Dedication of a Lodge
Among the ancients every temple, altar, statue, or sacred place was dedicated to some divinity. The Romans, during the Republic, confided this duty to their consuls, pretors, censors, or other chief magistrates, and afterward to the emperors. According to the Papirian law, the regulations of a clan or group of Roman families, the dedication must have been authorized by a decree of the senate and the people, and the consent of the college of augurs. The ceremony consisted in surrounding the temple or object of dedication with garlands of flowers, whilst the vestal virgins poured on the exterior of the temple the lustral water. The dedication was completed by a formula of words uttered by the Pontiff, and the immolation of a victim, whose entrails were placed upon an altar of turf. The dedication of a temple was always a festival for the people, and was annually commemorated.
While the Pagans dedicated their temples to different deities--sometimes to the joint worship of several --the monotheistic Jews dedicated their religious edifices to the one supreme Jehovah. Thus, David dedicated with solemn ceremonies the altar which he erected on the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite, after the cessation of the plague which had afflicted his people; and Calmet conjectures that he composed the thirtieth Psalm on this occasion. The Jews extended this ceremony of dedication even to their private houses, and Clarke tells us, in reference to a passage on this subject in be Book of Deuteronomy, house to God with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving; and this was done in order to secure the divine presence and blessing, for no pious or sensible man could imagine he could dwell safely in a house that was not under the immediate protection of God."
There is a noteworthy reproduction in the Symbolism of the Churches and Church Ornaments, a translation of the first book of the Rationale Divinorum Officorum written by William Durandus in the thirteenth century. Here we have the ritual of an ancient form of dedication. There is also quoted a brief but suggestive passage from Sugerius book on the dedication of the Church of St. Denis:
Right early in the morning, archbishops and bishops archdeacons and abbots, and other venerable persons who had lived of their proper expense, bore themselves right bishop fully and took their places on the platform raised for the consecration of the water, and placed between the sepulchers of the holy martyrs and S (the holy) Saviour's altar. Then might ye have seen and they who stood by saw, and that with great devotion, such a band of so venerable bishops, arrayed in their white robes, sparkling in their pontifical robes and precious orfreys, grasp their pastoral staves, call on God in holy exorcism pace around the consecrated enclosure, and perform the nuptials of the Great King with such care that it seemed as though the ceremony were performed by a chorus of angels not a band of men. The crowd, in overwhelming magnitude, rolled around to the door, and while the aforesaid Episcopal band were sprinkling the walls with hyssop, the king and his nobles drive them back, repress them, guard the portals.
Suger, or Sugerius, as the name is often Latinized, was born about 1081 A.D. and died on January 31, 1151. A Frenchman who has been deemed the foremost historian of his time, he was in his tenth year at school in the Priory of St. Denis near Paris. Later he became secretary to the Abbot of St. Denis, and after a sojourn at Rome succeeded to this office. At his death the Abbey possessed considerable property, including a new church of which he had written much, including the above item of interest in regard to the old ceremony of dedication.
According to the learned Selden, there was a distinction among the Jews between consecration and dedication, for sacred things were both consecrated and dedicated, while profane things, such as private dwelling-houses, were only dedicated. Dedication was, therefore, a less sacred ceremony than consecration. This distinction has also been preserved among Christians, many of whom, and, in the early ages, all, consecrated their churches to the worship of God, but dedicated them to, or placed them under, the especial patronage of some particular saint. A similar practice prevails in the Masonic Institution; and therefore, while we consecrate our Lodges "to the honor of God's glory," we dedicate them to the patrons of our Order.
Tradition informs us that Masonic Lodges were originally dedicated to King Solomon, because he was our first Most Excellent Grand Master. In the sixteenth century Saint John the Baptist seems to have been considered as the peculiar patron of Freemasonry; but subsequently this honor was divided between the two Saints John, the Baptist and the Evangelist; and modern Lodges, in the United States at least, are universally erected or consecrated to God, and dedicated to the Holy Saints John. In the Hemming lectures, adopted in 1813, at the time of the union of the two Grand Lodges of England, the dedication was changed from the Saints John to King Solomon, and this usage now prevails very generally in England where Lodges are dedicated to "God and His Service, also to the memory of the Royal Solomon, under chose auspices many of our Masonic mysteries had weir origin"; but the ancient dedication to the Saints John was never abandoned by American Lodges.
The formula in Webb which dedicates the Lodge to the memory of the Holy Saint John," was, undoubtedly, an inadvertence on the part of that lecturer, since in all his oral teachings Brother Mackey asserts he adhered to the more general system, and described a Lodge in his esoteric work as being "dedicated to the Holy Saints John." This is now the universal practice, and the language used by Webb becomes contradictory and absurd when compared with the fact that the festivals of both saints are equally celebrated by the Order, and that the 27th of December is not less a day of observance in the Order than the 24th of June. In one old lecture of the eighteenth century, this dedication to the two Saints John is thus explained:
Q. Our Lodges being finished, furnished, and decorated with ornaments, furniture, and jewels, to whom were they consecrated? A. To God. Q. Thank you, Brother; and can you tell me to whom they were first dedicated? A. To Noah, who was saved in the Ark. Q. And by what name were the Masons then known? A. They were called Noachid, Sasses, or Wise Men. Q. To whom were the Lodges dedicated during the Mosaic Dispensation? A. To Moses! the chosen of God, and Solomon, the an of David, king of Israel, who was an eminent patron of the Craft. Q. And under what name were the Masons known during that period? A. Under the name of Dionysias, Geometricians, or Masters in Israel. Q. But as Solomon was a Jest, and died long before the promulgation of Christianity. to whom were they dedicated under the Christian Dispensation? A. From Solomon the patronage of Masonry passed to Saint John the Baptist. Q. And under what name were they known after the promulgation of Christianity? A. Under the name of Essenes, Archaics, or Freeze masons. Q. Why were the Lodges dedicated to Saint John the Baptists A. Because he was the forerunner of our Savior, and, by preaching repentance and humiliation, drew the first parallel of the Gospel. Q. Had Saint John the Baptist any equal? A. He had; Saint John the Evangelist. Q. Why is he said to be equal to the Baptist? A. Because he finished by his learning what the other began by his zeal, and thus drew a second line parallel to the former- ever since which time Freemasons' Lodges in all Christian countries, have been dedicated to the one or the other, or both, of these worthy and worshipful men. here is another old lecture, adopted into the Prestonian system, which still further developed these reasons for the Johannite dedication, but with bight variations in some of the details. Brother
Mackey quotes it thus: From the building of the first Temple at Jerusalem to the Babylonish captivity, Freemasons' Lodges were dedicated to King Solomon; from thence to the coming of the Messiah, they were dedicated to Zerubbabel, the builder of the second Temple, and from that time to the final destruction of the Temple by Titus, in the reign of Vespasian, they were dedicated to Saint John the Baptist; but owing to the many massacres and disorders which attended that memorable event, Freemasonry sunk very much into decay; many Lodges were entirely broken up, and but few could meet in sufficient numbers to constitute their legality; and at a general meeting of the Craft, held in the city of Benjamin, it was observed that the principal reason for the decline of Masonry was the want of a Grand Master to patronize it. They therefore deputed seven of their most eminent members to wait upon St. John the Evangelist, who was at that time Bishop of Ephesus, requesting him to take the office of Grand Master. He returned for answer, that though well stricken in years, being upwards of ninety, yet having been initiated into Masonry in the early part of his life, he would take upon himself the office. He thereby completed by his learning what the other Saint John effected by his zeal, and thus drew what Freemasons term a sine parallels ever since which time Freemasons Lodges in all Christian countries have been dedicated both to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist.
So runs the tradition, but, as it lacks every claim to authenticity, a more philosophical reason may be assigned for this dedication to the two Saints John.
One of the earliest deviations from the pure religion of the Noachidae was distinguished by the introduction of sun worship. The sun, in the Egyptian mysteries, was symbolized by Osiris, the principal object of their rites, whose name, according to Plutarch and Macrobius, signified the prince and leader, the soul of the universe and the governor of the stars. Macrobius (Saturnalia, Book 1, chapter 18) says that the Egyptians worshiped the sun as the only divinity; and they represented him under various forms, according to the several phases, of his infancy at the winter solstice in December, his adolescence at the vernal equinox in March, his manhood at the summer solstice in June, and his old age at the autumnal equinox in September.
Among the Phoenicians, the sun was adored under the name of Adonis, and in Persia, under that of Mithras. In the Grecian mysteries, the orb of day was represented by one of the officers who superintended the ceremony of initiation; and in the Druidical rites his worship was introduced as the visible representative of the invisible, creative, and preservative principle of nature. In short, wherever the spurious Freemasonry existed, the adoration of, or, at least, a high respect for, the solar orb constituted a part of its system.
In Freemasonry, the sun is still retained as an important symbol. This fact must be familiar to every Freemason of any intelligence. It occupies, indeed, its appropriate position, simply as a symbol, but, nevertheless, it constitutes an essential part of the system. "As an emblem of God's power," says Hutchinson (Spirit of Masonry, Lecture IV, page 86), "His goodness, omnipresence, and eternity, the Lodge is adorned with the image of the sun, which he ordained to arise from the east and open the day; thereby calling forth the people of the earth to their worship and exercise in the walks of virtue."
"The government of a Mason's Lodge," says Oliver (Signs and Symbols of Freemasonry, pages 204), "is vested in three superior officers, who are seated in the East, West, and South, to represent the rising, setting, and meridian sun."
The sun, obedient to the all-seeing eye, is an emblem in the ritual of the Third Degree, and the sun displayed within an extended compass constitutes the jewel of the Past Master in the American system, and that of the Grand Master in the English.
But it is a needless task to cite authorities or multiply instances to prove how intimately the sun, as a symbol, is connected with the whole system of freemasonry.
It is then evident that the sun, either as an object of worship, or of symbolization, has always formed an important part of what has been called the two systems of Freemasonry, the Spurious and the Pure.
To the ancient sun worshipers, the movements of the heavenly bodies must have been something more than mere astronomical phenomena; they were the actions of the deities whom they adored, and hence were invested with the solemnity of a religious character. But, above allay the particular periods when the sun reached his greatest northern and southern declination, at the winter and summer solstices, by entering the zodiacal signs of Cancer and Capricorn, marked as they would be by the most evident effects on the seasons, and on the length of the days and nights, could not have passed unobserved. hut, on the contrary, must have occupied an important place in their ritual Now these important days fall respectively on the 21st of June and the 21st of December.
Hence, these solstitial periods were among the principal festivals observed by the Pagan nations. Du Pauw (Dissertations on Egyptians and Chinese in, page 159) remarks of the Egyptians, that "they had a fixed festival at each new moon; one at the summer, and one at the winter solstice, as well as the vernal and autumnal equinoxes "
The Druids always observed the festivals of midsummer and midwinter in June and December The former for a long time was celebrated by the Christian descendants of the Druids "The eve of Saint John the Baptist," says Chambers (information for the recopies Nose 89), "variously called Midsummer Eve, was formerly a time of high observance amongst the English, as it still is in Catholic countries. Bonfires were everywhere lighted, round which the people danced with joyful demonstrations, occasionally leaping through the flame.'' Godfrey Higgins (Celtic Druids, page 165) thus alludes to the celebration of the festival of midwinter he the ancient world:
The festival of the 25th of December was celebrated, by the Druids in Britain and Ireland, with great fires lighted on the tops of the hills. On the 25th of December, at the first moment of the day, throughout all the ancient world, the birthday of the god Sol was celebrated. This was the moment when, after the supposed winter solstice and the lowest point of his degradation below our hemisphere he began to increase and gradually to ascend. At this moment. in all the ancient religions, his birthday was kept; from India to the Ultima Thule. these ceremonies partook of the same character: everywhere the god was feigned to he born, and his festival was celebrated with great rejoicings.
See, also, Dudley Writrht's Druidism, the Ancient Faith of Britain (page 24). Our ancestors finding that the Church, according to its usage of purifying Pagan festivals by Christian application, had appropriated two days near those solstitial periods to the memory of two eminent saints, incorporated these festivals by the lapse of a few days into the Masonic calendar, and adopted these worthies as patrons of our Order. To this change, the earlier Christian Freemasons were the more persuaded by the peculiar character of these saints. Saint John the Baptist, by announcing the approach of Christ, and by the mystic ablution to which he subjected his proselytes, and which was afterward adopted in the ceremony of initiation into Christianity, might well be considered as the Grand Hierophant of the Church; while the mysterious and emblematic nature of the Apocalypse assimilated the mode of instruction adopted by Saint John the Evangelist to that practiced by the Fraternity.
We are thus led to the conclusion that the connection of the Saints John with the Masonic Institution is rather of a symbolic than of a historical character In dedicating our Lodges to them, we do not so much declare our belief that they were eminent members of the Order, as demonstrate our reverence for the great Architect of the Universe in the symbol of His most splendid creation, the great light of day.
In conclusion it may be observed that the ceremony of dedication is merely the enunciation of a form of words, and this having been done, the Lodge is thus, by the consecration and dedication, set apart as something sacred to the cultivation of the principles of Freemasonry, under that peculiar system which acknowledges the two Saints John as its patrons. Royal Arch Chapters are dedicated to Zerubbabel, Prince or Governor of Judah, and Commanderies of Knights Templar to Saint John the Almoner. Mark Lodges should be dedicated to Hiram the Builder; Past Masters to the Saints John, and Most Excellent Masters to King Solomon.
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