TESTS OF A TRUE MASON
I do not intend dear brethren and guests, to give you a grandiose oration. I simply want to talk things Masonic over with you; for I strongly feel that a Masonic gathering like this Annual Communicatlon of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines is fitting venue for talking things Masonic over.
For this purpose, I want you to listen, listen carefully and attentively, to a Masonic parable that appeared in a Notice of an Arkansas Consistory.
The parable is about Zebulon, one of the faithful workmen found worthy to receive the Master's degree after the completion and dedication of King Solomon's Temple.
Having been invested with the secrets of a Master Mason that would entitle him to receive wages while traveling in foreign countries, he journeyed eastward to a far country. In the course of his travel, his clothes became tattered, his purse light, his strength failing, and his feet sore. In dire need of rest, he sat down by the wayside. Not long afterward, he beheld a stranger approaching him.
Zebulon asked the stranger, "Are you a Mason?" And the stranger answered, "Yes, I am. Behold, I show you the 24-inch gauge and the common gavel with which I wrought at the building of King Solomon's Temple." Then he passed on.
Later he met a wayfaring man. "Are you a Mason?" Zebulon asked once more. And the wayfaring man replied, "Yes, l am. I can prove it to you by the sheaf of wheat and two of the pillars of King Solomon's Temple." And he likewise passed on.
Zebulon plodded through the streets of the great city. At high twelve he sat himself down upon the steps of the palace. A few moments later the prince came forth. Rising to his feet, Zebulon accosted the prince and asked him, "Are you a Mason?" "I certainly am," said the prince. "Behold, I have built my palace after designs laid down upon the trestleboard, and the walls thereof have been raised by the square, the level, and the plumb. If you doubt, you can try them."
After the prince had left him, Zebulon pursued his journey anew until he passed out of the city's gate. Then he beheld a judge seated in judgment and clad in white ermine robe. Craving audience, he asked the judge the same question: "Are you a Mason?" To prove he was a Mason, the judge said, "Here you can see a keystone I have caused to be set in this grand arch, like unto one of those in the beautiful gate of King Solomon's Temple."
Bowing to the judge, Zebulon walked onward. Then, upon the highway, he met an army with banners, at the head of which rode the captain and his officers, all armed and clad in full pageantry of victorious war. Saluting the captain, Zebulon inquired, "Are you, sir, a Mason?" Answered the captain: "You bet, I am ! King Solomon clothed me with the lambskin, by far the most honorable of all decorations, when worthily worn." And the captain and his host passed on, leaving Zebulon standing by the wayside.
Zebulon then pursued his lonesome journey. At nightfall, he reached a lonely village. Footsore, weary, cold and hungry, he sat down to rest upon the steps of a cottage and soon fell asleep. The owner of the cottage came out and aroused Zebulon. Opening his eyes and seeing the villager, Zebulon at once inquired, "Are you a Mason?" "I am," the villager replied, "come into my house." And he took Zebulon by the right hand; helped him to arise, and led him into the cottage. He took off Zebulon's sandals, washed his feet with water, anointed his head with precious ointment, put new clothes on him, and caused him to recline upon a couch at his table. And Zebulon refreshed himself with bread and oil and wine.
What Is a True Mason?
Which of the men Zebulon met in the course of his travels was a true Mason?
Is the true Mason one who makes good use of the working tools of the Craft? Partly yes, because a Mason must use those working tools for building his own self into an Inward Master---one who has so mastered himself that his influence over other men brings good result.
The true Mason endeavors, for instance, to make optimal use of the 24-inch gauge; that is to say, he strives to faithfully divide every day of his life into three parts---one for the service of God and a distressed worthy brother, another for his usual vocation, and the third for refreshment and repose. It follows, then, that he observes such a prudent and well-regulated course of discipline as may best conduce to the preservation of his corporeal and mental faculties in their fullest energy, so that he will the better be enabled to exert the talents wherewith God has blest him, as well to His glory as the welfare of his fellowmen.
Hence, in fellowship socials, particularly when there are non-Masons around, he does not lose sight of the importance of the perfect points of entrance. He strives to remain temperate, discreet and prudently sober, so that he will not carelessly let fall the least sign, token or word, whereby the secrets of Freemasonry might be unlawfully obtained by the profane.
The true Mason optimally uses the common gavel, too. That is, he endeavors to divest his heart and conscience of all the vices and superfluities of life, so that his own mind will be a fitting living stone for that spiritual building, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. He knows how important it is that he should endeavor to imitate the Grand Master Hiram Abif in his exalted and exemplary character, in his unfeigned piety to God, and in his inflexible fidelity to his trust.
Every Mason, after all, has been charged to support the dignity of his character on all occasions and to strenuously enforce, by precept and example, a steady obedience to the tenets of Freemasonry. Every Mason ought, to so conduct himself at all times as to convince the world that, upon becoming a Master Mason, he has become a better man.
The following old Indian saying is instilled in the mind of a true Mason : "When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice." Indeed, the value of a man's life may be determined by the number of persons who are sad when he passes away. "The true Mason," Ill. Bro. Albert Pike stated, "endeavors so to live that when he comes to die, even the undertaker will be sorry."
Is the true Mason one who can use the proper signs, words and tokens, as well as understand the symbols of Masonry ? Partly yes, because we Masons make ourselves known by certain signs, tokens, words and the perfect points of entrance. Besides, we are an institution deeply ingrained with a system of morality veiled in allegory and imbedded in symbols. Our sublime task is to progressively develop ourselves from "rough ashlars" taken from the quarry of profane society to "perfect ashlars." How can we do that? By adhering strictly to the virtues and moral values symbolized by the ornaments, furniture, jewels and implements of the Craft so visibly displayed inside the lodge hall.
Here is what the eminent Masonic philosopher and scholar Albert Pike said of the true Mason: "He who desires to understand the harmonious and beautiful proportions of Freemasonry must read, study, reflect, digest and discriminate. The true Mason is an ardent seeker after knowledge, and he knows that books and the antique symbols of Masonry are vessels which come down to us full-freighted with the intellectual riches of the past...."
Let us, at this juncture, listen, listen carefully and attentively, to a portion of one of the great orations of the late Most Wor. Bro. Rafael Palma, our Grand Master in 1920. He said: "Human life could not be better symbolized than by the Masonic pavement which covers the floor of our Temples and is emblematic of how checkered our existence is with good and evil, grief and joy, suffering and happines. The work of the Mason cannot be symbolized better than by the construction of a temple never finished, because whatever may be our wisdom and degree of skill, and however charitable our feelings may be towards our Brethren and fellows, we never attain perfection. The temple at which we are building is ourselves. The materials which we have to polish, adjust and fit into place are passions and vices. There are, unfortunately, too many racial, religious and political prejudices, which blind the intellect and prevent the heart from recognizing the truth, cementing brotherly love, and relieving distress. We have to rid ourselves of these prejudices. Masonry demands of each individual an open mind, quick sympathy, and disinterested (or unselfish) charity, because only with these quoins and ashlars is it possible for us to construct the temple dedicated to the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man, which are the strength and secret of our union."
Is the true Mason, then, one who, like the prince in the parable, has built his spiritual edifice after designs laid down upon the trestleboard and has raised the walls thereof by the Square, the Level, and the Plumb? Partly yes; for, according to our Monitor, we Masons should endeavor to erect our spiritual buildings agreeably to the rules and designs laid down by the Supreme Architect of the Universe in the great book of Nature and Revelation, or the Volume of the Sacred Law, which is our spiritual, moral and Masonic trestleboard.
We must, moreover, endeavor to erect the walls of our respective spiritual, moral and Masonic edifice by the Square of Morality, the Level of Equality, and the Plumb of Righteousness. We must, in other words, "walk uprightly in our several stations before God and man, squaring our actions by the square of virtue, and ever remembering that we are traveling upon the level of time to that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns."
Is the true Mason, then, one who, like the captain of the host in the parable, has been invested with the lambskin, or white-linen, apron? Partly yes, for the lambskin, or white-linen, apron is the badge of a Mason. The apron's pure and spotless surface is, to the true Mason, an ever-present reminder of an emblematical or unblemished purity of life and rectitude of conduct, a never ending argument for nobler deeds, for higher thoughts, for purer actions, and for greater achievement. Hence, when the true Mason will have dropped life's working tools, it will be his portion to hear from Him who sitteth as the Judge Supreme, the welcome words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
But, dear brethren and guests, as is shown in the parable, the true test of a Mason is not really in signs, nor words, nor tokens, nor symbols, nor decorations, but rather in this: Is there burning on the altar of his heart that fire which ever warms a Mason's soul---the flame of Charity?
Let's Do An Eliab
Since Charity is the true test of a Mason, I want you to listen, listen carefully and attentively, to the story of Eliab, who once lived in the Holy Land. He was blest with many earthly goods and learned in all the wisdom of the East. Yet he was so full of sorrow that he wished to die.
Then an angel appeard to him and showed him an herb possessed of wonderful powers of healing. But Eliab said, "What is that for me? I am healthy, but my soul is distressed. It were better for me to die." "Take the herb," the angel insisted, "It will do thy heart good. Heal seven sick men with it, and then thou mayest die if thou wilt." Eliab took the herb and began to seek out misery in its hiding places. He healed seven sick people and he succored the poor with his riches. Then the angel appeared again to him. "Here is the herb of death," the angel said. "Now thou mayest die." But Eliab cried out, God forbid! I long no more to die, for now I understand the meaning and use of life."
The meaning and use of life consists not only in dedicating ourselves to God but also in disinterestedly serving our fellowmen, particularly our disadvantaged countrymen.
The creed of Masonry is service---service without counting the cost, service without expecting any material reward, save the self-satisfaction that arises from a job well done for the good of our fellowmen and to the greater glory of God.
Let us, particularly during this year of celebrating the centennial anniversary of the declaration of the independence of our nation from Spanish colonialism, rededicate ourselves to that creed. More than before, let us work together in close harmony for the good of our fellowmen, particularly our less fortunate countrymen. In other words, individually and collectively, let us do an Eliab. May our charity works and community development projects this year be so effective and efficient that we will help strengthen this nation, which our Masonic forebears founded and built up. Let us, dear brethren and guests, always remember this significant statement of the late MW Conrado Francia Benitez: "While we refrain from contention and partisan politics, we Masons cannot become fencesitters or mere observers of the social scene. Our commitment to the service of mankind cannot but compel us to join, as all organized groups do, to help combat the rampant evils of our time. We must in other words, find our place in our society and be counted among the other
May I conclude by extending sincerest fraternal greetings to the Most Worshipful Grand Master, to the Most Worshipful Brethren of our Grand Lodge and other grand jurisdictions; to all Right Worshipful, Very Worshipful, and Worshipful Brethren; and to all brethren in the fraternity and all brethren in the whole wide world under the Fatherhood of God, the Center of Love---Love which is the greatest power of all, the ultimate power that may propel Freemasonry to be a force to bring harmony and unity among nations and peoples of this troubled planet---a planet beset with family conflicts, religious differences, poverty, ignorance, disease, injustice, graft and corruption, exploitation, and a host of other evils.
If and when all of us consistently live our Masonry, persistently subdue our passions, always act upon the Square, keep a tongue of good report, maintain and practice charity, the true test of a Mason, there can be no doubt that our countrymen will recognize once more our Fraternity as a cradle of heroes and builder of nations.
ang Masonerya !