Chaplain Messages 2017
Chaplain’s Message January 2017 by Rick Rayfield
Janus or Juno?
I was a tour guide at the Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago during my college days. Architecture, stained glass, banners, history, and the second largest bell set in the world. Dong! Ding! Dong! I enjoy visiting churches, cathedrals, and Masonic temples when I can. We may appreciate ancient temples for their beauty and craftsmanship. Badly made and unattractive temples have largely fallen into ruin or been replaced. The sad truth is that many beautiful well-crafted temples in history are also gone.
We are all too aware of the destruction of the Temple of Solomon (957 to 586 BCE), a key symbol for Freemasons. It was following by the Second Temple (516 BCE – 70CE) built by Zerubabel after the Babylonian Exile, rebuilt by Herod (20 BCE) and destroyed during the siege of Jerusalem by Romans. The Romans built a temple to Jupiter on the site, which was replaced by the present Dome of the Rock built in 691 and rebuilt in 1021.
Ah- Jupiter. Lest we forget. And his wife/sister Juno. Everyone knows that Janus, the Roman god facing both forward and back, is the god of January, the time of transitions. Ring in the old, bring in the New Year. Exactly a week after the (slightly now misdated) Winter Solstice, piggybacked by Christmas. But scholars now argue that January is named after the goddess Juno, often viewed as the goddess of youthful energy and strength. Birth and transitions- Juno and Janus- are not opposites at all. What is striking is that the attributes and worship of gods and goddesses shifts through the years in many cultures. The shifting often produces rivalries and wars. Athena became the goddess of beauty, wisdom, and war (Nike!) as the centuries vacillated between art, and civics, and war.
Each year brings us fresh waves of sun and rain and snow. Transitions, rebirth. Fresh enthusiasm for new starts and restarts. Like the magnificent temples of old, our temples are temporary in some ways, and eternal in the heavens in other ways. We worship tradition and we worship progress, one in each hand, bringing them sometimes together in prayer. Let the scholars argue from their different viewpoints of ancient knowledge. Let us listen, but let us live in the present. Let our temples be on level foundations, with upright walls, and square construction. Let our boundaries be firm and our gaze eternal. May we enjoy our work ahead. Happy New Year!
Chaplain’s Message February 2017 by Rick Rayfield
The Way, the Truth, and the Light
A new brother coming into Mad River Lodge recently chose to take the obligation with the Tao Te Ching as the “Book of Sacred Law” on the altar. The brothers had a discussion about it. The Tao Te Ching – the “Bible” of Taoism- was written about 600 BCE in China. Tao means “Way”. The first sentence translates roughly “The Way that is named in not the True Way.” (That is, put a name on it and you have missed the point.) Te means “Truth”. And Ching means something like Great Explanation or Enlightening. Some Taoists prefer the title as Te Tao Ching, putting the Truth before the Way, as the text can be shuffled by date or topic. Either way (ha ha) the book is considered the basis of enlightenment in Taoism.
The brothers present at that discussion seemed enlightened. It was clear the new brother taking an obligation on the Tao Te Ching believes in something more divine than Man. And they could see the Tao Te Ching as a required “Book of Sacred Law” on our altar. Some of us have seen various Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and Buddhist holy books on the altar in the House of the Temple in Washington DC.
As I drove home after the meeting, I recalled a quote from Jesus of Nazareth. He said (in Aramaic or Hebrew) “I am the Way, The Truth, and The Light.”
We sometimes struggle to see something or someone as different, when they are so close to the same. Seeing faiths as different but similar enriches our own traditional view. We ask questions about various faiths. This does not strain our faith. We often find our faith strengthened by looking at other faiths. Knowing about them helps our appreciation exceed our tolerance for our brothers. So mote it be.
Chaplain’s Message March 2017 by Rick Rayfield
Mars marches on. Mars was not a Freemason.
The month of March is named for the ever popular god of war, Mars. So is Tuesday (after the war god Tiw melded with Mars. Tuesday is Mardi in French.) Leonard Cohen, the late Canadian song-writer with a voice like a Fayston Town plow truck sang that King David- the author of many of the Psalms- had a secret chord that he played and “pleased the Lord”. But we know David came into glory first for his feats of battle, notably turning the tide of the war against the Philistines by slaying Goliath with a rock from his sling. Author Geraldine Brooks’ recent best-seller portrays David’s irritation as he grows old. David is left by his generals to be a figurehead rather than a blood-letting sword-swinging terror-tolling warrior. David can no longer wage war himself. He is from youth and at heart a warrior- a man who can kill another human without hesitation. So he is forbidden to build a temple to Jehovah. The Lord offers David the consolation of a “house” that will remain in history. But Solomon and the Hirams and the people build the Temple. In his frustration, David produces beautiful Psalms and sings them with “secret chords”. But masons build Solomon’s Temple.
Looking through my little black Masonic Monitor, and reviewing the 4th through 32nd degrees, and looking at the historic leaders of freemasonry, I am struck that they were builders, not warriors by and large. Many of them in history- and many of today’s Masons- fought bloody battles for their homes and nations. The many of the fighters for independence for United States, France, Ecuador/Bolivia, and Cuba were freemasons. Freemasons will fight for what they believe. BUT, the teachings of Freemasonry are largely about building up what is good- faith, hope, charity. Building temples with good boundaries and perfect squares. Building for education, and beautiful, and the progress of civilization. Freemasonry is not about good fighting evil. It is about building goodness in our lives and the world around us. We put aside debates about religion and politics, and instead spend our efforts on creating what is universally good. Improving ourselves by subduing our passions, helping others, promoting education and health. We respect the wisdom of the past, and apply it to increasing the wisdom of the future. Progress is not a war. Progress is human nature, and freemasonry one of its champions.
Chaplain’s Message April 2017 by Rick Rayfield 33⁰
We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers and has been handed down from father to son. We worship in that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favors we receive, to love one another and be united.
from world-renowned 1805 speech by Red Jacket- (Seneca Indian).
So many different forms of Freemasonry exist- Blue Lodges, York Rite, Shrine, Scottish Rite, Eastern Star, DeMolay, Rainbow Girls. You might think other similar groups- like Oddfellows, Knights of Columbus, college fraternities and sororities, Order of the Arrow, Rosicrucians, and so on are copycats or simply variations on our theme. Arthur C Parker 32⁰- an eminent archaeologist and Seneca Indian- traced his own membership in Masonic bodies to what he calls the natural aspects of Masonry. He found that men, and women, meeting together to improve their spiritual and ethical selves, and using rituals to codify their shared virtues and aspirations, exist in many cultures around the world, through history, and especially in Native American culture. He said the use of symbols, and altars with or without fire, and ritual walking together often with a guide, and an open but shared appreciation of Creation and the mysteries of Nature, with deity often named and often unnamed are all common around the world. We might more appreciate our own version of “natural masonry” if we did not claim it to be the First and True. Rather we can enrich our own version by seeing it immersed in a deep and broad family of similar natural associations of people with each other and in relation to the broader universe of things inanimate and living. Our differences and our similarities weave us together in the web of Creation.
Chaplain’s Message May 2017 by Rick Rayfield 33⁰
Breathe in Some Heroic Inspiration
Tales of heroism inspire us. Courage, genius, and self-sacrifice combine to remind us that miracles can occur by virtue of human determination. We have many heroic stories from days of old and in the current news. Heroism happens in war, in natural disasters, in fights against epidemics and to preserve species and to right wrongs and to promote justice. Sometimes we are heroes to the wide world, to our town, to our family, or even just to ourselves. Sometimes we get our 15 minutes of fame, and sometimes no one knows what we have done. Sometime we do not even realize ourselves what we have done. Like Abe Lincoln thinking his address at Gettysburg was a failure when the crowd failed to applaud.
Recently, I do not think there was a dry eye among 50 Masons watching a Scottish Rite play depicting best friends who became heroes at Gettysburg in 1863. Freemasons Lewis Armistead of Virginia and Winfield Hancock of Pennsylvania served in the US army under General Thomas Johnston until the outbreak of civil war. Fighting on opposing sides, Confederate General Armistead led a heroic charge that briefly turned the battle. He was wounded and dying when Union Captain Bingham came to his aid and delivered his farewell message and Masonic bible to Union General Hancock who was separately wounded. A monument at Gettysburg marks this story of brotherhood in the face of dutiful adversity.
Could I ever rise to such heroism? Once on Earth Day I jumped into the Mad River to save a plastic trout bucket that was floating away from the Game Warden. My little child thought I was a hero. I didn’t.
To expire means to breathe out, perhaps finally. To inspire means to breathe in. Heroes inspire us by making us breathe in the goodness of their actions. One hopes to emulate them, not just by being amazed, but by striving to be a hero if the occasion demands it. That’s a lame excuse! We all can be “heroes” almost every day if we look someone in the eye with a smile, when we offer assistance, even if it is rejected. We are heroes when we call someone “brother”. Even if it only urges them consider what Father we share. As I look at the gravestones on Memorial Day, I see monuments to a sea of heroes. Unsung, but not unloved. Suck it up! Breathe in, past and present, Brothers all!
CHAPLAIN’s Message November 2017 by Rick Rayfield
Sounds Like Lunch
The Junior Warden, standing in the South in the brilliant sun at noon, is charged with call- ing the Craft from Labor to Refreshment, supervising them so that excess does not occur and calling them back to Labor from which we all benefit. Sounds like lunch.
To re-fresh, means to freshen again, from the Old English where it meant pure and sweet, from the Old French re-fres(che), with the root fres coming from the Dutch Old German frisch, meaning not salty; fit to drink. As in freshwater fish! In the last 50 years, the word refreshment has seen an increase in use. As Masons are we talking drinking water? Or food that renews our strength? Or a spiritual sense of camaraderie and sense of purpose by stepping back from our work. “Recreation” has a wide breadth of meaning from physical to spiritual.
So it is with many Masonic symbols and words. And so it is with the English language which is notable for its rich (i.e. large) vocabulary and multiplicity of meanings. Its complexity mirrors a complex world. Definitions are sometimes precise- such as ivory being a color between white and cream. But white, ivory, and cream each have multiple meanings, relating to skin, teeth, and dairy, among many usages.
In our Masonic world we live in a rich multiplicity of purposes, roles, symbols, bodies, ceremonies, and histories. They can be confusing or frustrating, but they should be enjoyed methinks whilst wrestling their semantics. Most people think lunch is just short for luncheon. Deeper investigation- something you might not do as labor but as refreshment- suggests that lunch has it history as the word “lump”, referring to a portion of food, likely bread and cheese. And luncheon was later developed as sitting down with your lump or lunch. It seems parallel to the words nunch and nuncheon, from noon-scenc, for noon-drink. But there nuncheon came first and got shortened to nunch. (and munch sounds similar, but has a different history altogether).
I get asked at almost every Lodge room tour about when Freemasonry started. How old is it? Like Refreshment, our history depends the string of forms and the string of meanings of the word “masonry” in different times and places, as complexly woven as spider’s web. And yet with strength and beauty. Refreshment is more than rest, or a nourishing meal and clean water- though it is those things. It is stepping back for perspective. It is stepping in for friendship. It is for pride in observing the fruits of labor, and humility in seeing our limits. And yes, every kind of refreshment, like labor, can be excessive- whether spiritual or physical. What kinds of profit do we gain if we build our temples to a divine plan? Many. Or one.
Chaplain’s Message December 2017 By Rick Rayfield
Twelfth Month, keeping the Faith
The name of December indicates it is the tenth (Dec, as in decimal or decade) month, just as sept (seven), oct (eight), and nov (nine) are the roots for September, October and November. How did four months get out of order? They are months nine through twelve now, misnamed. The short answer is that in the past, the winter period after the solstice was bleak and unscheduled, and therefore unnamed. And a New Year was figured to start at the equinox, the month of Mars, God of war, a good time to start up warfare again. But that dull time was eventually filled in with the names January and February, after Janus the god whose two faces look back and forward. February has had a lot of names in different countries, so we’ll leave that short fellow alone this month.
By December, now the twelfth month, with holidays piled up like green wood, we can lose our way spiritually despite the good intent of the holidays, whichever ones pervade you. A Masonic prayer from the Rose Croix degree relating to Faith Hope and Charity goes like this:
“ We must have faith in God as our Heavenly Father who loves us;
Faith in our fellow men that they, like us, seek to be honest in their purposes;
Faith in ourselves — a modest and unassuming confidence that, if we are resolute, we shall overcome all difficulties in everyday life. “
The end of the year is sometimes a hard time to have faith, as the holiday rush tests our patience, our budgets of time and money, and our sense of what SHOULD be important. And with calendar changes, and time changes, and gift exchanges, and family changes, and changes in change (the Canadians stopped using pennies the years ago, and “In God We Trust” has been moved to the edge of some of our coins, and changes in our health and in health care and in how to dial the darn phone. What can you have faith in? The prayer says we must have faith (oh thanks, we MUST? “ We must have faith that we are a loved part of Creation even when we are not so good at reading the plans on the Great Trestleboard. We must have faith that most people, like us, our fellows, most of the time, imperfect as we all are, SEEK to be honest with each other. And we must have faith in ourselves that we can steer through the storms small and great that tip our boats, or make our cars slide off the crown of the road, and find ourselves often working and playing for the good of ourselves, and our families, the whole of Creation. Does the birth of a child, or the miracle of lasting light, or the seven candles near a display of family cultural treasure, or just the smell of a real tree inside your home, help you have faith that Good can rule us? I Hope so. Perhaps finding my Faith in my Hope is just as important. Happy Kwanzaa. Happy Hanukah. Merry Christmas. Good Yule to you. Keep the Faith Brother.