SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.VIII August, 1930 No.8

CORN, WINE AND OIL

by: Unknown

     The wages which our ancient brethren received for their labors in the  
 building of King Solomonís Temple are paid no more.  In the lodge we  
 use them as symbols, save in the dedication, constitution and  
 consecration of a new lodge and in the laying of cornerstones, when  
 once again the fruit of the land, the brew of the grape and the  
 essence of the olive are poured to launch a new unit of brotherhood  
 into the fellowship of lodges; or to begin a new structure dedicated  
 to the public use.	 
     Corn, wine and oil have been associated together from the earliest  
 times.  In Deuteronomy the "nation of fierce countenance" which is to  
 destroy the people "shall not leave thee either corn, wine or oil."   
 In II Chronicles we read "the children of Israel brought in abundance  
 the first fruits of corn, wine and oil -."Nehemiah tells of "a great  
 chamber where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the  
 frankincense and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the new  
 wine and the oil - " and later "then brought all Judah the tithe of  
 the corn, the new wine and the oil into the treasures." 
 There are other references in the Great Light to these particular  
 forms of taxes, money and tithes for religious purposes; wealth and  
 refreshment.  In ancient days the grapes in the vineyard and olives  
 in the grove and the grain of the field were not only wealth but the  
 measure of trade; so many skins of wine, so many cruses of oil, so  
 many bushels of corn were to them as are dollars and cents today.   
 Thus our ancient brethren received wages in corn, wine and oil as a  
 practical matter; they were paid for their labors in the coin of the  
 realm. 
     The oil pressed from the olive was as important to the Jews in  
 Palestine as butter and other fats are among occidentals.  Because it  
 was so necessary, and hence so valuable, it became an important part  
 of sacrificial rites.  There is no point in the sacrifice which is  
 only a form.  To be effective it must offer before the Altar  
 something of value; something the giving of which will testify to the  
 love and veneration in which the sacrificer holds the Most High. 
 Oil was also used not only as a food but for lighting purposes; more  
 within the house than in the open air, where torches were more  
 effective.  Oil was also an article of the bath; mixed with perfume  
 it was used in the ceremonies of anointment, and in preparation for  
 ceremonial appearances.  The "Precious ointment upon the head, which  
 ran down upon the beard, even Aaronís beard, that went down to the  
 skirts of his garment;" as the quotation has it in our entered  
 Apprentice Degree, (and Nevadaís Master Mason opening and closing)  
 was doubtless made of olive oil, suitably mixed with such perfumes  
 and spices as myrrh, cinnamon, galbanum and frankincense.  Probably  
 oil was also used as a surgical dressing; nomadic peoples, subject to  
 injuries, could hardly avoid knowledge of the value of soothing oil. 
 With so many uses for oil, its production naturally was stimulated.   
 Not only was the production of the olive grove a matter of wealth,  
 but the nourishing and processing of the oil gave employment to many.   
 Oil was obtained from the olive both by pressing - probably by a  
 stone wheel revolving in or on a larger stone, mill or mortar - and  
 also by a gentle pounding.  This hand process produced a finer  
 quality of oil.  "And thou shalt command the children of Israel that  
 they bring pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to  
 burn always."  (Exodus, 27-20.) 
     The corn of the Bible is not the corn we know today.   
 In many, if not the majority of the uses of the word, a more  
 understandable translation would be simply "grain."  The principal  
 grains of the Old Testament days were barley and wheat; corn  
 represents not only both of these, but all the grains which the Jews  
 cultivated.  Our modern corn, cultivated and cross-bred was, of  
 course, unknown to the ancients, although it might be going too far  
 to say they had no grain similar to the Indian maize from which our  
 great corn crop has grown. 
     An ear of grain has been an emblem of plenty since the mists of  
 antiquity which shroud the beginnings of mythology.  Ceres, goddess  
 of abundance, survives today in our cereals.  The Greeks call her  
 Demeter, a corruption of Gemeter, our mother earth.  She wore a  
 garland of grain and carried ears of grain in her hand. 
 The Hebrew Shibboleth means both an ear of corn and a flood of water.   
 Both are symbols of abundance, plenty and wealth.  American Masonic  
 use of a sheaf of wheat in place of an ear of wheat - or any other  
 grain such as corn - seems rather without point or authority.  As for  
 the substitution occasionally heard, of "water ford" for "water  
 fall," we can only blame the corrupting influence of time and the  
 ignorance of those who have permitted it, since a water "Ford"  
 signifies a paucity, the absence of water, while a water "Fall"  
 carries out both the translation of the word and the meaning of the  
 ear of corn - plenty. 
     Scarcely less important to our ancient brethren than their corn and  
 oil, was the wine.  Vineyards were highly esteemed both as wealth and  
 as a comfort - the pleasant shade of the "vine and fig tree" was a  
 part of ancient hospitality.  Vineyards on mountain sides or hills  
 were most carefully tended and protected against washing away by  
 terraces and walls, as even today one may see the hillsides of the  
 Rhine.  Thorn hedges kept cattle from helping themselves to the  
 grapes.  The vineyardist frequently lived in a watch tower or hut on  
 an elevation to keep sharp look-out that neither predatory man nor  
 beast took his ripening wealth. 
     The feast of Booths, in the early fall, when the grapes were ripe,  
 was a time of joy and happiness.  "New Wine" - that is, the  
 unfermented, just pressed-out juice of the grape - was drunk by all.   
 Fermented wine was made by storing the juice of the grape in skins or  
 bottles.  Probably most of the early wine of Old Testament days was  
 red, but later the white grape must have come into esteem - at least,  
 it is the principal grape of production for that portion of the world  
 today. 
     Corn, wine and oil form important and necessary parts of the  
 ceremonies of the dedication, consecration and constitution of a new  
 lodge. 
     Lodges were anciently dedicated to King Solomon, but as we all know,  
 our modern lodges are dedicated to the Holy Sts. John. "and since  
 their time there is represented in every regular and well-governed  
 lodge a certain point within a circle, emborderd by two parallel  
 perpendicular lines, representing those saints." 
 This symbol of the point within the circle is far older than King  
 Solomonís Temple.  The two lines which emborder it, and which we  
 consider represent the Saints, were originally representative of the  
 summer and winter solstices.  The Holy Sts. John have their "days" so  
 closely to the summer and winter solstices - (June 24 and December 27  
 are almost coincident to June 21 and December 21) that there can be  
 little doubt that both lines and dates represented to our "ancient  
 brethren" the highest and lowest points which the sun reached in its  
 travels north and south.  They are, most intimately connected with  
 the time of fecundity and harvest, the festivals of the first fruits,  
 the depths of winter and the beginning of the long climb of the sun  
 up from the south towards the days of warmth which that climb  
 promised. 
     Hence corn, wine and oil - the produce of the land - are natural  
 accompaniments to the dedication of a lodge which it is hoped will  
 prosper, reap in abundance of the first fruits of Masonic cultivation  
 and a rich harvest of ripe character from the seeds it plants. 
 Corn, wine and oil poured upon the symbolic lodge at the ceremony  
 which creates it, are essential to "erection" or "consecration."  All  
 lodges are "erected to God and Consecrated to the services of the  
 Most High."  From earliest times consecration has been accompanied by  
 sacrifice, a free-will offering of something of real value to those  
 who thus worship.  Hence the sacrifice of corn, wine and oil - the  
 wealth of the land, the strength of the tribe, the come-fort and  
 well-being of the individual - at the consecration of any place of  
 worship or service of God.  
     Like so much else in our ceremonies, the idea today is wholly  
 symbolic.  The Grand Master orders his Deputy (or whatever other  
 officer is customary) to pour the Corn, the Senior Grand Warden to  
 pour the Wine and the Junior Grand Warden to pour the oil upon the  
 "lodge" - usually a covered structure representing the original Ark  
 of the Covenant.  The corn is poured as an emblem of nourishment; the  
 wine as an emblem of refreshment and the oil as an emblem of joy and  
 happiness. 
     The sacrifice we thus make is not actual, any more than Masonic work  
 is physical labor.  The ceremony should mean to those who take part  
 in it, to those who form the new lodge, that the symbolic sacrifice  
 will be made real by the donation of the necessary time, effort,  
 thought and brotherly affection which will truly make the new lodge  
 an effective instrument in the hands of the builders.  When the Grand  
 Master constitutes the new lodge, he brings it legally into  
 existence.  A man and a woman may be married in a civil ceremony of  
 consecration.  But as the joining of a man and woman in matrimony is  
 by most considered as a sacrament, to be solemnized with the blessing  
 of the Most High, so is the creation of a new lodge, but the  
 consecration is also its spirit. 
     In the laying of a corner stone the Grand Master also pours, or  
 causes to be poured, the corn, wine and oil, symbolizing health,  
 prosperity and peace.  The fruits of the land are poured upon the  
 cornerstone to signify that it will form part of a building which  
 shall grow, be used for purposes of proper refreshment, and become  
 useful and valuable to men.  The ceremonies differ in different  
 Jurisdictions - indeed, so do those of the dedication, consecration  
 and constitution of a lodge - but the essential idea is the same  
 everywhere. regardless of the way in which they are applied in the  
 ritualistic ceremonies. 
     It probably matters very little what varieties of grain, of oil and  
 juice of the grape are used in these ceremonies.  The symbolism will  
 be the same, since the brethren assembled will not know the actual  
 character of the fruits of the earth being used.  The main theme is  
 that "Fruits of the Earth" are being used, no matter which fruits  
 they are!  To be quite correct though, barley or wheat should be used  
 for the corn, olive oil for the oil, and sacramental wine, such as is  
 permitted by the Volstead Act (during the days of the prohibition!)  
 for religious purposes for the wine.  It may be noted, however, that  
 "new wine" or unfermented grape juice was used by the children of  
 Israel as a sacrificial wine, the ordinary grape juice in no way  
 destroys the symbolism.  Mineral oil, of course is oil, and is a  
 "fruit of the earth" in the sense that it comes from the "clay which  
 is constantly being employed for manís use." The oil of Biblical  
 days, however, was wholly vegetable, whether it was the olive oil of  
 commerce, or the oil of cedar as was used in burials. 
     Corn, wine and oil were the wages paid our ancient brethren.  They  
 were the "Masterís Wages" of the days of King Solomon.  Masons of  
 this day receive no material wages for their labors; the work done in  
 a lodge is paid for only in the coin of the heart.  But those wages  
 are no less real.  They may sprout as does the grain, strengthen as  
 does the wine, nourish as does the oil.  How much we receive and what  
 we do with our wages depends entirely on our Masonic work.  A brother  
 obtains from his lodge and from his Order only what he puts into it.   
 Our ancient brethren were paid for their physical labors.  Whether  
 their wages were paid for work performed upon the mountain and in the  
 quarries, or whether they received corn, wine and oil because they  
 labored in the fields or vineyards, it was true then, and it is true  
 now, that only "in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread."  To  
 receive the equivalent of corn, wine and oil, a brother must labor.   
 He must till the fields of his own heart or build the temple of his  
 own "house not made with hands.  "He must labor to his neighbor or  
 carry stones for his brotherís temple. 
     If he stands, waits, watches and wonders he will not be able to  
 ascend into the Middle Chamber where our ancient brethren received  
 their wages.  If he works for the joy of working, does his part in  
 his lodge work, takes his place among the laborers of Freemasonry, he  
 will receive corn, wine and oil in measures pressed down and running  
 over, and know a Fraternal Joy as substantial in fact as it is  
 ethereal in quality; as real in his heart as it is intangible to the  
 profane of the world. 
     For all of us then corn, then wine and then oil are symbols of  
 sacrifice, of the fruits of labor, of wages earned.  For all of us,  
 "SO MOTE IT BE!" 
 
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