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Fred and Charlie strolled home after ‘Chapter’ reflecting on an enjoyable evening.
Fred broke the silence. ‘That was a rather memorable meeting I thought.’.
Charlie chuckled. ‘I’m sure the rubric says the censor had to be swung, not lobbed…’
Fred responded unusually sharply. ‘They had been told the chain was faulty….but I had in mind the splendid way all three Sojourners shared the work. Great stuff. By the way how did you get on persuading Tom to join the Royal Arch?’
Charlie hesitated. ‘Not well I’m afraid. The words ‘Holy’ Royal Arch worried him. He doesn’t want to come into a religious degree and he says if it’s really another part of the Third and the Hiram Abiff story who on earth is this new chap Zerubbabel he’s seen mentioned on the web? Tom feels a bit confused and thinks it may all be a step too far for him’
‘Happens too often, Charlie. Despite the Pro Grand Master’s recommendations time and again to join Chapter new Master Masons are pressured into joining another ‘Degree’ far too soon after Raising simply because it is ‘friendly and fun’. They all are! The Royal Arch is often brushed aside by the recruiting sergeants as being just for the religious minded. Absolute nonsense of course.
‘Craft Freemasonry including Chapter is not religious. Can’t be. All elements of any religion were deliberately removed between 1717 and 1813. Indeed there are no more prayers to God in the Royal Arch than there are in the First Degree – or most others for that matter. All Speculative Freemasons believe in a Supreme Being as a first condition of membership so a prayer to God in obligation is to be expected.
‘But back to the need for the Royal Arch. All men have a conscience, a sense of right and wrong. We say it’s God given. The Third Degree ‘Tools’ say the same thing in C17 language: ‘having laid down for our instruction the limits of good and evil (He) will reward or punish as we have obeyed or disregarded his Divine commands.’ In their abbreviated Third Degree the Moderns flatly ignored saying where these commands could be found. The Antients restored to their Third Degree the ‘what’, the ‘whose ‘ and the ‘where’ for these commands. In the argy-bargy of combining the Moderns and the Antients and accompanying Oder was formed which we now call the Holy Royal Arch. Craft Freemasonry’s not complete without it, can’t be.
‘I’ve covered much of that, said Charlie reflectively, ‘but how do I explain Zerubbabel?
‘Can’t talk and walk… said Fred, puffing slightly, ‘- …sadly not yet that multi-skilled! Let’s grab the bench there.
Fred composed his thoughts. ‘Freemasonry started in London, in a C18 Christian country. If the Founders wanted to talk about those divine commands, Charlie, then they had to make them relevant to the average Freemason here..
The Temple at Jerusalem used as a backdrop to our three Degrees was built by Solomon, a Jewish king principally for God’s Chosen People, the Tribe of Judah. All twelve tribes slowly became disobedient and worshipped other gods. Jehovah’s vengeance was dramatic and his Covenant with the Tribes severed. All the northern tribes (Israel) were vanquished by the Assyrians in 722 BC and deported, never to return. The southern tribes (Judea) of Judah and Benjamin were to suffer a similar fate through Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. However they were shown some mercy.
As foretold by the prophets (Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah) God’s love for his Creation across the world was to be recognised by rebuilding Jerusalem’s Temple as a token of his commitment. He was to be worshipped globally, not in a temple but in every man’s heart. The builder chosen was to be Judah’s ruler, Zerubbabel. The ruler chosen to initiate this global plan was surprisingly not a Jew but an alien and non-Jewish king, Cyrus.
Thus it was Cyrus who ensured that the Jerusalem temple would become rebuilt by Zerubbabel as a focus for all people, all religions and all races – which of course came to include English Freemasons of the C21. That is why Zerubbabel is on our Chapter throne. That is why it is the rebuilding of the Temple by Zerubbabel that completes our third Degree and not its initial building by Hiram and Solomon.
There was a long silence. Charlie eventually spoke. ‘The Masonic system of morality is really veiled in this allegory about Zerubbabel, isn’t it? Disobedience, reconciliation and forgiveness through the kindly hands of a stranger. Sounds rather like Brotherly Love.
Fred said merely ‘Aye, Charlie. Tom’s Masonic journey can only be fulfilled within the Royal Arch. It’s as logical, and it’s as simple, as that.