Monday, September 1, 2014

‘The Masonic Feast of Feasts in NYC’


In traditional Scottish Rite Freemasonry, which adheres to the Jewish calendar, there is a celebration called the Feast of Tishri hosted in a Lodge of Perfection. Inspired by the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot (see Deuteronomy), a harvest thanksgiving, this fraternal Feast of Tishri is, in the words of Ill. Arturo de Hoyos, “the Masonic feast of feasts.”

In The Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor and Guide, de Hoyos writes:

“The origins and significances of the Feast of Tishri make it the most Scottish Rite of festivals. Although originally celebrated as a harvest and gathering festival, no other occasion epitomizes the character and purpose of the Rite more wholly than our historic celebration, held in conjunction with the dedication of King Solomon’s Temple (2 Chronicles 7:8-10). To marshal the meanings of the feast is to summarize the principal ideals and traditions of our Fraternity.

“First of all, we observe the Feast of Tishri because it is an age-old custom that now has the power of law. Under the Statutes of the Supreme Council, the feast is considered an obligatory observance, a sharing of our fraternal spirit.

“Secondly, the rich legendry of the Temple’s dedication, held in connection with the Feast of Tishri, is an essential part of the Fourteenth Degree. The symbolic details of the Temple’s position, design, construction, furnishing, and decoration carry special meaning as they apply to the metaphorical temple of Freemasonry built in the heart of every Brother. Through the symbols of the Temple, we learn to recommit ourselves to building Freemasonry in the hearts of men” and among nations….

“The consecration of the Temple must also be observed at the Feast of Tishri because it teaches the equality and unity of all members of the Rite. The people of Israel, unified under Solomon, were equal in their devotion to the Lord and equal in their sovereignty to all other nations. In the Feast of Tishri, all Perfect Elus and those of higher Degrees can join at the banquet table and share the bond of fraternal unity.

“Yet another reason to keep the Feast of Tishri is that such observance fosters the spirit of fellowship. We meet at a common table, express our mutual esteem, and so promote that essential bond of cordiality and respect which lightens and shares the weight of our Masonic endeavors. Such social amenities open us to each other in an atmosphere elevated beyond the sphere of normal, day-to-day communication. Within the context of the Feast of Tishri, we realize more deeply than ever before the value of our fellow men, without which the individual is lost in a self-imposed prison of human isolation.

“Finally, the law, legendry, peace, equality, unity, and fellowship of the Feast of Tishri combine to make this the Masonic feast of feasts. At the reflection table, all men—Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and others—join in a common voice of thanksgiving where every man can share his gratitude and express his sincere thanks to Him Who made all things. The Deity has given us life, the strength to live it fully, and the joy of sharing the beauty and goodness of His creation with our fellow men. Most of all, He has given us freedom. The Feast of Tishri celebrates this freedom the Israelites won with the guidance of Providence, despite the shackles of Egypt and the armies of the Philistines.

“This ancient victory celebrated in the dedication of Solomon’s Temple is kept forever fresh through our keeping of the Feast of Tishri. It promises to all men that the burdens of tyranny are temporary, that the darkness will yield to light, that knowledge will conquer ignorance, and that the Creator intended all men to be free. The message of Tishri comes to us strongly and clearly from across the ages because it has been so preserved in the symbolism and allegory of the Scottish Rite. Through our observance of this great feast of thanksgiving, we, as heirs of Solomon, perpetuate his magnificent Temple of freedom in our lives, our communities, our country and, most of all, in our beloved Rite.”

The Feast of Tishri is among the constitutional celebrations of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite-Southern Jurisdiction, and is unknown in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (where the Feast of the Paschal Lamb is hosted in proximity to Passover and Easter), but the brethren in New York City will host their Feast of Tishri nonetheless on the eve of Sukkot. The Scottish Rite Valley of New York City meets at Masonic Hall, located at 71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan.

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