Sunday, April 08, 2007

Defining Freemasonry - Part Two - Royal Arch Chapter

In the second article in my ‘Defining Freemasonry’ series I will focus on the Royal Arch Chapter (Chapter). This ‘degree’ is the natural progression from Craft Masonry and the next step on the ladder for any Brother wishing to take his Freemasonry that bit further.

I am a member of two ‘Chapters’ and currently hold the position of Second Principal in one of them. Chapter meets around four times a year in comparison to the ‘Craft’ Lodge that meets around ten times a year.

When a Freemason has attained the rank of a Master Mason he is then entitled, after a period of one month, to be exalted into a Chapter in order to complete fully his Master Mason’s Degree. He is then in the Chapter, referred to as a Companion. Working your way up the positions you will take position as one of the Three Principles, thereafter you will be known as Excellent Companion.

Chapters meet independently to Lodges and in most cases one in three Masons are also Royal Arch Companions. A Chapter is normally attached to a Lodge. In The U.S. ‘Royal Arch Chapter’ is part of a collective known as ‘York Rite’.

The regalia is different to a Craft Lodge. It consists of an Apron with red and blue surround, a red and blue sash and a special ‘Jewel’ which Royal Arch Masons should also wear in their Craft Lodges in order to show the bond that exists between Craft and Chapter.

As in all Masonic degrees the ritual of the Royal Arch is an allegory. It helps to focus the minds of the Companions, without conflicting with their religious beliefs, to a contemplation of the nature of, and their relationship with their God which will be appropriate to their own religion.

A Chapter has a number of officers with particular titles but most important are the three Principals who collectively rule the Chapter for one year. Each year there is an Installation meeting for the new team of officers

On a national level, the Supreme Grand Chapter controls the affairs of the Royal Arch and officers are appointed at an Annual meeting. HRH The Duke of Kent is the First Grand Principal.

The Royal Arch Degree is the climax of Ancient Craft Masonry and Masonic Symbolism. It is described as "the root and marrow of Freemasonry." It is the complete story of Jewish History during some of its darkest hours. Jerusalem and the Holy temple are destroyed, the people are being held captive as slaves in Babylon.

Here you will join with some slaves as they are set free to return home and engage in the noble and glorious work of rebuilding the city and the Temple of God. It is during this rebuilding that they make a discovery that brings to light the greatest treasure of a Mason - the long lost Master's Word.

Many historians have traced the earliest origins of the Royal Arch Degree to Ireland, late in the 17th century and in England in 1738. In 1752, ambulatory or military warrants for Lodges were introduced. This was instrumental in placing the Royal Arch Degree on a par with the Master Mason Degree.

Military lodges were greatly responsible for planting Freemasonry in the Colonies and also gave birth to the use of the Mark and Royal Arch degrees in the "New World." Lodge records show that the Royal Arch Degree was conferred at Fredericksburg No. 4 on December 12, 1753. George Washington was raised in this lodge a few months prior to this date. The value of Royal Arch Masonry will be appreciated by all who are exalted to that most sublime degree, particularly by those who are seeking to complete their Masonic education. It reveals the full light of Ancient Craft Masonry, presents it as a complete system in accordance with the original plan and justly entitles you to claim the noble name of Master Mason.

Take care,

E. Comp. Damian

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