THE SYMBOLISM OF THE HOLY SAINTS JOHN AT JERUSALEM
C. F. Arkoncel, 32°, P. M.
Masonic tradition informs us that Masonic Lodges were erected to God, and dedicated to the Holy Saints John. Masonic Lodges are said to have been first dedicated to Noah, who was saved in the Ark; then to Moses, the chosen of God.
From the building of the first Temple at Jerusalem to the Babylonian captivity, Freemasonry's Lodges were dedicated to King Solomon. Thence to the coming of the Messiah, they were dedicated to Zerubbabel, the builder of the second Temple; and from that time to the final destruction of the Temple by Titus, in the reign of Vespasian, they were dedicated to Saint John the Baptist.
Owing to the many massacres and disorders which attended that memorable event, Freemasonry sank very much into decay. Many Lodges were entirely broken up, and but few could meet in sufficient numbers to constitute their legality.
At a general meeting of the Craft held in the City of Benjamin, it was observed that the principal reason for the decline of Freemasonry was the want of a Grand Master to patronize it. The Craft, therefore, deputed seven of their most eminent members who were supposed to be proficient in the seven liberal arts and sciences to wait upon Saint John the Evangelist, who was at that time Bishop of Ephesus, requesting him to take the office of Grand Master. He returned for an answer that, although well stricken in years, being then ninety-nine years of age, yet having been initiated into Freemasonry in the early part of his life, he would take upon himself the office. He thereby completed by his learning what Saint John the Baptist began by his zeal, and thus drew what Freemasons term a second line parallel, ever since which time Freemasonry's Lodges in all Christian countries have been dedicated to both Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist.
Saint John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus Christ, predicted His coming, and later baptized Him in the River Jordan. He was a crusader, a fervent man, a just and stern man, a man of strength and fire, an exhorter, a courageous man, a martyr to his uncompromising zeal, a heroic character, who preferred death by decapitation to a diminution or sacrifice of his zeal.
Dalcho says that "the stern integrity of Saint John the Baptist which induced him to forego even minor considerations in discharging the obligations he owed to God; the unshaken firmness with which he met martyrdom rather than betray his duty to his Master; his steady reproval of vice and continued preaching of repentance and virtue, make him a fit patron of the Masonic institution."
By announcing the approach of Christ and by the mystic ablution to which he subjected his proselytes, and which was afterward adopted in the ceremony of initiation into Christianity, Saint John the Baptist might well be considered as the Grand Hyrophant of the Church, and by preaching repentance and humiliation be drew the first parallel of the Gospel. His festival is celebrated by the Craft on the 24th day of June, the time of summer solstice, when the heat of the sun produces abundant harvest, enough to cause human contention and disharmony which rightfully call for the zeal of righteousness, of which he was the greatest teacher the world has ever known.
On the other hand, Saint John the Evangelist was the greatest Apostle of Love, coming into the life of Jesus where Saint John the Baptist left off, becoming the trusted confidant of the Saviour. He was the only one of the apostles to witness the crucifixion. Last at the Cross, he was the first to enter the tomb. He saw the ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit. He founded the Seven Churches of Asia Minor, reminiscent of the seven liberal arts and sciences which are the foundations of the superstructure of Freemasonry. His gospel was written half a century after those of Matthew, Mark and Luke, to recount incidents in the life of Jesus which others had overlooked or misunderstood.
As Saint John the Baptist was the greatest Teacher of Righteousness, so Saint John the Evangelist was the greatest Apostle of Love. Love and Righteousness, which are both so good, but parallel to meet or never meet, yet so fearful as to cause the prudent man and proficient Freemason to make a searching inquiry into the extent of his powers, rights and duties before it is too late, and to submit them to the cool judgment seat of reason. His constant admonition in his epistles to the cultivation of brotherly love, and the mystical and emblematic nature of his Apocalyptic visions which assimilated the mode of study adopted by him to that of the Fraternity have been perhaps the principal reasons for the veneration paid to him by the gentle Craft. His festival is appropriately celebrated by the Fraternity on the 27th day of December, the time of winter solstice when the cold, piercing weather which is likely to cause want suggests the practice of Fraternal Love, Affection and mutual Helpfulness among peoples and Freemasons throughout the world.