Monday, May 31, 2010

‘Freedom is a Light’


Facing Independence Hall is George Washington, standing in one of only five public squares planned
in William Penn’s 1682 survey of Philadelphia.
“Freedom is a Light for which many men have died in darkness” is the main inscription
on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington Square Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Freemasonry in the United States is so interwoven with American history and patriotism that it baffles and even offends Masons from other countries. Lodges in America typically append to their opening ritual a salute to the U.S. flag, and while the salute is not truly part of the ritual, its proximity to the ritual’s conclusion creates the appearance of a seamless continuity. I suspect most Masons in America do not realize the salute is not part of the ceremony.

Few, if any, of us give it any thought, but Masons from other nations notice it. British brethren, if asked, happily would point out that their lodges are closed before, for instance, the queen is toasted at the festive board.

I’ll always remember one conversation over drinks very late one night during a recent Masonic Week, when this very subject was brought up. Was it not chauvinist or even jingoist to incorporate such flag waving into a Masonic ritual? It was Bro. Piers to the rescue, explaining that it is in fact the personal liberty represented by the flag that allows Masons to meet in their lodges, ergo a logical fit. (I paraphrase.)

“If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.”

          General Order No. 11, which established Decoration Day
          Gen. John Logan
          May 5, 1868

As we say in one of the Rose Croix rituals:

“So may the Light that never fails, the Love that never forgets, and the Life that never ends, illumine our world.”


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