ISSUE 19, October 2006
Editorial
Historic: Rabbi and Mason
Travel: Morocco's exotic charm
Quarterly Communication: Address by the Pro Grand Master and Report of the Board of General Purposes
Working with Youngsters: The Grand Master goes fishing
Community Relations: Saying it with flowers
International: Spanish Freemasonry under the microscope
   Events: Grand Lodge Award; Royal Masonic Variety Show
Specialist Lodges: Masonry on the canal
Freemasonry and Society: A Churchman's view of Masonry
Education: Toast of the town and Events
Young Masons: The Universities Scheme
Library & Museum: The Freemasons's Tontine
Masonic Charities: The Grand Charity and NMSF and RMTGB and RMBI
Letters
Book reviews
Gardening

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Then again, the discretion with which religious argument was avoided in the Lodge was a great strength, not because these were people who were lukewarm in religion, but because the Masonic ideal was to them an ideal. The God worshipped at the Lodge was not, and I believe is not meant to be, a rival to the God worshipped in church, chapel or anywhere else.
    It is not objectionable to a Christian to worship God, whoever God is, even though as a Christian you wish to say that the Christian revelation tells more of the truth than some of your neighbours believe.
    There are some prayers which, as a Christian, I can share with people of different faiths, and my conscience is not disturbed by their company. I would go as far as to say this is a courteous and helpful attitude, provided we are careful and know what we are doing.
    So there was, in the 18th century, a simple assumption, but in those days a rather newly-made one, that the religious rites of Masonry expressed a basic and universal religious instinct. It even allowed the plainest of Puritans to indulge in rituals they would have hooted at in church.
    I found a rather telling instance of this when I was Dean of Exeter, and was exploring the foundations of the Masonic craft in that county. The father of Freemasonry in Devon was Henry Brice, who died aged 82 in 1773. Bro. Henry Brice was one of the lively eccentrics of his day. As a young man he had unadvisedly got married, and then found himself in poverty and with wife and children to sober him a little.
    He tried running off to join the army, and had to be rescued from that and return to the printing trade he had started in. By 1717 he had started his own newspaper, The Postmaster or Loyal Mercury. Now note this:
    Brice was of dissenter background, but like many in those days who had been born Presbyterian, his religion had been tamed by a passion for what he called Liberty. He even wrote a bad poem about it.
    What to a self-educated man in those days, did liberty mean? It meant a crusade against vested interests, 0f which there were innumerable. It meant a somewhat democratic attitude to the established order, without being revolutionary.
    It meant a strong belief in the practice of virtue in business. With these characteristics, Henry Brice got into serious trouble for his fearless outspokenness, and generated much respect for his honesty and cheerfulness.
    All over Europe and America men were looking for ways to temper the clash of class and sect. The membership of such people as Haydn and Mozart, of Goethe and Benjamin Franklin and Washington tells its own story. This was not a system with an elaborate ideology, however intricate and delightful the rituals to who learn them.
    In spite of the notorious secrecy of Masonry, the truth seems to be simple, and everyone can witness it in what must be the greatest work of art which the world owes to the Freemasons, Mozartís The Magic Flute.
    And what is the message of The Magic Flute? That love and truth triumph, Mother Nature is the best guide, God is in his heaven, and that the virtuous human being, whatever his background, was in essentials the equal of any other. The decency of the Lodge shows a longing for a decency for all human life.
    There may be much more to say about life than that, but itís a good start for anyone, and besides Mozart didnít just think it, he made music of it. These simple ideas, widely shared, are the means by which great people have done good things. For the Christian, this is an expression that Christ, the wisdom of God, may be the pattern for Godís building of the human race, in which everyone may be rooted and built up.
    Thatís why I hope the sociability of the Lodges will continue, and the generous giving to charity, to incorporate a wide range of people into friendship and virtuous activity. If, in the life of the Lodges, bridges can continue to be made, here in our country, with people of many backgrounds and kinds, and so escape the natural tendency to clannishness and exclusivity which often puts the mark of death on societies, you will be true to your best inspirations.
    These vast pieces of intricate masonry, these cathedrals, were built to represent heaven. In this building, the many parts, full of variety, are built into a unity in which size does not overcome the human scale.
    I suspect that the Masonic movement was much influenced by those who rebuilt St Paulís after the Great Fire of London.
    And surely, the wide co-operation needed to make a cathedral is driven by a desire to make something marvellous, is a symbol to the world of what human life can be and do when ďrooted and built up in Christ and established in the faith.Ē
    A faithful and generous virtue need fear no slanders. A life built upon the rock of divine love and sustained by the virtues of honesty and candour is safe from any facile charges of hypocrisy and partiality.
    For, as a cathedral is a sign of how wonderful life on earth could become if rooted and built up in the truth that is Christ, so the principles you affirm may be seen as an encouragement of what is good and of value to all people.


© Peter Green

St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk


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