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PRESENTATION OF MASTER MASON APRON

by M. W. Bro. Wayne Hitchcock


My Brother,

When you were initiated you were ceremonially presented with the lambskin or white leather apron. You were told that it was " an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason. More ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle, more honorable than the Star and Garter or any other order which may be conferred upon you at this or any future time by king, prince, potentate or any other person except he be a Mason". We are here today to present you with your own apron which is slightly different than the plain white lambskin.

The present form of the Masonic Apron that is in use today was standardized at the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813. At that time, there were in existence several versions of the apron ranging from those that imitated the Operative apron with a high bib front and neck ties to some very ornate and decorative versions that did not really resemble the original aprons at all. The version that they approved is very close to what we still use today.

The central portion of our apron is still white leather and therefore all the teachings of your 1st degree are exemplified. In other words it is still an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason. The color white also denotes purity.

Most Masons think no more about their apron than that. It is an article of clothing that must be worn when attending Lodge and its symbolism was taught in the first degree. To the thoughtful Mason however, the apron is a trestleboard of the finest quality and will remind him of many Masonic points each time he puts it on.

The blue fringe, which surrounds the white leather center, is a constant reminder of the universality of Freemasonry. Its unbroken nature reminds us of the unbroken bond of friendship and Brotherly Love which exists among members of the Fraternity. Some believe that the color of light blue was used to denote the canopy of heaven but the color also denotes universal friendship.

In ancient times, it was believed that everything in the universe was composed of combinations of four basic elements: earth, air, fire and water. It is interesting to note that the traditional symbols of these four elements are contained on the Master Masons apron: earth is represented by the rectangular base of the apron, air is represented by the color of light blue contained in the trim, fire is represented by a triangle with the apex pointed up as represented by the formation the rosettes are in and water is represented by a triangle with its apex pointed down in the same manner as the apron's flap. This is a further reminder of the universal nature of Freemasonry.

The rectangular shape of the apron also teaches us certain lessons. The four right angles teach purity, truth, sincerity and honesty which are the generally accepted foundations of morality. The four sides of the rectangle represent the four cardinal virtues of Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice.

The triangular nature of the flap is interesting for several reasons. First the triangle is the ancient symbol of the Deity. The apex pointed downward can be taken to denote the watchfulness of the Deity and the descent of benevolence and knowledge to created matter, or man. It is also a reminder of the generally accepted threefold nature of the Deity:

Egyptians- Horus, Isis, Osiris
Hindus - Brahma, Vishnu, Siva
Hebrews - Elohim, Elshaddai, Jehovah
Christians - Father, Son , Holy Spirit

The two vertical ribbons on the apron are generally thought of as remnants of the Operative apron, which was at times worn with the chest flap down and tied at the waist in the front. When worn like this the frayed ends of the tied strings would dangle down much like our ornamental ribbons today. However there are other things these two ribbons can remind us of. First are the two pillars which were on the front porch of King Solomon's Temple, Boaz and Jachin. Of course that calls all of their symbolism to mind. We can also be reminded of the two parallel lines of the first degree which represented Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist and then remember that their teachings are meant to be guidelines for our own behaviour.

The seven tassles suspended from each ribbon are generally thought to remind us of the seven liberal arts and sciences. They can also remind us of the four sides of the rectangular apron and the three sides of the triangular flap, the first representing the material nature of the universe, the second the spiritual nature and therefore once again we have a reminder of universality. They also can be taken to represent the seven primary colors which when united result in white light which is always the symbol of perfect knowledge.

The three rosettes on the apron, in addition to the thoughts expressed earlier, can remind us of all the threes we have been exposed to in Freemasonry:

- Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth
- Square, level and plumb
- Morality, equality and rectitude of life
- Wisdom, strength and beauty - Doric, Ionic and Corinthian
- Three Grand Masters at the Temple - Three Master Masons to form a Lodge
- Three Great Lights
- Three lesser lights
- Three degrees
- Etc.

The five exposed angles of the apron when worn are emblematical of the five points of fellowship (two right angles and the three angles of the triangle).

The three angles of the triangle, the five exposed angles of the worn apron, and the sum of the four sides of the rectangle and the three sides of the triangle being seven gives us a reference to the three, five and seven steps of the flight of winding stairs to the middle chamber. This of course brings to mind our three Grand Masters, the three degrees, the five orders of architecture, the five senses of human nature and the seven liberal arts and sciences.

The belt or tie strings are generally recognized as a reminder of "the length of our cabletow". When attached the belt forms a complete circle around the body and this can remind us of the eternal nature of God, no beginning and never ending.

The three primary shapes contained within the apron, the circle, triangle and the rectangle, are emblematical of the spirit, the three fold revelation of God and the material universe or man (for in the creation of man all the elements of the universe were united). Therefore our apron represents the totality of nature as we know it.

It is unclear whether our Brethren designed our apron in 1813 with all of this in mind or if it was just fortunate that the parts fit so many lessons. What is important to us is that we never wear our apron as a mere piece of clothing but remember instead that it is a teaching tool and a reminder of the lessons we have learned during our progress in Freemasonry.

Finally, may you ever wear this apron with pride, and rest assured: if you never disgrace this apron, it will never disgrace you.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014