My Brethren and Friends…
I welcome you to my favorite time of year, —a chill, a bite is in its ‘air’—a time when ‘true change’ is unnegotiable—imminent, change that has the power to truly transform who we are as human beings—as Masons! Autumn has come to northern Virginia, and I love it! … and, for our Gentle Craft, a season for reflection and transformation!
The month of carnival of all the year,
When Nature lets the wild earth go its way,
And spend whole seasons on a single day.
The spring-time holds her white and purple dear;
October, lavish, flaunts them far and near;
The summer charily her reds doth lay
Like jewels on her costliest array;
October, scornful, burns them on a bier.
The winter hoards his pearls of frost in sign
Of kingdom: whiter pearls than winter knew,
Oar empress wore, in Egypt’s ancient line,
October, feasting ‘neath her dome of blue,
Drinks at a single draught, slow filtered through
Sunshiny air, as in a tingling wine!
A sonnet by Helen Hunt Jackson(1830-1885)
—Helen Hunt Jackson was an accomplished American poet, author, and activist in the 19th century. Many of her works, including A Century of Dishonor (1881) spurred progress toward recompense for the mistreatment of the Native American peoples…
With the autumnal equinox, day and night are of equal length, signaling the need to balance light and darkness within us. In our Masonic teachings, light and dark pervades most, if not all of our Ritual. Far too often, we inherently fear the dark and adore only the light. This need not be so! Buddhist Gary Thorp in Caught in Fading Light tells a wonderful teaching story about accepting all situations where we are left in the dark without answers:
“Once, when the Zen master Tokusan was still a student, he visited his teacher, Ryutan, just before sundown. They sat on the floor of Ryutan’s hut, casually drinking tea and discussing Zen until deep into the night. At last, Ryutan said, ‘Maybe it’s about time you went home.’ Tokusan bowed to his teacher and walked to the door. ‘It’s completely dark outside,’ he said. Ryutan lit the lantern and said, ‘Why not take this?’ Just as Tokusan was about to take the lamp from his teacher’s hands, Ryutan blew out the flame. Tokusan suddenly knew everything there was to know.”
Understandably, “oftentimes there is no remedy for our situation other than to begin from a point of absolute darkness. Turning off a television set and extinguishing a lantern have certain similarities; they are both abrupt and transition-making, and can leave us in a different world. In darkness, we are always on our own.”
As we observe leaves fluttering to the ground in autumn, we are reminded that all of nature’s cycles are mirrored in the changes of our own lives, for better or worse. Autumn is a time for letting go and releasing things that have been burdensome, troubling, and tending, in effect, to fester and foster deleterious daily transactions(“I’ll call these DDTs”). “Generosity (a form of Charity) has great power because it is characterized by the inner quality of letting go; relinquishing. Being able to let go, to give up, to renounce, to give generously — these capacities evolve from the same source within us. When we practice generosity, a.k.a., “Charity”…, we open to all of these liberating qualities simultaneously…they burst forth. They carry us to a profound knowledge of freedom…liberation. Autumn, then, is the ideal season to give generously of your time and talents, your energy, to avoid “DDT’s”….and give to others.
Rabbi Harold Kushner, best known for penning When Bad Things Happen to Good People, an international bestseller first published in 1981, writes: when we contemplate fall’s changes, we grow more appreciative of all the beauties that surround us:
He adds: “The poet Wallace Stevens once wrote, ‘Death is the mother of beauty.’ What those words say to me is that we cherish the beauty of a sunrise, of a New England autumn, of a relationship, of a child’s hug, precisely because those things will not be around forever and neither will we be around to enjoy them.”
A Tibetan monk once explained:
They used to set their teacups upside down before they went to bed each night as a reminder that all life was impermanent. And then, when they awoke each morning, they turned their teacups right side up again with the happy thought, ‘I’m still here!’ This simple gesture was a wonderful admonition to celebrate every moment of the day.”
My Brethren and Friends, life is indeed cyclic in nature, BUT, Freemasonry was never meant to become a stagnant, fossilized body, resistant to change, immune to different interpretations…immutable…. To each generation, it will reveal new and wondrous entities and experiences, and, like NATURE HERSELF, will continue to reveal and illuminate her beauty to the “candid and industrious enquirer”. The “Founding Fathers of our great Fraternity have been telling us for generations, from time-immemorial—that each generation must go and search out the Light of Masonry for itself. Make a daily difference in the lives of others, regardless of the season!
Go out and BE those enquirers and search out the hidden Mysteries of this most-amazing Institution. Please never, NEVER stop exploring the “Hidden Mysteries of Freemasonry”. Ask questions! The knowledge and wisdom of the Fraternity is still there; it is only waiting to be re-discovered, like the changing seasons, to be re-interpreted and applied for the Modern Age and beyond.
Fiat Lux, “Let There Be Light!”
Our upcoming Stated to be held on Monday, the 17th, will be designated thematically as Warden’s Night!
On this special evening we give the opportunity for our Line Officers to “step up” to the next Station or Place in the Progressive Line, hence, a dress-rehearsal for the Office they will hold NEXT year. Fall is an ideal time to prepare for a Brother’s possible ascension to the next chair—it being a mere two months before he is in that Station or Place for the next year! As mentioned in 1723 , Anderson’s Constitutions of Masonry(Bro. Ben Franklin published a ‘newer version’, 11 years later, in 1734, marking the FIRST BOOK PUBLISHED in America!), containing the Masonic history, charges, regulations, and more. Progressive office, or Progressive Line, refers to a series of Offices within the Lodge, culminating in the Office of Worshipful Master. Ideally, a Mason begins at the most “junior” Office and “progresses” to the next in line each year. The exact composition of the Progressive Officers varies slightly by jurisdiction, but will usually terminate with the series: Junior Deacon, Senior Deacon, Junior Warden, Senior Warden, Worshipful Master. There are indeed other Offices, some Elected, some Appointed, including the Secretary, Treasurer, Stewards, Marshal, Tyler, Musician, Chaplain, etc. I feel strongly that Lodges must allow their Officers to ‘practice’ and ‘rehearse’ ALL of the Stations and Places for many reasons; first and foremost, it makes for a much, much stronger Lodge when many parts are learned, and the lessons inculcated and applied!
So, PLEASE JOIN us on the 17th for the aforementioned JAL No. 350’s Warden’s Night, commencing at 6:00pm, with “Food and Fellowshipping.” I will be giving our amazing Steward a well-deserved break and am preparing my Venison Stew as the “main course”, with cornbread and dessert. The Gavel Strike is at 7:00pm.
I will be putting in my nomination for the Perfect Ashlar Award for JAL at the October Stated!
My Brethren and Friends…