SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.VII April, 1929 No.4
ACACIA LEAVES AND EASTER LILIES
So run the records of all times. Older than our era, Easter has been
a day of feast and song in all lands and among all peoples. By a
certain instinct man has found in the seasons a symbol of his faith,
the blossoming of his spirit attuned to the wonder of the awakening
of the earth from the white death of winter. A deep chord in him
answers to the ever-renewed resurrection of Nature, and that instinct
is more to be trusted than all philosophy. For in Nature there is no
death, but only living and living again.
Something in the stir of spring, in the reviving earth, in the tide
of life overflowing the world, in the rebirth of the flowers, begets
an unconscious, involuntary renewal of faith in the heart of man,
refreshing his hope. So he looks into the face of each new spring
with a heart strangely glad, and strangely sad too, touched by tender
memories of springs gone by never to return, softened by thoughts of
"those who answer not, however we may call."
Truly, it is a day of Hope and Courage in the heart of man. Hope and
Courage we have for the affairs of daily life; but here is a Hope
that leaps beyond the borders of the world, and a Courage that faces
eternity. For that Easter stands, in its history, its music, its
returning miracle of spring - for the putting off of the tyranny of
time, the terror of the grave, and the triumph of the flesh, and the
putting on of immortality. Men can work with a brave heart and
endure many ills if he feels that the good he strives for here, and
never quite attains, will be won elsewhere.
There is something heroic, something magnificent in the refusal of a
man to let death have the last word. Time out of mind, as far back
as we can trace human thought - in sign or symbol - man has refused
to think of the grave as the coffin lid of a dull and mindless world
descending upon him at last. It was so in Egypt five thousand years
ago, and is so today. At the gates of the tomb he defies the Shadow
he cannot escape, and asserts the worth of his soul and its high
destiny. Surely this mighty faith is its own best proof and
prophecy, since man is a part of Nature, and what is deepest in him
is what nature has taught him to hope.
For some of us Easter has other meanings than those dug up from the
folklore of olden time. Think how you will of the lovely and heroic
figure of Jesus, it is none the less His day, dedicated to the pathos
of His Passion and the wonder of His Personality. For some of us His
Life of Love is the one everlasting romance in this hard old world,
and its ineffable tenderness seems to blend naturally with the thrill
of springtime, when the finger of God is pointing to the new birth of
the earth. No Brother will deny us the joy of weaving Easter lilies
with Acacia leaves, in celebration of a common hope.
The legend of Hiram and the life of Jesus tell us the same truth; one
in fiction and the other in fact. Both tragedies are alike
profoundly simple, complete and heartbreaking - each a symbol not
only of the victory of man over death, but of his triumph over the
stupidity and horror of evil in himself and in the world. In all the
old mythologies, the winter comes because the ruffian forces of the
world strike down and slay the gentle spirit of summer; and this dark
tragedy is reflected in the life of man - making a mystery no mortal
can solve, save as he sees it with courage and hope.
Jesus was put to death between two thieves outside the city gate.
The Master Builder was stricken down in the hour of His Glory, His
Prayer choked in His Own Blood. Lincoln was shot on Good Friday,
just as the temple of Unity and Liberty was about to be dedicated.
Each was the victim of sinister, cunning, brutal, evil force - here
is the tragedy of our race, repeated in every age and land, as
appalling as it is universal, and no man can fathom its mystery.
Yet, strangely enough, the very shadow which seems to destroy faith,
and make it seem futile and pitiful, is the fact which created the
high, heroic faith of humanity, and keeps it alive. Love, crucified
by Hate; high character slain by low cunning! Death victorious over
life - man refuses to accept that as the final meaning of the world.
He demands justice in the name of God and his own soul. The Master
Builder is betrayed and slain; his enemies are put to death - that
satisfies the sense of justice. Jesus dies with a prayer of
forgiveness on His l
But is that all? On the mount of Crucificiton, by the outworking of
events, goodness and wickedness met the same muddy fate - is that the
meaning of the world? The Master Builder and his slayers are alike
buried - is that the end? Are we to think that Jesus and Judas sleep
in the same dust, all values erased, all issues settled in the great
silence? In the name of reason it cannot be true, else chaos were
the crown of cosmos, and mud more mighty than mind!
When man, by his insight and affirmation of his soul, holds it true,
despite all seeming contradiction, that virtue is victorious over
brutal evil, and Life is Lord of Death, and that the soul is as
eternal as the moral order in which it lives, the heart of the race
has found the truth. Argument is unnecessary; the great soul of the
world we call God is just. Here is the basis of all religion and the
background of all philosophy. From the verdict of the senses and the
logic of the mind, man appeals to the justice of God, and finds
Thou wilt not leave us in the dust;
Thou maddest man, he knows not why, He thinks he was not made to
And thou has made him; Thou art just.
With what overwhelming impressiveness this faith is set forth in the
greatest Degree of Freemasonry, the full meaning and depth of which
we have not yet begun to fathom, much less realize. Edwin Booth was
right when he said that the Third degree of Masonry is the
profoundest, the simplest, the most heart-gripping tragedy known
among men. Where else are all the elements of tragedy more perfectly
blended in a scene which shakes the heart and makes it stand still?
It is pathetic, It is confounding. Everything seems shattered and
lost. Yet, somehow, we are not dismayed by it, because we are made
to feel that there is a Beyond - the victim is rather set free from
life than deprived of it.
Without faith in the future, where the tangled tragedies of this
world are made straight, and its weary woe is healed, despair would
be our fate. By this faith men live and endure in spite of ills.
Its roots go deeper than argument, deeper than dogma, deeper than
reason, as deep as infancy and old age, as deep as love and faith -
older than history - that the power which weaves in silence, robes of
white for the lilies or red for the rose, will the much more clothe
our spirits with a moral beauty that shall never fade.
But there is a still deeper meaning in the Third Degree of Masonry,
if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. It is not explained in the
lectures; it is hardly hinted at in the lodge. Yet it is as clear as
day, if we have insight. The Degree ends not in a memorial, but in
the manifestation of the Eternal Life. Raised from the dead level to
a living perpendicular by the strong grip of faith, the Master
Builder lives by the power of an endless life. That is to say,
Masonry symbolically initiates us into Eternal Life here and now,
makes us citizens of eternity in time and bids us live and act
accordingly. Here is the deepest secret Masonry has to teach - that
we are immortal here and now; that death is nothing to the soul; that
eternity is today.
When shall we become that which we are? When shall we, who are sons
of the Most High, born of His Love and Power, made in His Image, and
endowed with His Deathless Life, discover who we are, whence we came,
and whither we tend, and live a free, joyous, triumphant life which
belongs of right to immortal spirits! Give a man an hour to live,
and you put him in a cage. Extend it to a day, and he is freer.
Give him a year, and he moves in larger orbit and makes his plans.
Let him know that he is a citizen of an eternal world, and he is free
indeed, a master of life and time and death - a Master Mason.
Thus Acacia leaves and Easter lilies unite to give us the hint, if
not the key to a higher heroism and cheer, even "the glory of going
on and still to be;" a glory which puts new meaning and value into
these our days and years - so brief at their longest, so broken at
their best, their achievements so transient, and so quickly
forgotten. Sorrows come, and heartache, and loneliness unutterable,
when those we love fall into the great white sleep; but the sprig of
Acacia will grow in our hearts, if we cultivate it, watering it the
while with our tears, and at last it will be not a symbol but a
sacrament in the house of our pilgrimage.
What to you is Shadow,
to Him is Day,
And the end He Knoweth;
Thy spirit goeth;
The steps of Faith
Fall on a seeming void,
and find A rock beneath.