Western New York
Lodge of Research
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Tyrian Lodge No. 925
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The first question asked in the Entered Apprentice Catechism is “Whence came you?” The answer is “From a Lodge of the Holy Saints John of Jerusalem.”
Many a Master Mason has been puzzled to answer questions relating to this phrase although the simplest answer would be that we are dedicated to those Saints, whose precepts and practices, ideas and virtues, teachings and examples, are those that all freemasons should try to follow.
But, who were those Saints? The Gothic Legend related back to the building of King Solomon’s Temple, approximately 1,000 years before there was a Saint John, but, nevertheless, the first legendary lodge, was said to be that of Saint John, presumably meaning a lodge at Jerusalem, which was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, who was the energetic forerunner of Christ, and baptized him in the River Jordan.
In 1598, Masonry connected her name with that of St. John the Evangelist, also called the Mystic, who was then deemed, in some places, to be more revered and was substituted. In other places and most places, it was not known which was right and it was not known why there should be any necessity for a choice, so both were adopted as the Patron Saints and lodges came to be dedicated to the Holy Saints John of Jerusalem.
It has also been related by many Masonic Scholars that, back in the Third Century, when the Church adopted the two Pagan celebrations of Summer and Winter Solstices, and made them our St. John’s Day in Summer and St. John’s Day in Winter, it would be only natural for Operative Masons, having dedicated their Craft to these Holy Saints Johns, to begin believing that both Saint Johns were Craftsmen. Craftsmen must have a lodge and where should that lodge be, but in Jerusalem. Hence, “The Holy Saints John of Jerusalem” came into imaginary existence.
Today, in order to become a member of a Speculative Lodge, we must travel the path, much the same as the youth, back in the Middle Ages of Operative Lodges.
First we must petition a lodge through a member, then after an investigation, and, finding that we are freeborn, of lawful age, and well recommended, we can be initiated into a lodge. We must then prove our willingness to continue, by learning the strict rules of the Craft, similar to that period of seven years of rigid service, by the Apprentice of old. Through this learning process, we become a Master Mason, and symbolically present our Masterpiece, an emblem of that upon which we, as Freemasons have been working, whether we are aware of it or not. This Masterpiece, is our character and personality by which we will be tested and tried. Character as the word means, is something carved out of life, a person who has developed strong moral qualities, reputation and good repute.
We can truly become a skilled Master Mason if we carve our character and personality, slowly, little by little, continually refining, polishing and perfecting our life, till that day when we are judged by the Master of us all, the Great Architect of the Universe, who said, “Him that over cometh, I will make a pillar in the Temple of My God.”
In every Masonic Lodge a letter “G” may be seen in the East, either painted on the wall or sculptured in wood or metal, and suspended over the Master’s Chair. A stranger entering the Lodge room, as he may do on a public occasion, will see this mysterious Letter. No one need tell him its meaning; it is a letter of light and tells its own story. Yet no stranger can know its full importance, much less how old it is.
The Letter “G” has double symbolism. First, it represents the Supreme Deity, the Great Architect of the Universe, the Great God of all Freemasons. Secondly, it represents the Science of Geometry, which, to architects, is the Science by which all their labors are circulated and formed. Many meanings and much history are gathered into this Great Letter. In the oldest Charges of the Craft, it is agreed that Masonry is Moral Geometry. What was seen by philosophers and mystics in ancient times has now been revealed to us by the microscope. It is an actual fact that Geometry is the thought form of God in Nature, in the snowflake and in the orbits of the stars. Since this insight is confirmed by the vision of science in this most impressive manner, shows the Letter “G” stands as the initial of God.
There is as uncertainty as to when this symbol was first introduced into Speculative Masonry. Some historians say, in the early 1700's, but it was not mentioned by any of the Masonic writers until, Samuel Pritchard’s Ritual, “Masonry Dissected,” in 1730, when he divided the work into Three Degrees. William Hutchinson in 1775, wrote the book, “Spirit of Masonry,” in which he gave the Letter “G” great significance as indicating both God and Geometry. Then in 1801, Dr. Frederick Dalcho, a distinguished Freemason and Orator from South Carolina, expressed that in one of his published orations, that same opinion when he stated that, The Letter ‘G’, which ornaments the Lodge Room, is not only expressive of the name of the Great Architect of the Universe, but also denotes the Science of Geometry, so necessary to architects.” Finally, in 1847, Dr. George Oliver, in his “Golden Remains of Early Masonic Writers,” said, The term G.A.O.T.U., is used among Freemasons for this great and glorious Being, designated by the Letter ‘G’, that it may be applied by every brother to the object of his adoration.
It wasn’t until about 1850, that the Letter “G” was placed in the center of the interlaced Square and Compasses for pins and badges as commonly represented today. This was originated as a jeweler’s design and not an action of any Masonic authority, so when you walk into a Lodge Room; the Letter “G” will be suspended over the Master’s Chair in the East and the Square and Compasses in their place with the Holy Bible.
On October 2, 1980, W John C. Mandeville preceded us and joined our host of brethren in that other world where God who is the Father and Master of us all awaits our coming.
Before his death, our Worshipful Brother made it known to his family, that he wished for a Masonic Funeral Service and wanted his Lambskin Apron and White Gloves to be buried with him. When the family informed the undertaker of his wishes, they were told this was not normally done and were left with the impression that it was against Masonic Regulations.
Being a friend of his family, they made it known to me of their dilemma, and asked me if I knew of any Masonic Regulation or Laws forbidding this request. I immediately told them that there was no reason why their father’s wishes could not be granted, because in the Entered Apprentice Degree when a new brother is presented his Lambskin Apron he is told, “that this apron is yours; yours to wear throughout an honorable life, and at your death to be deposited upon the coffin which shall enclose your lifeless remains, and with them laid beneath the clods of the valley.”
Because of their concern, I checked further and found the Apron and Gloves could be deposited in the grave as requested, and if there were any questions the undertaker could contact me.
From the earliest of times, it has been the practice of all Masonic Lodges to perform Funeral and/or Burial Services for a deceased Brother, when requested by his family. But there are several requirements to be fulfilled by a Brother to entitle him to Masonic Internment, which includes, that he must be a Master Mason in good standing, although in New York State it is permissible for a lodge, if it so elects, to conduct the Funeral Service for an Entered Apprentice or Fellowcraft, if he or his family had indicated a wish that this be done. He must also be affiliated with the lodge, but, not necessarily the Lodge within whose jurisdiction he dies, and his death must be honorable.
The true purpose of a Masonic Funeral Service is to bring comfort and assurance to those who are bereaved. When Masons enter a place of mourning, they should do so with all the dignity and decorum required of the occasion and care should be taken while the brethren are gathering, that load talking be kept to a minimum.
We must remember that it is one of the few times Masons perform in public, so we want to leave a message that is wrapped in dignity, and show the love ones of our beloved Brother that he walked with men and Masons.
Back in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, Ceremonies were divided into two sections. The First Section Ceremonies were held in a Lodge and the Second Section the Ceremonies were held at the Grave Site. The First Section was esoteric or in other word’s secret and was performed in a tiled room, but not necessarily the Lodge Room, if the distance from the home of the deceased was too great.
After the ceremonies at the Lodge were completed, a procession was formed by the officers and members of the Lodge, and they marched to the dwelling place of the deceased brother, where the coffin was taken into the procession. Then continued to the cemetery or place of interment for a formal burial service, open to Masons and non-Masons alike. After the service ended, the procession returned, in form, to the place whence it came, and the Lodge Closed.
In the Grand Lodge of the State of New York, the above format was used, but was changed to a simpler form a few years ago, when Funeral Parlors were being used for most funerals.
Taking a part from the old service, the Master would present the Apron and say, “the Lambskin or White Apron is an emblem of innocense and the badge of a Mason. It is more ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle, and more honorable than the Star and Garter. This emblem I now deposit in the grave of our deceased brother. By this we are reminded of the universal dominion of death. The arm of friendship cannot interpose to prevent his coming, the wealth of the world cannot purchase our release, nor will the innocense of youth or the charms of beauty propitiate his purpose. The mattock, the coffin, and the melancholy grave admonish us of our mortality, and that sooner or later, these frail bodies must molder in their parent dust.”
On October 5, 1980, Tyrian Lodge held a Masonic Funeral Service at the Ulrich Funeral Home. This was to be slightly different from the normal service because the son of the deceased wished to participate in the Service. David Mandeville, a Past Master of Lawrenceville Lodge No. 131, F.& A.M., Lawrenceville, Georgia, furthering the request of his Father, added a part of the Funeral Service of the Grand Lodge of Georgia, which is to place the Apron on the body of the deceased. After placing the Apron he was to give a short talk, which I now take the liberty to relate. “The Lambskin or White Leather Apron is an n emblem of innocense and the badge of a Mason, more ancient then the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle, more honorable than the Star and Garter when worthily worn. This emblem I now place on the Body of our deceased Brother. By it we are reminded of that purity of life and conduct so essentially necessary to gaining admission to the Celestial Lodge above, where the Supreme Architect of the Universe presides.” He then was to take a White Glove and say the following. “This Glove is a symbol of Fidelity and is emblematical of that Masonic Friendship which bound us to him. It reminds us that while these mortal eyes shall see him not again, yet by the practice of the tenets of our noble Order, and a firm faith and steadfast trust in the Supreme Architect, we hope to clasp once more his vanished hand in love and friendship.” The Glove is then deposited in the coffin with the following words. What virtue unites, death never parts.
It is understandable why W David Mandeville could not finish his duty, but just placing the Apron on his Father was all that was necessary to make a beautiful everlasting remembrance for the family and all who attended the ceremony.
Referring back to Ancient Masonic Ritual, it states, “When man dieth, he shall carry nothing away, his glory shall not descend after him, naked he came into the world and naked he shall return, therefore, when the undertaker fastened the Apron to the outside of the coffin before transporting it to the Church and then to the Grave for burial, in so doing he granted the wish of our departed brother without breaking any Regulation of our Order.”
Yes, the Apron can be and was buried in the Grave of W John C. Mandeville.
All of us live in a plurality of worlds. Each of us inhabits his world of the home, his world of business or profession, and his world of pleasure. Freemasons live in a Masonic world, but, curiously enough, not one in a hundred adventures beyond the doors of their lodge.
The average Mason reads his lodge bulletin, attends lodge meetings when possible and now and then attends a funeral service. But, unless he is an officer, a Past Master, or a brother with curiosity and determination, he knows little of the Masonic world outside, with its broad highways, its numberless bypaths, its beautiful vistas and its lovely landscapes.
Few of our brethren have taken the opportunity to visit the unfortunate brother who cannot leave the world of his home, because of age or sickness. Much could be learned from these older members, if they were given the chance to speak. They could bring to life and paint beautiful pictures from the past and explain how it was back in those early days of Masonry.
The very heart of the Masonic world is, when we take the time to combine with our world of pleasure, and visit our Masonic homes, temples, libraries, museums, and buildings throughout this wonderful country of ours, and, when traveling in foreign lands, take time to visit the beautiful cathedrals, that our ancient brothers built.
It would be most interesting to learn how many Masons know whether or not their Grand Lodge has a Masonic Library and Museum. How many know whether they help support a Masonic home, and if so, where is it located. How many know whether their Grand Lodge engages in a program of Masonic Education, and if so, how many have made use of it. Yet, these activities of Grand Lodge touch every Mason in his pocketbook, if nowhere else.
It may be stated without fear of successful contradiction that no matter how large a state, or how far from the Masonic home a brother lives, after visiting the home, he will agree that his time and money were well spent. Yet, of the multiplied thousands of Masons who give cheerfully to support our brothers of the fraternity who can no longer fight their own battles, not one in a hundred ever sees this inspiring sight, truly the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Park of the Masonic world.
Few of our brethren have ever taken the opportunity to read from the many volumes of Masonic Light. Some seventy-five journals in this country are devoted to the Masonic world, and are excellent reading for brothers anywhere. Not to subscribe too at least one, is to miss much that is interesting and informative. The Masonic world is very large; the brethren in one jurisdiction do and experience that which is unknown to the brethren of another. These Masonic journals are monthly records of that which is worth knowing in the Masonic world and should be a part of the equipment of every interested Freemason.
Several publishing houses are devoted entirely to the production of Masonic books. The reading Mason knows a side of his Fraternal world, which the non reader has never even heard of. Many splendid books have been written of various facets of the jewels of Freemasonry, including our history, jurisprudence, symbolism, charities and our labors for mankind. These books are not dry or hard to read volumes, but books filled with entertainment, joy, enlightenment and education. They are the windows which we can look out and see the far horizons of Freemasonry. We in New York State are very lucky to have a Library and Museum, in which we may borrow books or other reference materials, for periods of three weeks or longer if necessary. We are also entitled to sign up in reading courses which touch on all subjects.
Finally, remember, he who ventures beyond the doors of his lodge and into the Masonic World outside, will have no difficulty following those unnamed pathways into the quiet pastures, the woods and streams of the world of Masonry, if he takes the time to travel therein.
6 - The Well-Being of the Craft
A vital importance to the Well-Being of the Craft is how to encourage the younger Masons to stay active in Lodge activity. Young Masons drift away from the Fraternity finding, as they say, “monotony and even boredom.” Among these Brethren are many promising men who find themselves disappointed in their expectations and become neglectful in their attendance.
I came across a book the other day that included a collection of Masonic essays. The one that interested me the most was written by the Grand Master of New Zealand, MW Charles Fergusson, in 1926, which exemplifies this problem.
His essay follows:
I have no hesitation in saying that the fault must lie in our system. We must have somehow failed to impress on our Brethren the fundamental object of Freemasonry, which I take to be the molding of characters, which will, by the force of their example and their influence, spread a light in the world and draw mankind closer together. We may have become too stereotyped in our Lodge working, have devoted too much time to ceremonial, have paid too much attention to the outside of the cup and platter, and forgotten that it is to be the heart that we must make our appeal. It may be that in our lectures, papers, and addresses we have become too abstruse and idealistic, and have neglected to point out the practical application of our ideals. We have, perhaps, not spent enough effort in teaching our Brethren that while it is to the Lodge that we come for inspiration, yet the real interest and use of our Craft lies outside the Lodge, in our everyday life, in the happiness that it brings us, and in the happiness that we can impart to others; in the personal influence which we are enabled to wield over our fellow men.
We who are older men, we on whom is laid the responsibilities of guiding and teaching our younger Brethren, must be careful lest in becoming absorbed ourselves in the beauty of our ritual, in the fascination of the working of degrees and of research work, in the interest which our position in the Craft gives us, we forget the yearning of younger minds to be something more than spectators and listeners. We must ever remember to lead them on to the underlying meaning of what they see and hear, and to show them that all is designed to teach how all day and every day in their workaday lives we can be active Freemasons by ennobling ourselves and helping and elevating others.
Perhaps we do not teach them what a Mason really is!
When he can look over the rivers and hills and the far horizon with a profound sense of his own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith, hope, and courage, which is the root of every virtue. When he knows that down in his heart every man is as noble, as vile, as divine, as diabolic, and as lonely as himself, and seeks to know, to forgive, and to love his fellow-man. When he knows how to sympathize with men in their sorrows, yea, even in their sins, knowing that each man fights a hard fight against many odds. When he has learned to make friends and keep them. When he can be happy and high-minded amid the meaner drudgeries of life. When no voice of distress reaches his ears in vain, and no hand seeks his aid without response. When he can look into a wayside puddle and see something beyond mud, and into the face of the most forlorn fellow mortal and see something beyond sin. When he knows how to pray, how to love, and how to hope. When he has kept faith with himself, with his fellow-man, with his God; in his hand a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of a song, glad to live and not afraid to die. Such a man has found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world.
Brethren, I could almost wish that those words were written on the door of every Lodge room, and so find a place in the heart of every brother. What a man thinks, so he is, and only we can guide our thoughts and the thoughts of those whom we are called on to lead into such channels we may with them obtain a new insight into the worth and use of our Masonic life.
But whether there be need for such remodeling of our methods as I have indicated, or, assuming such need, whether the solution of the problem is to be found in this direction, I do not know. Possibly some more practical and less visionary means may be found to stimulate interest and so prevent retrogression. But let us remember that the vitality of a Lodge is to be judged not so much by the length of the muster roll as by the record of the attendance book. The realization by the Brethren of their duties and responsibilities, their sense of the influence which they exert on their fellow-men in the world, these are the tests by which we should estimate our present position, and the ideals toward which we should press forward in the future. And I venture to think that on the threshold of a new Masonic year we all may well take these words which I have quoted to heart. As the writer says, any influence which changes our habit of mind from doubt to faith, from fear to courage, from despair to hope, has wrought the most divine ministry which a mortal can enjoy. And how better can we set out on the task which lies before us than in taking the sunshine of those words into our lives and trying during the coming year to walk in its rays and to lead others into its glow.
Such is my conception of our work until, in God’s mercy, we meet again. To build up men for whom the guiding principles shall be Faith, Hope, Love, and Work. Men who will find in these a fulness of life which will brighten their days and give them a keener zest for their toil. Men for whom the monotony and drudgery of everyday life will be forgotten in the glory of feeling themselves fellow workers under Him who is the great Master Builder and Architect of the Universe.
And so, Brethren, in the words of John Ruskin (1819-1900):
I pray you with all earnestness to prove and to know within your hearts that all things lovely and righteous are possible for those who believe in their possibility, and who determine that for their part they will make each day’s work contribute to them. Let every dawn of morning be to you as the beginning of life, and every setting sun be to you as its close. Then let every one of these short lives leave its sure record of some kindly thing done for others, some goodly strength or knowledge gained for yourselves. So, from day to day and strength to strength, you shall build up an edifice of which it shall not be said:
“You see what manner of stones are here, but most of all, you should see what manner of men.”
Brethren, lets follow the teachings so eloquently written in this Essay, and I know that our Lodges would surely achieve some of our needs and wishes.
Grand Master of New Zealand
1.) A Brief History on the Organization of the Western New York Lodge of Research.
2.) Whence Came You?
3.) The Letter "G"
4.) A Masonic Funeral Service.
5.) Our Masonic World.
6.) The Well Being of the Craft.
a.) What is the Cause, and what is the Remedy?
b.) When is a Man a Mason.