Copied from CT Freemason April 2018.
We have a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons that meets in West Haven. Please consider joining Joseph Andrews Chapter #46 R.A.M.
As I have traveled around to various Masonic meetings and events, I am often struck by the lack of knowledge of the Royal Arch Degree and the York Rite by extension. As Most Excellent Grand High Priest for our state, my message has been and is one of education and understanding for both brothers and companions (as Chapter members are called). I write this column to clear up some misunderstandings and provide some answers as to the place of the Royal Arch degree and Chapter in our fraternity and answer questions that may arise (any chapter questions can be sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Royal Arch Chapter is open to all brothers – there are no requirements other than to be a Master Mason in good standing who wishes to seek further light in Masonry. Too often now I have heard of brothers, and some companions, who believe that the York Rite is for Christian Masons only or that you need to be in the Knight Templar Commandery to “complete” the York Rite. This is not the case. The York Rite is composed of three separate and sovereign Masonic bodies: the Royal Arch Chapter, the Council of Royal and Select Masters and the Knight Templar Commandery. The degrees of the Chapter and those of the Royal & Select Master complete the Hiramic Legend, taking the Mason from the building of King Solomon’s Temple to its completion and beyond to the second Temple and the discovery of the real word and grip. The Commandery is for those Christian Masons who wish to emulate the virtues of knightly chivalry, moving through the Orders of the Red Cross, Malta and the Temple.
The Chapter degrees are those of Mark Master Mason, virtual Past Master, Most Excellent Master and Royal Arch Mason. The Mark complements the Fellowcraft Degree and involves lessons from the construction of King Solomon’s Temple, where, for example, you learn how the Senior Warden pays the Craft. The Most Excellent Master shows the brother lessons from the completion of King Solomon’s Temple with the placing of the keystone in the principal arch. The Royal Arch degree dramatically informs the brother as to why Hiram Abif was unable to communicate the Master’s Word, why it was lost and how it was found again and given once more to the brother as the capstone to the Chapter. The Past Master degree remains in the Chapter as, historically, the degree of Royal Arch was only available to those who had passed the Master’s chair. Now, in conjunction with the Actual Past Master degree, it still serves to instill responsibility in lodge for a brother. The virtual PM degree allows any brother the benefits of the lessons and philosophy of the Chapter without having presided as Master.
The Council degrees of Royal Master and of Select Master complete the legend between the Most Excellent Master and the Royal Arch showing how the secrets of a Master Mason were preserved for posterity until those three of our Ancient Brethren brought them to light again.
The Commandery in the Order of the Red Cross exemplifies the perennial story that runs through the various rites of Masonry of what is truly great and prevails over all. The Orders of Malta and of the Temple exemplify the Christian virtues and history of the Knights Hospitaller (later of Malta) and the Knights Templar protecting pilgrims in Outremer.
Returning to the Chapter, the history of the Royal Arch Degree is complex, and suitable for future discussion on its own, but some have seen it as part of the MM degree that was split off, others that it was a higher or separate degree that was brought in to teach the Master’s Word. Whatever the details of its creation, it has been and is seen as an essential degree for a brother. In the Union of 1813 when the Antients and Moderns Grand Lodges merged together to form the current United Grand Lodge of England, one key part of the agreement was to define that “Ancient Craft Masonry shall consist of the degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason, together with the Holy Royal Arch”.
As you, my brothers, contemplate seeking further light in Masonry I would hope that you will consider the Royal Arch Chapter carefully. The philosophical, esoteric and alchemical lessons of the Lodge and Chapter (with, for example the point within the circle representing alchemical gold and the triangle in the circle representing the alchemical furnace) are there for all brothers and seeker of further light who would but knock at our doors.
The English Royal Arch jewel contains a number of Latin mottos. Relevant to my thoughts here are two of them – “Si talia jungere possis sit tibi scire satis”, if thou canst comprehend these things, thou knowest enough. Our Masonic studies and meditations will always be ongoing to achieve this understanding. The other quote is “Nil nisi clavis deest”, nothing is wanting but the key. Indeed, the Royal Arch degree provides part of the key, or keystone, to the understanding and education of the Master Mason and is there ready to unlock our lessons.
- from CT FREEMASONS April 2018