Greetings and salutations, Brethren. It is without doubt that Spring is finally upon us! The Spring season brings with it warmer weather, new life, and new beauty to all that this is around us. It is a time to reflect upon our many blessings, but also to look forward to new beginnings.
Emerging from the pandemic, our Lodge has been more alive than it has been in many previous months. Increased vaccine distribution and relaxing social distancing restrictions has allowed us to gather in greater frequency and in greater numbers. While we still need to be vigilant to remain safe, it is my hope to see more and more of my brothers in lodge in the near future. Above all, however, it is my sincere hope that you and your families continue to be safe and well.
As our Lodge and the country continue to emerge from the pandemic, my thoughts are fixed firmly on our future, and with it, the continued initiation of good men into our fraternity. For countless generations, a primary focus of Freemasonry has been “Making good men better.” Our goal is not to rehabilitate or make a “bad” man “good”. We actually have strict procedures in place to prevent the initiation of or removing dis- reputable men from Masonry. The basic constituent elements composing a “good” human being must already be present before we consider a man for our Craft.
On display in every Masonic Lodge room there is the Rough Ashlar and the Perfect Ashlar. These two stones and the Trestle Board constitute our Movable Jewels. In Freemasonry, the ashlar has been adopted in its two states as a symbol in the first degree. The Rough Ashlar is the stone as cut and taken from the quarry in its unfin- ished state. As such, it reminds the Mason of his rude and imperfect state by nature. Through the development of his intellectual self through education, he strives to move from this imperfect state to a more perfect state. This state is represented by the Perfect Ashlar, which has been smoothed, squared, and fitted for the builders use.
When master artist Michelangelo was asked how he created such beautiful sculp- tures, his response was simple: The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.
Much is the same of the role of the Master Mason within a masonic lodge, except the labors to perfect not only himself as a living embodiment of the Perfect Ashlar, but to also aid and assist his brethren in their pursuit of the same. It is a continuous and gentle labor, as the Perfect Ashlar cannot made overnight. Upon initiation, the Mason is exposed to many lessons and symbols to expand his intellect and encourage his personal development. These lessons and symbols represent a wholesome influence to assist him in strengthening his moral and spiritual self. As Masons, we must constantly strive to perfect that which is good and noble in our lives so we become closer to the Perfect Ashlar.
While masonic education focuses on the transformation of the Rough Ashlar into the Perfect Ashlar, little emphasis is focused on the Rough Ashlar itself. The Rough Ashlar was not a stone that was merely picked up somewhere; it was selected. It was a stone that demonstrated all of the necessary qualities within and capable of being made into a Perfect Ashlar. Had it not been a good stone, it would have never been selected out of the quarry. The same is true with a prospective member. He cannot merely be picked up somewhere, but must be carefully select- ed. He must be of good material and show good prospects of being made into a good Mason. Freemasonry can and does improve good material, but it cannot make bad material good. If he had not been a good man, he should have never been proposed for membership.
It is also important to recognize that, much like master sculptor Michelangelo, in changing the Rough Ashlar to the Perfect Ashlar, the Mason takes away but never adds to. As he chips away, he cuts away rough edges and removes visible flaws, but only exposes what was already there. With a hand guided by skill and knowl- edge, he carefully labors to expose the Perfect Ashlar which was always within.
Where are you in your labors in crafting yourself in the image of a more Perfect Ashlar? With the pause in many routine activities granted by the pandemic over the past year, now is a good time to evaluate where you are in your labors and to craft the next few chips to your stone. It is also a good time to evaluate the other stones within the quarry. Do you see any Rough Ashlars made of good material, with good prospects of being made into a good Mason? If so, talk to them about your Lodge and its importance to you. Perhaps invite them to one of our upcoming events and introduce them to the Brethren.
May we as Masons continually strive to live our lives in such a way that we progress towards that state represented by the Perfect Ashlar, that our fellow Masons see the virtues embodied in our lives, and that society sees our works f great good and deem them worthy of emulation. Until next month, may God Bless you and your families and keep everyone safe!!! I sincerely hope to see you in Lodge.
Sincerely and Fraternally,
Brian Moor, Trenton Cyrus #5 WM
It seems as if every communication we have had lately involved a ballot. I started to think… Where did it originate? Why do we elect by ballot? Why black and white?
Black and white are extreme opposites. They are not considered colors; One is referred to as light, the other absence of light. Some artists may consider them shades, but they present the most perfect symbols of complete opposites. Also, they represent day and night, since the beginning of man's knowledge, black has been associated with night, while white has been the symbol of the day.
Also, in Masonry, and other schools of education, darkness has been the symbol of ignorance, while light has been the symbol of knowledge. These are also two exact opposites. A man may be color-blind to the different colors in the spectrum, but no man is so blind to color that he cannot tell the difference between black and white unless he is totally blind.
The ballot is made up of black and white balls, because from the beginning of man up into the period known as the dark ages and even later, the great majority of men could neither read nor write. This was a common fact even among the nobility; even kings had their scribes for the purposes of writing their letters and dispatches. Therefore, it is only natural that a ballot of any secret nature could only be held by the simple process of a black and white pebble or stone, as the casting of a yes or no vote, as direct opposites there could be no question in counting the ballots. Also, a small pebble could be held out of site in the hand until deposited in a common bowl.
Why do we have a secret ballot? The ballot on a petition should always be strictly secret and inviolable and should be so spread that no one present will know how any other Brother has voted. In casting your ballot as a Freemason, it is every member’s duty to pay particular attention to the reading of the report from the investigation committee on a particular candidate. This committee is charged by the Worshipful Master to investigate the motives of the petitioner for wanting to join Freemasonry and determine whether he is a man freeborn, of lawful age and well recommended.
The Investigating Committee is the preparatory work of the ballot. If you are charged by the Master to investigate a petitioner, be as thorough as you possibly can. Do not be hesitant to ask him or his family personal question within reason.
There are some anti-masons out there or some that are not worthy of such an honored title. A Mason therefore may have cause to reject by casting a black ball, whether that be a relative, his own employer, his own minister, or even a local judge, if he knows them to manifest good reason not to be accepted as a member. There are many reasons why a ballot must be secret, but above all is a Mason's livelihood and peace of mind may be at stake if his ballot were to be discovered.
The ballot on a petition for initiation, or for affiliation, can be taken only at a stated communication, and if the ballot shall contain only one black cube, the petitioner shall be rejected. If this happens the rejected candidate may present a new petition after a period of six months.
Only members present of the lodge must vote. No one can be excused, ask to be excused or state any reason for voting or not voting. The Tyler, while attending to his duties, is not present in the sense that he must vote, but he shall be accorded the opportunity to do so.
Many years ago, in the early days of the Colonies, and even in England, the lighting in the Lodge was extremely poor. Candlelight was the best that the lodge could offer. To see into the ballot box was almost impossible for the elder members and even the younger men had a hard time trying to distinguish between a black ball and a very dirty white one. A member drawing forth a ball from the box to get a closer look at the color disclosed many a ballot. In desperation, measures had to be taken, so it was decided to cut square cubes and paint them black.
Until next month, take care, God Bless and be safe!!!
Sincerely and Fraternally,
Trenton Cyrus #5 WM
Over the past months, with the permission and support of our Grand Master Gregory J. Scott, the NJ Grand Lodge has endorsed starting aNJ Masonic Emergency Response Team Program (MERT). Brother Bill Stevenson is coordinating the effort with RW Michael Holt, our Grand Orator. They have been working with the New Jersey Department of Human Services the New Jersey State Police on this initiative.
Our Masonic Brothers throughout New Jersey continue to support the response to COVID-19! Through your work in in the Food Banks, Blood Donation Centers, Testing Sites, making PPE and the many other projects and programs, you have all tremendously participated in is supporting our brothers, widows, OES Sisters, friends and neighbors in New Jersey!
We are in the core of this year’s hurricane season. NJDHSOEM is working to update plans, equipment and supplies to manage sheltering and feeding operations in the event any mass care operations are needed in this current COVID environment.
Brother Stevenson has asked every DDGM to select a brother in each district who would be willing to be the District MERT Coordinator. They would have the authority to contact the Worshipful Master of each district lodge who could then recruit lodge brethren to be part of MERT for your District.
RWDDGM Hartel Sr. has asked me to be the 15th District’s MERT Coordinator. There will be an email coming out with the MERT Mission and how you can help.
Lastly, don’t forget to support the Hopewell Valley Mobile Food Pantry as a lodge to help those who are in need. Visit the below website for more information.
Until next month….
God Bless and Be Well,
TC5 Worshipful Master
Brethren, as I continue to learn our ritual, I am reminded of the time when my fifth-grade teacher had the entire class memorize the first two lines of the Declaration of Independence. In middle school, my history teacher had us watch the film version of the Broadway musical comedy “1776”. If you haven’t seen it, I must say it was quite entertaining. It was produced in 1972 and directed by Peter H. Hunt.
The setting takes place in the days leading up to July 4, 1776, Continental Congressmen John Adams and Benjamin Franklin coerce Thomas Jefferson into writing the Declaration of Independence as a delaying tactic as they try to persuade the American colonies to support a resolution on independence. As George Washington sends depressing messages describing one military disaster after another, the businessmen, landowners and slave holders in Congress all stand in the way of the Declaration, and a single "nay" vote will forever end the question of independence. Large portions of spoken and sung dialog are taken directly from the letters and memoirs of the actual participants.
My favorite character in this musical was Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Franklin was an inventor, writer, scientist, Freemason, and founding father of the United States of America.
Most individuals recognize Benjamin Franklin as one the United States’ most influential Founding Fathers, however, many do not realize that he was also a Freemason. In 1730, he joined the Masonic Lodge of St. John in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By 1734, his hard work and dedication led him to the highest rank within his organization: Grand Master. That year, Franklin also published the first Masonic book printed in America, The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, which was produced in Philadelphia. Devoted to Freemasonry, Franklin remained an active member for over sixty years until his death in 1790 at the age of 84.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin was the fifteenth of seventeen children. He attended the Boston Latin School until he decided to pursue a career as a journalist. Ending his formal education, he went to work as an apprentice printer for his brother, James Franklin: the creator of the first independent newspaper in the American colonies. At the age of twenty-four, Benjamin was hired by the Pennsylvania Gazette, where he was able to both publish and write editorials for the local community. One of Benjamin’s defining characteristics was his seemingly insatiable desire for knowledge. He was driven by a love of learning that ultimately led him to become one of the best writers, statesmen, and scientists of his day. In 1776, he was sent to Paris to serve as America’s diplomat to France. In France, he joined and became the Master of the Nine Sisters Lodge in Paris.
Brother Franklin held deep respect for the institution of Freemasonry. He explained his trust of Freemasons to his skeptical mother in a letter: “I assured her that they are in general a very harmless sort of people and have no principles or practices that are inconsistent with religion and good manners.” He respected his Brothers for their peaceful ways, strong morals, and dedication to self-betterment. Benjamin Franklin also possessed a strong faith in God, “the Great Father,” and worked towards a universal Brotherhood of all mankind.
In closing, as Freemasons, much has been given to us, and much will be expected of us. As Guardians of the Light revealed to us, we must strive to enlighten the hearts and minds of all those we encounter in the daily round –at home, in the neighborhood, in the workplace, and in the community –not by words, but by deeds –conscious acts of thoughtfulness and kindness. Our high calling as men and as Masons is to leave our world just a little better than when we found it.
Until next month, take care, God Bless and be safe!!!
Sincerely and Fraternally,
Trenton Cyrus #5 WM
FROM THE EAST
Masonic Jewelry is worn by members of the craft to exemplify the feelings of universal brotherhood which Freemasonry both teaches and embraces across the world. Many new members of the fraternity see other brothers wearing Masonic jewelry such as Masonic recognition pins, Masonic rings, Masonic cufflinks, a Masonic pocket watch and other variations of Freemason jewelry and wonder what the different Masonic symbols on it, mean.
There is no requirement to wear Freemason jewelry within the craft. As an unwritten rule, each brother chooses and purchases his own according to his own taste and his budget. Some lodges, however, do order custom lapel pins with their lodge name and number on them for their members. The reason Freemasons wear Masonic craft-related jewelry is because they not only enjoy the camaraderie of being part of the fraternity, but are proud of its long history, honorable reputation and charitable causes.
Within Blue Lodge Freemasonry, there are 3 degrees, Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason. Once a man becomes a Master Mason, he may choose to purchase a Master Mason ring from a reputable jeweler. In our lodge, I am sure RW Vecere Sr. and Brother Vecere Jr. can help you out if you are looking for one.
Craft lodge jewelry often displays the square and compasses symbol, however Masonic lapel pins display a vast array of Masonic symbols, such as the Masonic trowel, Euclid's 47th Proposition pin, officer pins with their officer jewels upon them, the Masonic apron and many, many others.
Most (not all) Past Masters wear Past Master pins, and/or Past Master rings signifying their having held the rank of Worshipful Master of their lodge. Past Master jewelry is always in high demand.
Each appendant body within Freemasonry has their own symbolic jewelry representing their specific affiliation. After becoming a Master Mason, some Freemasons choose to join the Scottish Rite, one of the appendant bodies. After passing the 32nd degree of the Scottish Rite, (Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry), members typically wear Scottish Rite rings which display the double-headed eagle and/or Yod.
Others choose to join the York Rite, another of the appendant bodies. Upon becoming a Knights Templar, members may wear Knights Templar rings. In some countries, Knights Templar is part of the York Rite. In others, it is a separate order which stands on its own.
Members of the Order of DeMolay: A Masonic youth group for boys between the ages of 12 and 21, which was founded in 1919 in Kansas City, Missouri by Frank S. Land, a Freemason. Members of DeMolay wear DeMolay pins and other DeMolay jewelry.
Rainbow Girls: The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, founded in 1922 as a Masonic youth group for girls between the ages of 11 and 21, wear Rainbow Girls pins, pendants and earrings.
Eastern Star: The Order of the Eastern Star, O.E.S., was created by Dr. Rob Morris, a Boston lawyer, in 1850. In 1866, Dr. Morris turned the work over to Robert Macoy, who went on to establish its chapters and ritual. Eastern Star members are both men and women who have a Master Mason within their immediate family. They wear Eastern Star jewelry such as earrings, pendants and Eastern Star rings or lapel or breast pins representing the title they have attained (past or present) within the O.E.S. organization.
Shrine Jewelry: The Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, commonly called Shriners, was established in 1870 in the United States by Dr. Walter M. Fleming, M.D. and William J. Florence. Shriners wear fez pins, Shriner rings and Shrine pins.
Since in most jurisdictions it is a requirement of membership within Shrine that the man first be a Master Mason, it is also quite common to see a Shriner with a Shrine ring on one hand and his Master Mason ring on the other.
There are many more appendant bodies within Freemasonry than are discussed here. Each have their own symbolic emblems upon their Masonic jewelry and members choose to proudly wear them. Until next month, take care, God Bless and be safe!!!
Sincerely and Fraternally,
Trenton Cyrus #5 WM