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FROM THE AMERICAN-CANADIAN GRAND LODGE
This Masonic Memorial Service is an abbreviated version of the "Lodge of Sorrow" ritual adopted and promulgated by this Grand Lodge in October 1970.
This Memorial Service was originally compiled for use at Grand Lodge Communications in lieu of the more extensive "Lodge of Sorrow" ritual, the result of a desire to ensure that suitable homage be rendered to our deceased brethren at each Grand Lodge Communication, despite time restraints often encountered.
Although not formally adopted in this form by Grand Lodge, publication at this time results from numerous requests by constituent Lodges for copies, and has been approved by the Grand Master.
Lodges are encouraged to continue exemplifying the longer "Lodge of Sorrow" when possible and feasible, especially when the need arises to render homage to a specific, deceased Brother.
Under any circumstance, each constituent Lodge is encouraged to exemplify at least once each year either a Lodge of Sorrow or this Memorial Service, thereby ensuring continuity of a long-cherished Masonic tradition to honor the memory of our Fraternal dead with suitable ceremony.
Frankfurt/Main April, 1986
The following Memorial Service may be conducted during a regularly Tiled Lodge Communication, or when the Lodge is called-off for the purpose of inviting ladies, families, and other invited guests. In the latter case, after the ceremony is completed, it will be necessary to call-on again for the purpose of closing the Lodge in due form.
The stations and altar should preferably be draped in black, and a candlestick placed at each Warden's station, the Master's station, and at the Chaplain's place. Tall candlesticks are preferred, but the primary concern should be use of regular candles that will shed their light with a minimum of surrounding shadow; for this reason thick candles should be avoided.
A skull, covered with a black cloth, must be at the Master's station. A white rose or flower must be at the Jr. Warden's station; a red rose at the Sr. Warden's station; and a sprig of evergreen at the Master's station. The three principal officers and the Chaplain should be in their places prior to others being admitted, and the illumination should just be adequate to permit all others to enter and be seated with little difficulty. A Brother should be assigned to control the lighting, and preferably should be familiar with the ritual to permit lighting changes without the need for verbal instruction by the Master each time.
When recorded music is used, it is preferable to have all selections on one tape to avoid the often distracting process of changing tapes and using stop/start and eject switches under semi-dark or complete blackout conditions. Different selections on one tape can then be cued with a minimum of confusion and noise, by simply using the 'pause' button.
Those officiating (a Master, Wardens, Chaplain) should preferably wear white, unadorned aprons.
(After all have entered and been seated, the room lights should preferably be turned off completely. Before proceeding, the Master should observe an interval long enough to permit the darkness to induce the desired effect of contemplation. When ready to proceed, the Master strikes a match, lighting the candle at his station. After a further interval of several seconds, the Senior Warden does the same at his station; and after a further brief interval, the Junior Warden lights his candle, and immediately thereafter the Chaplain lights the candle at his place. Appropriate background music is recommended during most of the Service, audible enough to enhance the ceremony, but low enough to ensure it doesn't detract from, or 'upstage' the spoken words. Please note the recommendation concerning avoiding of distracting noises when using taped music.)
MASTER Brother Senior Warden, for what purpose are we assembled?
SR. WARDEN To honor the memory of those Brethren whom death has taken from us; to contemplate our own approaching dissolution, and by the remembrance of immortality, to raise our souls above the considerations of this transitory existence.
MASTER Brother Junior Warden, what sentiments should inspire Masons on occasions like the present?
JR. WARDEN Calm sorrow for the absence of our Brethren who have gone before us; earnest solicitude for our own eternal welfare, and a firm faith and reliance upon the wisdom and goodness of the Great Architect of the Universe.
MASTER My Brethren, (Ladies and Guests) in commending these sentiments to your earnest consideration, I invoke your assistance in the Memorial Service about to take place.
* * * (Call-up Lodge with three muffled gavel raps).
CHAPLAIN Great Architect of the Universe, in whose holy sight centuries are but as days, to whose omniscience the past and the future are but as one eternal present, look down upon Thy children who still wander among the delusions of time; who still tremble with the dread of dissolution, and shudder at the mysteries of the future. Look down, we beseech Thee, from Thy glorious and eternal day into the dark night of our error and presumption, and suffer a ray of Thy divine light to penetrate into our hearts, that in them may awaken and bloom the uncertainty of life, reliance upon Thy promises, and assurance of a piece at Thy right hand. AMEN.
(Response): "So mote it be!"
MASTER (*) (Seats Lodge with one muffled gavel rap; a brief musical interlude can follow or, with a suitable musical background, the Master continues as follows... )
My Brethren, in the midst of life we are in death, and the wisest cannot know what a day may bring forth. We live but to see those we love passing away into the silent land.
(solemnly uncovers skull)
Behold this emblem of mortality! once the abode of a spirit like our own. Beneath this moldering canopy once shone the bright and busy eye within this hollow cavern once played the ready, swift, and tuneful tongue but now,...sightless and mute, it is eloquent only in the lessons it teaches us.
Think of those Brethren who, but a few days since, were among us in all the pride and power of life. Bring to your minds a remembrance of their wisdom, their strength, and their beauty, and think how soon death, for you, will be a reality. Man's life is like a flower which blooms today, and tomorrow is faded, cast aside, and trodden under foot.
Most of us, my Brethren, are fast approaching, or have already passed the meridian of life; our sun is setting in the -West, and oh! how much more swift appears to be the passage of our declining years than when we started upon this journey and believed -as the young are too apt to believe- that the roseate hues of the rising sun of our existence could always be continued.
When we look back upon those happy days of our childhood, when the dawning intellect first began to exercise its powers of thought, it seems but as yesterday. And could we now but realize the idea that our last hour had come, our whole earthly life would appear but as the space of time from yesterday until today.
Centuries upon centuries have robed away behind us.... before us stretches an eternity of years to come; and on the narrow boundary between the past and the present flickers that puny taper we term our life.
When we came into the world we knew naught of what had been before us, but as we grew up to manhood we learned of the past. We saw the flowers bloom as they had bloomed for centuries; we beheld the orbs of day and night pursuing their endless courses among the stars,... and we learned what men had thought, and said, and done from the beginning of our world to our day.
But only through the eye of faith can we behold what is to come hereafter. Only through a firm reliance upon the divine promises can we satisfy the yearnings of an immortal soul.
The cradle speaks to us of remembrance; the coffin, of hope, of a blessed trust in a glorious immortality; never ending existence beyond the gloomy portals of the tomb.
Let these reflections convince us how vain are all the wranglings and bitternesses engendered by the collisions of this world; for what of these will survive us?
Not, let us hope, the petty strifes and bitternesses, the heart burnings and jealousies, the small trials and mean advantages we may have gained, but rather those noble thoughts, those words of truth, those works of mercy and justice that ennoble and light up the existence of every honest man ... however humble ... and become entrenched as a symbol of all that is good forever, when his body, like this remnant of humanity, molders in its parent dust.
Let the proud and the vain among us consider how soon the gaps are filled that are made in society by those who die around them, and how soon time heals the wound that death inflicts upon the loving heart. And from this also, let us learn humility, and realize that we are but drops in the great ocean of humanity.
And when God sends his messenger to us with the scroll of death the final summons let us look upon it as an act of mercy to prevent the many sins and calamities of a longer life and let us lay down our heads softly and pass into the sleep that knows no waking, like one 'Who wraps the drapery of his couch about him, and lies down to pleasant dreams."
For this, at least, man learns by death: that his calamities are not immortal. To bear grief honorably and temperately, and to die nobly, are the duties of a good man and a true Mason.
(An interval of profound silence for several seconds; Chaplain then slowly strikes twelve on gong, after which the Master continues..)
MASTER Brothers Senior and Junior Warden, join with me now at the Altar, and assist me in rendering due and appropriate homage to our departed Brethren.
* * * (Everyone rises)
(Wardens and Master, with flowers, evergreen, and candles, solemnly approach altar,
each on his side of altar; place candlesticks on altar corners, step back ... bow ... pause;
JW advances... )
JR. WARDEN In memory of our departed Brethren, I deposit this pure white flower, emblematic of that pure life to which they have been called, as a reminder that as these children of an hour will soon droop and fade away, so too shall we soon follow those who have gone before us; and may it also incite us so to fill the brief span of our existence that we may leave to our survivors that sweet savor of remembrance.
(JW places rose on Bible, bow, and step back)
(Brief interval of several seconds, S.W. advances..)
SR. WARDEN As the sun is in the west to close the day and herald the approach of night, so -one by one we shall lay us down in the darkness of the tomb, to wait in its calm repose for the time when the heavens shall pass away as a scroll, and man, standing in the presence of the Infinite, shall realize the true end of his pilgrimage here below. Let this flower symbolize our remembrance of all the virtues of our Brethren who have preceded us to the Silent Land, and serve as a token of that fraternal alliance which binds us while on earth, which we hope will finally unite us in heaven.
(SW place rose on Bible -crossing stems- bow, and step back)
(Further brief interval, then Master advances ... )
MASTER It is appointed unto all men once to die, but after death cometh the resurrection. The dust shall return to the earth, and the spirit unto God who gave it. In the grave all men are equal. The good deeds, the lofty thoughts, the heroic sacrifices alone survive, and bear fruit in the lives of those who strive to emulate them.
While, therefore, nature will have its way, and our tears will fall upon the graves of our Brethren, let us be reminded by the evergreen, symbol of our faith in immortal life, that the dead are but sleeping, and be comforted by the reflection that their memories will not be forgotten;.. that they will still be loved by those who are soon to follow them;.. that in our archives their names are written;.. and that in our hearts there is still a place for them.
And so, trusting in the infinite love and tender mercy of Him without whose knowledge not even a sparrow falls, let us prepare to meet them where there is no parting, and where with them we shall enjoy eternal rest.
(WM places evergreen over roses, and then steps back; all three then bow)
(Master and Wardens together
render the Funeral Grand Honors,
Funeral Grand Honors
(1) Extend arms toward altar, with the palms turned up.
(2) Cross arms over the breast, left arm over the right, fingers touching the shoulders.
(3) Raise arms above head, looking up, then drop to sides.
MASTER and WARDENS (In unison) The will of God is accomplished. So mote it be! Amen.
(Each takes candle, about-faces, and solemnly returns to his station; when all are in place, they simultaneously place candles on stations)
MASTER * (Seats everyone with one gavel rap)
(Lights in the room are now raised to desired level, and the Master proceeds to explain that at this point in the service, an appointed Orator may deliver the eulogy for all departed Brethren, or for a particular Brother.
If there is more than one eulogy, a short interlude of music should be interspersed.
Normally, when the Memorial Service is exemplified during a Grand Lodge Communication, the names of those Brethren deceased since the previous Grand Lodge Communication are read by the Chaplain. Lodges can use the same procedure if preferred.
After the eulogy(les) or recitation of names, the lights are slowly turned down completely, leaving only the illumination provided by the lighted tapers in the East, West, South.
Master then redrapes the skull, and continues ... )
MASTER Brother Senior Warden, our recollections of our departed Brothers have been refreshed and we may now ask ourselves were they just and perfect Masons, worthy men, unwearied toilers in the vineyard; possessed of so many virtues as to overcome their faults and shortcomings? Answer these questions as Masons should answer.
SR. WARDEN Worshipful Master, man judged not of man. He whose infinite and tender mercy passed all comprehension, whose goodness endureth forever, has called our Brethren hence. Let Him judge.
Masonry has no tribunal to sit in judgment upon her dead; with her, the good which her sons have done lives after them, and the evil is interred with their bones. She does require, however, that whatever is said concerning them shall be the truth. And should it ever pass that nothing good can truthfully be said of a Mason who dies, she will mournfully and pityingly bury him out of her sight, in tears and silence.
MASTER * * * (All rise) Brother Chaplain, please lead us in a closing benediction.
CHAPLAIN Our Father, who art in heaven, it hath pleased Thee to take from among us those who were our Brethren. Let time, as it heals the wounds thus inflicted upon our hearts and upon the hearts of those who were near and dear to them, not erase the salutary lessons engraved there; but let those lessons, always continuing distinct and legible, make us and them wiser and better. And whatever distress and trouble may hereafter come upon us, may we ever be consoled by the reflection that Thy wisdom and Thy love are equally infinite, and that our sorrows are not the visitations of Thy wrath, but the result of the great law of harmony by which everything is being conducted to a good and perfect issue in the fullness of Thy time. Let the loss of our Brethren increase our affection for those who are yet spared to us, and make us more punctual in the performance of those duties that Friendship, Love and Honor demand. And when it comes time for us to die, may a firm and abiding trust in Thy mercy dispel the gloom and dread of dissolution. Be with us now, that we may serve Thee in spirit and understanding, and to Thy name shall be ascribed the praise forever. AMEN.
(Response) So mote it be!
(Chaplain extinguishes his candle)
MASTER Brethren, (ladies, and guests), let us profit from the admonitions of this solemn occasion, and lay to heart the truths to which we have listened. And let us, Brethren, resolve so to walk that when we lay us down to the last sleep, it may be the privilege of the Brethren to strew white flowers upon our graves, and keep our memories as a fond and pleasant remembrance.
* This formally concludes our Memorial Service. Brothers Senior and Junior Warden.... (If Lodge is Tiled, proceed with #1)
(1)..let us extinguish the lights".
(Master first, then each Warden in turn. The room lights are then slowly raised to full brilliancy, and the officiating Master -if not then Master of the Lodge- returns the gavel to the Master with appropriate remarks.)
(The following alternate closing may be used, especially when the Memorial Service was open to non-masonic guests. Note the transition in the East when the officiating Master descends to approach the altar and retire from Lodge room.)
(2)..join me now in retiring from this place".
(The Wardens take their candles and advance west of the altar, where the Master joins them. Facing the East, all three solemnly bow, and then retire in single file from the Lodge room. As the Master leaves the East, a Past Master -or the Master, if another Brother was presiding during the Memorial Service- quietly slips into the East. When all three have retired, the lights are raised, and all non-masonic guests are requested to retire to permit the Lodge to be called on again for closing in due form.)
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