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The Holy Saints John
Dedication of Lodges
Lodges were anciently dedicated to King Solomon because he is said to have been our first most excellent Grand Master, but in this country Masons dedicate their Lodges to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist who are said to have been two eminent patrons of Masonry.
There is represented in every regular and well-governed Lodge a certain point within a circle embroidered by two perpendicular parallel lines, representing St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist; and upon the top rests the Holy Scriptures.
The point represents the individual brother; the circle, the boundary line of his duty, beyond which he is never to suffer his passions, interests, or prejudices, to betray him.
In going around the circle we necessarily touch on the two parallel lines, as well as the Holy Scriptures; and while a Mason keeps himself circumscribed with these due bounds, it is impossible that he should materially err.
The festival days set aside for these two saints by Freemasonry are June 24, for Saint John the Baptist and December 27, for Saint John the Evangelist.
Both of these dates coincide with the Summer and Winter Solstices respectively.
The parallel lines which border the circle are also said symbolize these two solstices.
Prior to Christianity, the celebration of the change of the seasons were marked with many pagan celebrations. For example, December 25 was already a major festival in the pagan Roman world.
The Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, or "Birthday of the Unconquered Sun", falling within the week-long celebration of the Saturnalia, was a feast honoring the renewal of the sun at the winter solstice.
It included feasting, dancing, lighting bonfires, decorating homes with greens, and giving gifts. The early Church wanted these pagan festivals stopped but they were very popular with the people and they continued to celebrate them.
The solution to the problem was simple; substitute Christian meanings and Saints to these holidays and continue to celebrate them.
Therefore, the celebration of the summer solstice became the Festival of Saint John the Baptist and the celebration of the winter solstice became the Festival of Saint John the Evangelist.
But why did Freemasonry select the Holy Saints John as their patron saints rather than Saint Thomas, who is the eminent patron of architecture and building?According to Albert Bede, (3-5-7 Minute Talks on Freemasonry, Macoy Publishing Co,), adoption of the saints by Freemasonry far antedates the first Grand Lodge of 1717.
Many of the Operative Lodges had been dedicated to the Baptist and a few to the Evangelist. The Baptist seems to have come into Freemasonry well in advance of the Evangelist.
It may be significant that the first Grand Lodge was formed at a meeting held on the Festival of Saint John the Baptist.
Thereafter London Lodges were dedicated to the two Saints John, and continued to be until the union of 1813, since when they have been dedicated to Solomon.
The festival of the English Lodges has since been changed to the Wednesday after St. George's Day.
American Lodges have continued the custom brought from England in colonial times, paying no attention to changes made by the English Lodges and continue to observe the festival of the two Saints John.
"History does not tell us why the Saints John were selected as the patron saints of Freemasonry. Whatever the facts may be, surely it is in accordance with the fitness of things that we honor these two names, John the Baptist, the stern prophet of righteousness, and John the Evangelist, the teacher of Love.
Righteousness and Love--those two words do not fall short of telling the whole duty of a man and a Mason." (Joseph Fort Newton)
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Last modified: March 22, 2014