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Holy Royal Arch…Whence Come You? A four part article By Mike Lawrence Part Three

The second Temple, known to us as the third or Grand and Royal Lodge, was reconstructed and stood between 516 BC and 70 AD. During this time, it was the centre of Jewish worship, which focused on the sacrifices known as the Korbanot. In Judaism, the Korban is any of a variety of sacrificial offerings described and commanded in the Totah. King Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 586 BC when the Jews were exiled during the Babylonian captivity. Construction of a new temple was begun in 535 and completed in 516, with its dedication in 515. As described in the Book of Ezra, rebuilding of the Temple was authorised by Cyrus the Great and ratified by Darius the Great. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its second Temple on August 4th 70 AD, ending the Great Jewish revolt that began in 66 AD.

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The story in our ritual which relates to the discovery of the vault, probably takes its rise from any number of contemporary books that were available at the time when the ritual was being formulated. For example, we already know that the many of the Craft ritual phrases and certain usages can be found in the works of Shakespeare, Bunyon, Milton, Bronte, and some of the comtemporary pracitices of the time, so it would figure that Royal Arch ritual would contain phrases, practices or other things that were common or available at the time.

Thus, we read of The Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, born 364 AD, translated and published in 1669 in a book entitled, “Solomon’s Temple Spiritualised.” The book records that the Roman Emperor, Julian the Apostate, ordered the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, during the course of which a cave was discovered by a workman who was lowered by rope into the vault. He discovered a perfect square and, in its centre, a column upon which was found a book wrapped in fine linen cloth. The first words being “In the beginning was the word” The book was the entire Gospel of St John. This verse incidentally played a very important part in the early Holy Royal Arch ceremony but was dropped during the 1835 ritual revision.

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QCCC member Harry Mendoza, also tells us that references to the discovery of a law-book during repair work that was being carried out on the Temple can be found in 2 Kings, Chapter 22 and 2 Chronicles, Chapter 34. This book mentioned, many commentators identify as Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Bible, and which both record Hilkiah the priest finding the book of the law that the Lord had given Moses.

Robert McCoy’s “A Dictionary of Freemasonry”, a late 19th century publication also records the early finding of a vault in the ruins at Yucatan, where the explorer recorded the following: “The only way of descending was to tie a rope around the body and be lowered by the Indians…”

Therfore, as you can see, it is not beyond the realms of anyone’s imagination to understand where the allegorical story originated.

But this idea of taking an existing story to accentuate salient points of our discipline or to highlight its meaning should in no way detract from the important message of the Holy Royal Arch. It all degrees in Freemasonry, traditional histories were written for that very purpose and have little or no historical accuracy and it still pains me to this day when exponents of our ritual sincerely and honestly believe that all Masonry is based on historical fact.

This I think is an indictment on our society and clear evidence of our failure to educate our people by allowing them to continue to serve in ignorance rather than provide proficient instructors and accurately presented resources. Strong words I know, but I stand by my view.

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So, having now established some of the basic facts about the Holy Royal Arch, i.e. where we are and what we are doing, perhaps a simplified recap will put things into a better perspective. So here are ten questions:

1) Where are we?

2) Where did we come from?

3) Who allowed us to come back to Jerusalem?

4) Who are we?

5) Who sits at the head of the Sanhedrin?

6) Who are they assisted by?

7) What did Cyrus give us permission to do?

8) What did we do to help the reconstruction?

9) What did they discover?

10) What was the reward for the industry and fidelity of the workmen?

Answers:

1) In Jerusalem!

2) Babylon, the captivity now being over!

3) Cyrus, the King of Persia!

4) The Grand Sanhedrin!

5) Zerubbabel, Haggai and Joshua!

6) Ezra and Nehemiah!

7) To rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem

8) We hired three workmen to clear the ground in order to receive the foundations. They made a discovery of great importance which they immediately conveyed back to us.

9) The name of the True and Living God Most High! Which was lost through the untimely death of Hiram Abiff.

10) They were made members of the Grand Sanhedrin!

We complete the story of the Holy Royal Arch in the next and final part of the Article.

 

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Holy Royal Arch…Whence Come You? A four part article by Mike Lawrence Part Two

In part two, we take a brief look at the main characters of our drama.

Zerubbabel, was the grandson of Jehoiachin, penultimate King of  Judah. He led the first band of Jews, numbering 42,360, who returned from the Babylonian captivity in the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia. It was also Zerubbabel that laid the foundation of the second Temple in Jerusalem the next year. Muslim historian, Ya’qubi attributed the recovery of the Torah and the Books of the Prophets to him instead of Ezra. Little else is known about him.

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Haggai, was one of the twelve minor prophets and the author of the Book of Haggai. He was the first of three prophets (with Zechariah, his contemporary, and Malachi, who lived about one hundred years later). His ministry belonged to the period of Jewish history which began after the return from captivity in Babylon. We are told that when the work of rebuilding the temple had been put to a stop through the intrigues of the Samaritaina and having been suspended for eighteen years, the work was resumed through the efforts of Haggai and Zechariah who exhorted the people, which roused them from their lethargy.

 Joshua, the son of Josedech and the first High Priest of the second Temple, should not be confused with that other Joshua who succeeded Moses as the leader of the Israelites and who we will all remember from the second degree, prayed fervently to the Lord to continue the light of day. Sadly, I can find no further details other than our own allegorical association with Zerubbabel and Haggai.

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Ezra, the “scribe” led the second body of exiles that returned from Babylon to Jerusalem and was author of the book of Scripture which bears his name. He was the son, or perhaps grandson, of Seraiah. All we know of his personal history is contained in the last four chapters of his book. We also learn that in the seventh year of the reign of  he obtained leave to go up to Jerusalem and to take with him a company of Israelites. The King manifested great interest in Ezra’s undertaking, granting him “all his request” and loading him with gifts for the house of God, being the Second Temple, whose construction had now commenced. Again we must not confuse Scribe Ezra with, the priest of the same name that returned with those to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel.

 Nehemiah, the son of Hachaliah was probably of the tribe of Judah and was one of the “Jews of the dispersion”. In his youth he was appointed to the important office of royal cup-bearer at the palace of Shushan. Like Ezra, the King Artaxerxes Longimanus, seemed to have been on terms of friendly familiarity with him, for after Nehemiah had heard of the mournful and desolate condition of the Holy City, he was filled with sadness of heart. At length, we learn the King observed his sadness of countenance and asked the reason. Nehemiah explained it all to the King and obtained his permission to go up to Jerusalem and there to act as Governor of Judea. He went up in the spring of 446 BC (eleven years after Ezra), with a strong escort supplied by the King. On his arrival he set himself to survey the city, and to form a plan for its restoration; a plan which he carried out with great skill and energy, so that it was completed in about six months. We are told that he resembled Ezra in his fiery zeal, in his active spirit of enterprise, and in the piety of his life, but he was of a fiercer mood and he had less patience with transgressors. He was a man of action rather than a man of thought, and more inclined to use force than persuasion.

The three Sojourners are representative of the workmen needed to rebuild the second Temple and humbly wished to participate in the great and glorious undertaking. They were nobly born of the House of Judah, but due to the lateness of their application they were tasked to prepare the ground for the foundations which they cheerfully accepted.

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Those are the characters or main players in our ritual drama and it were they that formed part of the Grand Sanhedrin, which as I previously explained is what the lodge room represents during the Exaltation ceremony of the Holy Royal Arch, and we, as Companions of that Order, are also part of that ruling council.

The Great Sanhedrin, which is what the Convocation is representative of, was an assembly of Jewish judges who constituted the Supreme Court and legislative body of ancient Israel. In total there were 71 Sanhedrin members. During the period of the second Temple in Jerusalem, prior to its destruction in 70 AD, the Great Sanhedrin would meet in the Hall of Hewn Stones in the Temple during the day, except before festivals and Shabbat.

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Now the objective of the ritual authors was to restore to Freemasonry the true secrets of a Master Mason, lost as we know, by the allegorical death of one of the brightest characters in Masonry, Hiram Abiff. In order to repair that loss, another allegorical story was prepared, its origin we will discuss a little later, but the vehicle for such a message was the building of the second Temple in Jerusalem.

In part three we look at the where the theme of the ritual may have taken its rise and recap with some simple questions and answers.

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Holy Royal Arch…Whence Come You? A four part article by Mike Lawrence Part One

Being a basic down to earth explanation of the Holy Royal Arch set up – where we are, what we are doing and who are the characters we are representing, plus a revealing  insight in to how, but for the tenacity of a few Irish Freemasons, the Holy Royal Arch may have been lost forever.

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On the night of our raising to the sublime degree of a Master Mason, we are immediately instructed that we must wait a full 28 days before we are eligible to join the Holy Royal Arch in order to receive the completion of that degree, which according to our regulations, concludes all aspects of what is considered “Pure Antient Masonry”.

Of course, we all understand that technically under the English Constitution all other degrees are not considered “Pure Antient Masonry” and therefore not duly part our Masonic system. However, my subject today is not other Degrees or as many brethren wrongly call them “higher degrees”, but rather that ceremony that firstly, no way resembles Freemasonry’s three-degree system, secondly, is not essential for one’s progression in the Craft or thirdly, is not actually called a degree, yet it is deemed the completion of one’s Masonic journey.

That subject is of course the Holy Royal Arch.

Pitching a lecture at a level of understanding to suit everyone’s intellect is impossible, if only from the point of view that we all came into the Chapter at different times, have held different Offices and are at different levels of understanding. Therefore, I shall start at the lowest common denominator and work from there. If that offends any Companion, then I apologise, however, it is and always has been my belief that the messages to be learnt from our ritual are simple, and in my many years of lecturing, I have avoided deep intellectual and complicated topics, leaving that to one’s own personal study plan.

So, for the moment, please forget the Historical, Mystical and Symbolical lectures, forget what’s emblematical, reverential and fiducial and let’s get right down to basics.

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To begin with, let us look at the Drama of the ritual, which is set in Jerusalem, immediately after the return from the Babylonian captivity, when Zerubbabel is preparing to rebuild the city and the Temple. The Chapter represents the Grand Sanhedrin whose deliberations are interrupted by the arrival of three Sojourners from Babylon who ask to be permitted to assist in the rebuilding work. They are instructed to clear the ground of Solomon’s former Temple in order to receive the foundations for the new Temple. In doing so they discover a hidden vault, which they break open and enter, inside the Principle Sojourner discovers a scroll, which is the lost volume of the sacred law and a pedestal on which is inscribed the name of the Most High, which as biblical history tells us, was never uttered and therefore its true pronunciation was lost. Additionally, we find the names of the three Grand Masters. They immediately report their discoveries to the Sanhedrim and are instantly rewarded by being constituted members of the Chapter.

However, like the Craft, the story is purely allegorical, as historically; the three Principals and Scribes could not have been in Jerusalem at the same time. Interestingly in Ireland and many Grand Chapters in America, the legend is not that used in England and Scotland, but is concerned with the repair of Solomon’s Temple under Josiah, but the intent of the ritual is the same, which is to lead the companion, without transgressing the bounds of religion, to contemplate the nature of, and his relationship with, his God whatever his religion may be.

Looking closer at the ritualistic theme we know that in the Craft, the Lodge Room and Officers are representative of the Operative Masons of old and the ritual deals with the legendary building of the first Temple at Jerusalem and the imparting of a series of instructions which culminates with the workman receiving a series of signs, tokens and words, which he is given as a reward for his industry and as a test of his fidelity. Although only using substituted secrets in the third degree, the Craft rituals sit comfortably as being complete.

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The role of the Holy Royal Arch is to repair that loss and so complete the legend and the setting of the drama, concerns the building of the second Temple after the return from the Babylonian captivity.

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The Babylonian Captivity or Babylonian exile, is the name typically given to the deportation and exile of the Jews from the ancient Kingdon of Judah to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar during the 6th Century BC. This event coincided with the destruction of the first Temple of Jerusalem.

After the overthrow of Babylon by the Persian Empire in 537 BC, the Persian ruler, Cyrus the Great, gave the Jews permission to return to their native land, and more than 40,000 are said to have availed themselves of the privilege, as noted in the Biblical accounts of Jehoiakim, Ezra and Nehemiah. Unlike the Babylonians or Assyrians, the Persians had a different political philosophy of managing conquered territories and under their rule they allowed local personages to be put into power to govern the local populace.

The actual return of the first forty thousand exiles was led by Zerubbabel followed by a second group of about six thousand organised by Ezra. This second body of exiles had been invested with royal powers and succeeded after great difficulties in helping to establish the post-exilic Jewish community.

In part two, we will take a brief look at the main characters of our drama.

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