V.W.Bro. Harold W. Hughes
There is possibly no other symbol in Masonry that has caused so much differences of opinion.
The apron has been made to mean a thousand and one things, from the fig leaf worn by Adam to the last mathem- atical theory of the Fourth Dimension.
The wildest theories concerning the apron have cause and are based on its shape. The body of it as now worn is approximately square in shape, and thus suggested the symbolism of the square, the right angle and the cube. It's flap is triangular and this has suggested the symbolism of the triangle, the forty-seventh position of the pyramid; the decent of the flap over the body of the apron has also given rise to reasoning equally ingenious.
By this method of interpretation, men have read into it all manner of things - the Mythology of the Mysteries - the metaphysics of India and the fantasies of magic.
Meanwhile, it has been forgotten that the apron is a Masonic symbol and that we are to find out what it is in- tended to mean, rather than what it may under the stress of imagination be made to mean.
When the Ritual is consulted, as it always deserves to be, we find that it treats the apron:
- As an inheritance from the past.
- As the badge of a Mason.
- As the emblem of innocence and sacrifice.
The facts are that the operative mason used the apron only for the practical purpose of protecting his clothing. It was nothing more than one item of the workman's necessary equipment.
Of what is a mason's badge a mark?
Surely its history permits but one answer to this; it is the mark of honorable and concientious labor, the labor that is devoted to creating, rather than destroying or demolish- ing.
If men were once proud to wear a sword, while leaving the tasks of life to slaves and menials, if they once sought titles as emblems of distinction, they are now figuratively speaking, eager to wear the apron, for the knight of the present day would rather save life than take it, and prefer a thousand times over the glory of achievement to the glory of title or name.
If this is the message of the apron, none has a better right to wear it than a Mason, if he be a real member of the Craft, for he is a Knight of Labor if ever there was one.
Not all labor deals with things.
There is a labor of the mind and if the spirit often more arduous and difficult than any labor of the hands.
He who dedicates himself to clearing away the rubbish that litters the paths of life, to the fashioning of the building stones in the confused quarries of mankind is entitled more than most men to wear the badge of toil.
When the candidate is invested with the apron, he is told that it is an emblem of innocence. The word innocence comes from a word meaning "to do no hurt" and this may well be taken as its Masonic definition, for it is evident that no grown man can be innocent in the sense that a child is, which really means ignorance of evil.
The innocence of a Mason is his gentleness, his chiv- alrous determination to do no moral evil to any person, his patient forbearance of the crudeness and ignorance of men, his charitable forgiveness of his brethren when they will- fully or unconsciously do him evil.
What do we mean by sacrifice?
To answer this fully would lead us far afield into ethics and theology, but for the present purpose, we may say that for Masons, sacrafice is the cheerful surrender of all that is in him which is unmasonic. If he has been too proud to meat others on the Level, he must lay aside his pride; if he has been too mean to act upon the Square, he must yield up his meanness; if he has been guilty of corr- upting habits, they must be abandoned else his wearing of the apron be a fraud and a sham.
Carrying with it so rich a heritage of symbolism, the apron may justly be considered:
More ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle. More honorable than the Star or Garter or any other order in existence.