolic lodge or blue house, next is the Royal Arch Masons or red house, afterwards is the Royal and Select Master Mason or purple house, and in conclusion would be the Knights Templars or black house. Let me add a little bit more insight for those that may be less informed in the Order of the York Rite Degrees, which includes four additional degrees for those that have been duly elected and installed in the east of these houses, which includes the honorary degrees of the Lodge of Past Masters, the Order of Priesthood, the Silver Trowel, and the Past Eminent Commander, and like the Scottish Rite, the York Rite has a honorary degree known as Knights York Cross of Honors, which is also known as the hardest degree to receive in Masonry. It is identified in this manner because of the fact that you must have served one year in the east as Worshipful Master, Excellent High Priest, Thrice Illustrious Master, and Eminent Commander, and on top of all of that, you must be invited by a member of the Priory, therefore, you have no knowledge of being invited, thereby, equally you will not have the knowledge of disappointment of not being accepted.
How often have young men approached you outside of the lodge with the question of, how can I become a Mason? My question to them is always, what can you give to Masonry that Masonry don?t already have, and the majority of their answers were, I have nothing more to offer but the giving of my time. I always explain to them that there are many interpretations for the word time, and it is used so loosely in Masonry. When analyzed critically, and place in an analytical prospective, we arrive at the conclusion that it does not only represent a moment in space, but also a glimpse of our earthly existence. According to Webster?s New International Dictionary (1986), ?Time? is ?an appointed, fixed, or customary moment or hour for something to happen, began, or end.? This in itself truly explains time in every expectation of Masonic life. Time is one, but in our minds it is several dimension which we store our accidents in the past, our worries and desires in the present; and we preserve the future as a virginal container for hope. Time is the dimension of change, and without awareness of change, there is and can be no awareness of time.
Each one of these houses that are mentioned above demonstrates a change; therefore, we are presented a time that is not in a chronological order. An example would be, the Mark Master?s degree, which took place before the Master Mason?s degree, and if thought was put into it, you would realize that the ceremonies presented for these degrees all happened before or after the tragedy of the third degree. The York Rite degree ceremonies assist us in gaining knowledge to complete the story that is intentionally told out of chronological order; therefore, allow me to give you a summary of the philosophical lesson that each degree convey as I see it with the assistance of Barry Newell (2012). When preparing a candidate to enter the lodge for the very first time, I like to inform them that if they are truly here to seek knowledge and gain understanding of masonry, then we will teach them how to walk, talk, and act like a Mason.
The Entered Apprentice Mason degree announces to the candidate the values, principles, tenets, the story of King Solomon and his involvement along with the details to build the temple that would house the Holy Arch, but the lesson of this degree is Truth, Love, Charity, temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice.
The Fellow Craft Mason degree teaches a brother that they are on a journey and there are wages a Mason receives, but the lesson of this degree is the need for acquiring knowledge and education, charity and obedience to the established rules of our Ancient Craft.
In the Master Mason degree the brother is introduced to tragedy which destroyed the symbolic beauty of completing the Temple, and one of the lessons that should have been learned from each ruffian, which they represented the vices of man?s destruction, which is greed, envy, and jealousy,. The brother realizes that the word is lost and he gains a lesson that this degree is firm in fidelity when facing enemies.
The Mark Master degree takes the brother back to the Fellow Craft degree as a hewer when the lack of appreciation for his hard work in the quarry later becomes the chief stone that is required to complete the Temple. He is taught a lesson of distinguishing his work and the importance of wage receiving; therefore, this is a bridge between an operative and speculative Mason.
The Past Master degree do not focus on a particular timeline in the ritualistic work of Masonry; therefore, some speculate this was during the time that King Solomon inspected the Temple after the completion but just before the dedication. Since it was the custom that only Past Master could be exalted to the degree of Royal Arch Mason, this degree does not confer the title of Past Master upon the brother, but only uphold the ancient custom, and the lesson of this degree is to teach Worshipful Masters the importance of justice and harmony.
The Most Excellent Master degree emphasizes the importance of respect for the Fellow Craft, Mark Master, and Master Mason degree, whereas, the attention is given to the completion and ceremonial dedication of the Temple; therefore, this degree bring together the symbolic lessons mentioned in each of the above degrees, it completes the allegorical reference to building yourself as our operative ancestors built King Solomon?s Temple.
In the Royal Arch Mason degree our attention is directed again to the rubbish, upon removing it, we discover artifacts that teach lessons of service, fearless fortitude, or the great emotion of fervency, zeal, and the victory of Truth over all forms of ignorance and cruelty.
The Royal Master degree, although divided into two section, brings to the attention of the brother once again as a Fellow Craft the importance of useful labor while on earth and a worthy end of life may not secure him the secrets of a Master Mason, but just where it may be found. This is in my opinion one of the most beautiful points of dramatization in Freemasonry. The second section demonstrated the grief that the other two Grand Master felt after the tragedy of Grand Master Hiram Abif, therefore teaching a lesson of patience, fortitude, and integrity.
The Select Master degree, speaks of the secret vault with all of its myths surrounding the loss and hope of discovering the Master?s word in the future gives the brother a lesson in devotion, zeal, and the failing of those who through ignorance or curiosity may overstep the bounds of respectability.
The Super Excellent Master degree, symbolizes the final destruction of King Solomon?s Temple and the Babylonian captivity of the Jewish people. It emphasizes the values of loyalty and faithfulness, therefore, man will always build but the permanent temple is that spiritual temple erected within himself.
The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, is a transitional degree that connects Royal Arch Masonry to Chivalric [shi-val-rik] Masonry, and the lesson taught in this degree would be the constant search for truth and emphasize the importance of liberty and justice.
The Order of Malta is dedicated to Christianity and the story is about Paul being on the island of Malta; whereby, this degree teaches the history of the Maltese Order as inheritors of the crusading Knights Hospitaller, and the lesson expresses examples of love, mercy, and the faithful suffering of Christianity.
The Order of the Temple is the capstone of the American York Rite Masonry, and many lesson are given during the ceremony such as, the reminding of the mortality of this body, the celebrated immortality for the faithful followers, reverence, self-sacrifice, and the Messiah suffering upon the stake.
Newell, B. (2012). Chronological order of the York Rite Degrees. Traveling Templar. Retrieved from http:/www.travelingtemplar.com/2012/12/chronological-order-of-york-rite-degree.html
Time. (1986). Webster?s Third New International Dictionary. Chicago, IL.