WHERE PARALLEL LINES INTERSECT
By: Rev. Jan L. Beaderstadt, PM
Bro. Jan L. Beaderstadt is a member and Past Master of
Copper Country Lodge #135, Hancock, Michigan; a member and
present Junior Warden of Bowring Lodge #414 of Standish,
Michigan and Editor of the Michigan Masonic Publication,
From Point-to-Pointe. Editor
"But in modern times they are dedicated to St. John the
Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, who were eminent
patrons of Masonry; and since their time there is
represented in every regular and well governed Lodge a
certain Point within a circle; the Point representing an
individual Brother; the Circle representing the boundary
which he is never to suffer his passions, prejudices or
interests, to betray him on any occasion.
This Circle is embroidered by two perpendicular parallel
lines, representing St. John the Baptist and St. John the
Evangelist, who are perfect parallels in Christianity as
well as Masonry. Upon the vertex rests the book of Holy
Scriptures, which points out the whole duty of man. In going
round this Circle, we necessarily touch upon these two
lines, as well as upon the Holy Scriptures; and while a
Mason keeps himself thus circumscribed it is impossible
that he should materially err." (Michigan Monitor)
As a new entered apprentice, I stood and looked at that
circle with the two parallel lines, and at my proficiency
examination, recited it with perfection. But what does this
really mean to me, a Man and a Mason? And why the Sts. John?
Indeed, why? They were unique characters of Christianity who
were strange in their own right.
At first glance in the Scriptures, they seem like strange
people to hold up as examples. John the Baptist's diet
consisted of wild honey and locusts. Honey certainly is
appealing, but the locust! A study of Middle Eastern customs
indicate that they could be eaten fried, boiled, dried or
raw. Certainly not a person you'd want to invite to your
lodge' s next potluck.
He dressed in camel hair clothing and his hair and beard had
a wild look about it. And he didn't have a lot of tact, he
told you the truth straight to your face. He called the
Pharisees a "brood of vipers" and was fond of telling every-
one to repent. In our "politically correct" era, he would
certainly not be riding high in the polls.
St. John the Evangelist was also a different sort. He was a
rich kid (Scripture tells us that his father owned at least
one fishing boat on the Galilee and they had servants) and
at the beginning of the Gospel of John he was looking to
find himself. He first attached himself to John the Baptist
until called by Christ.
He was hot tempered, so much so that Jesus called John and
his brother James "boanerges" meaning "sons of thunder." He
lived up to that name when the villagers in a small town in
Samaria refused to welcome Jesus and the disciples, so he
asked Jesus if he (John) could rain fire and brimstone down
upon them (Luke 9:51-55). Fortunately for the village, Jesus
John was also self-seeking, asking with his brother James
for thrones on the right and left of Christ when Jesus set
up his early kingdom, thus placing himself above the other
But when one goes beyond their faults, the Sts. John have
some strong qualities that every Mason should exhibit.
When looking at John the Baptist, one must look at him
through an Eastern light. John was a Nazirite from birth,
literally set aside for service to God. He let his hair
and beard grow wild, because like Sampson, he could not cut
his hair, which was forbidden by Mosaic law. His appearance
brought to mind, to the people who heard him, the stories of
Elijah the prophet who had dressed in similar manner. His
clothing was of camel hair, because that was what poor
people wore. It was plentiful when the camels shed their
coats. It was cheap, warm, and although scratchy, quite
John taught "change of character." He pointed fearlessly
to the truth, even at the cost of his life. It was better to
die for truth than to live a lie, because he knew that the
Great Light upon the Altar, the holy scriptures, pointed to
a better way, a life with God.
St. John the Evangelist teaches us to subdue our passions,
one of the first things every Mason is taught in lodge.
When we follow the Gospels and the Book of Acts in the New
Testament, we see a major transformation of young John. He
goes from being the hot-tempered young man to one who
exhibits peace in his old age. He goes from being intolerant
of others, to working with others in sharing his theology
of a better way of life.
John is loyal. He was the only disciple to attend the trial
of Jesus as well as to be at the foot of the cross for the
crucifixion. And when he heard about the empty tomb on
Sunday morning, he was the first of the disciples to arrive.
He also took care of the widows taking Mary, the mother of
Jesus, into his home until she died.
A study of John's writings shows that he teaches truth with
love. He didn't waiver from his convictions, but he knew the
power of truth and love in a person's life.
Applying The Sts. John To Our Lives
If they form the two parallels, then a Mason traveling the
circle must touch both of the Sts. John and learn from each
He must learn to subdue his passions. A story is told in my
lodge about a man who took his entered apprentice degree and
then 20 years later came back to take his proficiency. When
asked why he waited so long, he replied, "It took me this
long to learn to subdue my passions!"
Learning to subdue our passions is a lifelong process. Zeal
not tempered by love becomes extremism and leads to misuse
of power. The problems in Bosnia, Northern Ireland and the
Middle East can be directly related to failure to subdue
While subduing one's passions is good, a Mason must always
stand for truth. Truth, even when it is unpopular, is still
better than the alternative. Truth will always reign. Even
when some dictator tries to re-write it, the real truth will
Like St. John the Evangelist, a Mason must help the widow
and orphan. In our lodges today, are we doing enough?
Recently, I received a call from a new widow who's husband
had unexpectedly died, and she was about to lose her house
due to the loss of income with his death. "If anything ever
happens to me, call the Masons" he would always tell her.
But she wondered what they could do. And I wondered, what
would her husband's lodge do? It's up to every Mason to look
after the widows and orphans.
Every Mason must practice brotherly love, which is the
unique characteristic of our fraternity. St. John writes
about the true meaning of brotherly love when he says: "This
is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life
for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in
need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in
him?" I John 3:16-17.
A Mason is called to practice charity. We must hear the
cries of a needy brother, but we must also be aware of each
other to see when we are in need. Masons must care, which we
learn from traveling the circle.
Where Parallel Lines Meet
If one travels the circle, he quickly finds that the two
parallel lines meet at the point where the circle touches
upon the Volume of Sacred Law.
In Masonry, the Bible is called the Great Light and is
placed in an open position in the center of the lodge. A
brother is admonished to open it and learn from its wisdom
in all the three degrees of Masonry.
Indeed, the Sts. John were well versed in Scripture, and
held it in high esteem. They looked with reverence to its
knowledge, because they knew the answers of life were
contained within its pages. They were not afraid to quote
it, to trust it, to read it, and to apply it to their lives.
Masons must likewise emulate the Sts. John in their
application of this Holy Light in their lives. Only by its
constant attention and application can a Mason improve his
If Masonry is to grow today, it will not be through some
flashy change or altering of ritual, it will be when each
brother begins to travel the circle on a regular basis,
touching upon each of the patrons of Masonry as well as the
Scriptures. Each time we touch the Scriptures or the Sts.
John, something should rub off on each of us, just as
brushing against chalk will leave its mark, no matter how
light the touch.
Values like truth, subduing passions, brotherly love, care
of widows and orphans and practicing charity never go out
of style. They are timeless values, and no matter how often
attacked, always rise victorious in the end.
The Sts. John are timeless examples for each of us. Their
foibles simply show their humanness. It is in their
humanness that we can relate to them, and see that if we
apply Scripture and our Masonic teachings, we too can become
What Is The "Lodge of the Holy Sts. John at Jerusalem"?
Originally, lodges were dedicated to King Solomon. Later--at
least as early as 1598--Masonry connected her name with that
of St. John the Evangelist. Dedications to the Sts. John
were made by other organizations as early as the third
century, when the Church adopted the two pagan celebrations
of summer and winter solstices and made them our St.
John's Day in Summer and St. John's Day in Winter. It was
wholly natural for operative Masons, having dedicated their
Craft to the Holy Sts. John, to begin to believe that both
Johns were themselves Craftsmen. Craftsmen must have a
lodge--where should that lodge be, but in Jerusalem? Hence
"The Lodge of the Holy Sts. John of Jerusalem" came into
No such lodge ever existed in fact, and yet it is not a
fiction--it is an ideal, and without such ideals our life
would be dim and drab. The thought back of the question and
answer, then, is that we come from an ideal lodge into this
actual workaday world, where our ideals are to be tested.
Today, we use the phrase as the starting point for a Masonic
career, Masons mean only that their Craft is dedicated to
these holy men, whose precepts and practices, ideas and
virtues, teachings and examples, all Freemasons should try
From MSA Digest 101 Questions