Wednesday, November 19, 2008

‘From Commandery to Consistory’


When the planets align just so, it is possible to have a York Rite Commandery and a Scottish Rite Consistory meet on consecutive evenings. Or maybe it’s just coincidence. Either way, that’s how it worked out this week. Trinity Commandery, No. 17 met in Conclave on Monday, followed by New Jersey Consistory last night.

The occasion at Trinity was especially memorable for many reasons. We were treated to the visit of M.E. William H. Koon, II, Grand Master of the Grand Encampment of the United States. He’s an Honorary Member of our Commandery, so it’s tempting to think of him as just Billy, an informality he does not discourage at all.

The purpose of the evening was to confer the Order of the Temple upon 15 Knights of Malta, and Billy presided over the ritual conferral, leading Trinity’s officers through the ceremony. This cannot be taken for granted because of the excellent quality of the ritual work refined over many years at Trinity. The Knights certainly have “their way” of doing things. (A grand officer once admiringly dubbed Trinity the “Cecil B. DeMille Commandery” for the ceremonial flourishes that make its ritual work unique in New Jersey, unique for its effective esoteric transmission.) Anyway, the Grand Master and Trinity’s Knights had no opportunity to rehearse, but complemented each other’s efforts magnificently nonetheless.

Another reason that circumstance is notable is for the singularity of having anyone else confer the Order. The Order of the Temple at Trinity was conferred for 43 years by Thurman C. Pace, Jr., Honorary Past Grand Master, but he gladly stepped aside for this memorable occasion.

The sizable class included many friends: Hansel from Sons of Liberty, Geoffrey from Essex Lodge, Gordie from Scott Chapter, and others. I’m glad they were able to advance to this key Masonic experience. The Order of the Temple, in the hands of a Commandery that knows its business, makes for an unforgettable and inspiring experience.

The Order was followed by a round of awards presentations. It’s great to see friends recognized for the hard work they put into their Freemasonry. Honestly, “hard work” is an understatement in some instances.

Rob M., a recent Past Commander of Trinity, who also is a veritable mainstay of many York Rite organizations and those organizations’ events near and far, was duly recognized with the Templar’s highest honor: the Knight Commander of the Temple. Here he is being invested with the jewel by Thurman.

Similarly recognized was Mike Lakat, Grand Commander of New Jersey. Despite serving on his staff as editor of our monthly magazine, I actually do not know Mike very well, but it is obvious to anyone that he exudes class, professionalism and fraternal friendliness. He is precisely what Masonry would want in its leaders. These top awards were given very correctly. Our fraternity too often heaps titles and jewels on those who do not necessarily earn them. Sometimes it is a kind of momentum, like a snowballing effect, where rank is bestowed upon one because he already has so many others. In these instances, merit clearly won the day.

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The Scottish Rite’s equivalent of the YR’s Commandery is its Consistory, which “consists” of 32° Masons. The 32° itself is titled “Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret,” and the meeting of New Jersey Consistory on Tuesday was devoted to a discussion of what that secret is, decoding the symbols and ritual that impart it.

The degree has changed over the generations, so what a Google search can yield might not reveal the current form of the degree. Our lecturer did his best to explain various ritual elements for the benefit of all present, especially those who had just received this degree on Saturday.

Most importantly the term “secret” should not be understood as something to be hidden from the world, but rather as synonymously with “mystery,” because it is something intangible that we ought to seek in every aspect of life, not just in ritual contexts.

The trestleboard of this degree, nicknamed “The Camp,” is pregnant with symbols, as it is the accumulation of the symbolism of the entire corpus of AASR degrees. The significance of Frederick the Great, the history of the Rite of Perfection, and other subheadings were covered.

The presentation concluded with a revealing look at what the 33° used to be. Not to be confused with the modern 33°, which was written about 50 years ago to impart a variety of Masonic ideals, this original 33° was intended to continue the Templar lessons of the 30th, 31st and 32nd degrees of Scottish Rite Masonry circa 1804. I’ll have to leave you in suspense on that one.

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