ISSUE 23, October 2007

Editorial
Quarterly Communication: Speech of the Pro Grand Master : Quarterly Communication
Grand Secretary: Exciting times ahead
Historic: Telford - Mason extraordinary
Travel: Cruising round Sicily
Samaritan: Helping the distressed
Younger Masons: The common bond
Jersey: Local Masons guard the Duke
   Classic car run: Down memory lane
International: Joseph Brant - a Masonic legend
Universities Scheme: The way ahead
Grand Chancellor: The importance of external relations
Education: Events : Understanding the symbols of the craft
Specialist Lodges: Australia link
Royal Arch: Why join the Royal Arch?
Lbrary & Museum: Major award for Library & Museum
MQ Signs off
Masonic Charities: Grand Charity : NMSF : RMBI : RMTGB
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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It is very important to note that the bible text states: “to confirm all things a man plucked off his shoe…” – not his shoes! Taking off one shoe and handing it to him with whom a covenant was made, was a symbol of sincerity and truthful intentions.
     This is, therefore, the correct symbolism of the activity in the First Degree. It is a gesture binding upon the individual as an act of sincerity by the candidate in offering himself as a genuine applicant to participate in the secrets and mysteries of our Order.
     What now becomes interesting is the significance when both shoes are removed.
     This is symbolic of something quite distinctly different! This will be clearly understood and confirmed by a further reference to Exodus III, Chapter 5:
     “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”
     This association of the removal of footwear when treading holy ground is a fairly obvious symbol. To this day, sandals or other footwear are used to protect, not the ground, but the feet both from injury and filth. To wear such protections in holy places, by inference states that the holy place is harmful and unclean!
     We know that the custom was widespread in ancient times and not confined to Israel. In 570BC, Pythagoras instructed his followers to “offer up sacrifices with thy shoes off”. Ancient Jewish law decreed: “It is not lawful for a man to come into the mountain of God’s house with his shoes upon his feet, or his staff, or in his working garments, or with dust upon his feet.”
     This custom is really an act of humility and is widespread throughout the world.
     It was also to be found in Ethiopia, Peru and the Far East, and also among the Druids.
     At this point it is worth defining the word ‘humility’, which must be strictly construed and not confused with its derivative ‘humiliation’.
     He who is humble is one who acknowledges supremacy in another, or the greatness of a power or principal. He who is humiliated is made to feel unworthy, not in reverence with greater than he, but for the personal aggrandisement of the humiliator.
     A man removes his hat on entering a home, in the presence of a lady, or in a church, not as a symbol of humiliation, but of reverence. The worshipper removes his shoes on entering a holy place for the same reason. He who walks with both feet bare signifies that he treads upon that which is hallowed.
     Reflecting on the consecration ceremony of a new Lodge, the whole purpose of the ritual is to render it holy, to sanctify and set the Lodge apart for holy use in its devotion to the Great Architect of the Universe, for the benefit of the brethren and to do his great works.
     Matthew XVIII, verse 20 states: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Every Masonic Lodge is opened and closed in the name of God. According to this promise, therefore, no Lodge meets without the Great Architect being “in the midst of them.”
     Consequently the Lodge is Holy ground.
     So, why do Freemasons not remove their shoes when entering a Lodge?
     They do – symbolically!
     Once a Freemason, always a Freemason – no brother is required to repeat his obligations on every occasion at which he is present in Lodge. However, it is clearly understood that the obligation is binding on him for life. Having once been taught that a candidate is prepared in a certain way because of a certain meaning in his preparation, it seems reasonable that he should not be inconvenienced every time he comes to Lodge to go through a similar procedure. If, when he attends Lodge again, he is prepared in his heart, he fulfils all the outward requirements.
     The historian Mackey put the thoughts of consecrated holiness of a Lodge so beautifully:
     The Rite of Discalceation is a symbol of reverence. It signifies in the language of symbolism, that the spot that is about to be approached in this humble and reverential manner is consecrated to some holy purpose.
     Of all the degrees in Freemasonry, the third degree is the most important and sublime. The solemn lessons which it teaches, the sacred scene which it represents, and the impressive ceremony with which it is conducted are all calculated to inspire the mind with feelings of awe and reverence.
     The Holy of Holies in a Master Mason’s Lodge is the Alter within the Temple where the solemn truths of death and immortality are inculcated. The aspirant on entering should purify his heart from every contamination; and remember with a due sense of their symbolic application – those words that once broke upon the astonished ears of the old patriarch: ‘Put off thy shoes from off thy feet for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’
     The worshipper in eastern lands removes his shoes before he enters a temple as a symbol that he knows that his flesh needs no protection from that which it will there touch. The Master Mason, symbolically removing his shoes before entering his Lodge, knows that here he will find holiness in the very presence of the Great Architect of the Universe through whom the Lodge receives the greatest of his blessings to man: friendship.
     It is true that through Freemasonry, the rite of discalceation becomes the more beautiful as we progress through the degrees. On our Initiation, the rite is only a voluntary testimony of sincere and truthful intentions.
     Later, as we progress, it is an act of humility, signifying that he who removes his shoes knows that he enters that which must not be defiled by anything unworthy until time shall be no more.

With acknowledgement to MSANA Ref: 04-33. Ray Hollins is the author of A Daily Advancement in Masonic Knowledge: 100 Short Talks on the Craft. For further information contact The Freemason Ltd on 0870 922 0252 or go to www.masonicshortalks.com

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