A personal perspective from E Comp Ian Burgess GStB, MetGInsp.
Four weeks after becoming a Master Mason, you are entitled to join the Supreme Order of the Royal Arch of Jerusalem, the next step in Freemasonry. But what is the Royal Arch, and why might you consider joining?
When the two opposing Grand Lodges were united on 27th December 1813, to form the United Grand Lodge of England, the second of the Articles of Union between them stated that ‘Pure Antient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more; viz. those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Royal Arch’. This is reflected in the Book of Constitutions. The Royal Arch is, therefore, an integral part of your journey through Craft Masonry and used to be practised in Craft Lodges before the union.
The first reason, in my view, why the Royal Arch is important is that it completes your journey through Craft Masonry. But how?
Well, in the Craft, the 1st Degree teaches you to consider your relationship with your fellow men and yourself. In the 2nd Degree, you learn of the benefits of education and how to endeavour to make yourself a better man. In the 3rd Degree, you are taught to reflect on your life and how you should live it, ensuring that you make the most of it. As part of this, you are told that the genuine secrets of a Master Mason are lost.
In the Royal Arch, the genuine secrets are regained, and you are taught to consider your relationship with the Supreme Being and to contemplate your own mortality in the light of eternity. Hence, it is both the completion and the climax of pure Ancient Freemasonry.
The Royal Arch is a wonderful, colourful Order. The regalia and the Chapter Room have striking colours and are matched by the absorbing and colourful ritual, which, in my opinion, has the best ‘wow’ moment in Freemasonry. Unlike the three degrees in the Craft, the ritual is just one ceremony centred around the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem by Zerubbabel and his Companions after their return from captivity in Babylon. The story refers to the discovery of a hidden vault by three labourers sent to clear the ground in preparation for the work.
In addition to completing your journey through Craft Masonry, the Royal Arch can also increase your circle of Masonic friends. You can join a Chapter linked to your Lodge, or a separate one, thus enabling you to enlarge your circle of Masonic friends and connections.
If you want to find out more, visit Rosetta, The Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter website. You will find lots of information under the heading ‘The Next Step In Freemasonry’, (www.rosetta.London/Download.ashx?assetid=108).
You can speak to your Masonic friends who are members of the Order. You will recognize them from the distinctive Royal Arch jewels they wear in a Craft Lodges – with a white ribbon if they are relatively new to the Order, and a red or tri-coloured ribbon if more senior. This jewel highlights the indissoluble link between the Craft and the Royal Arch. There is also the Royal Arch Representative of your Lodge, who holds a special liaison role to advise prospective Exaltees, or you can speak with your Lodge Visiting Officer.
I trust that this has been helpful in explaining why you might consider joining the Royal Arch, to enable you to expand your Masonic circle of friends and complete your journey in pure Ancient Freemasonry.
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 46 October 2021 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 46.