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Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario Approval

 

Christian Chivalry and Freemasonry

Rarely does one connect Chivalry with Freemasonry, yet there is one branch of the fraternity which places great stress on Christian Chivalry and those virtues which go to make up chivalric character.

We refer to that great Order known as Knights of the Temple, or Knights Templar. 

The original Knights of the Temple were Christian warriors; they were men of Faith, inspired with love of God and the Church. The story of their exploits, their adventures, their self-sacrifice, and their accomplishments, read as a page from a story book.

There is nothing so appealing in all history as the story of the great Crusades, sponsored by the Church, but actually carried on through the great chivalric orders of that day. The object of the Crusades was to wrest the Holy Land and the sacred places of Christian history from the Moslem.

The Crusade period marked a new era in the life of the world. It brought the Eastern and Western worlds together. The evils and virtues of the East were brought to the West and vice versa. But the greatest thing which emerged through these conflicts of Christian and Saracen was the virtue of Charity. The Knights of the Temple and the Knights Hospitaler were the Red Cross organization of that day. For the first time in the history of war; men began to think of aiding others. Many are the deeds of Charity recounted, not only between those of the faith, but extending from Christian to Moslem.

Thus did this era usher in those homely virtues of Charity, Hospitality and Universal Benevolence.

Today the warlike character of the Knights has disappeared; no more is it thought necessary to engage in useless struggle over holy sites and places; no more is it believed necessary to fight men of other nations in order to convert them to our way of thinking.

But the same feelings of Love, and Truth, and Charity, and Hospitality, and Universal Benevolence still remain in the human heart, and the world at large is benefited by any group which encourages such essential needs of mankind.

Thus has grown the modern Order of the Temple. Knights of today claim no direct legal descent from those ancient knights of old, yet they do claim to carry on the virtues for which they fought, bled and died. No longer is it necessary to fight with material weapons, for today "the pen is mightier than the sword", and the weapon of a knight is the influence of a good life carried out as set forth in the New Dispensation - that we love one another.

And you ask: "Just what place does the Templar Order hold in respect to other branches of Freemasonry?"

And we reply: "A most important part". To the Christian Freemason it represents the summit of the teachings of the Craft. While in no way minimizing the teachings of the symbolic degrees, yet to him the Order of the Temple conveys the essence of Masonic teachings, and is the Christian interpretation of the Symbols of ancient Craft Masonry.

Sanctioned by Grand Lodge

The Grand Lodge of York, in 1780, gave its sanction to the working of five separated degrees or orders:

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The Entered Apprentice.

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The Fellowcraft.

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The Master Mason.

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The Royal Arch.

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The Knight Templar.

The United Grand Lodge of England, the Mother of regular and legitimate Freemasonry in the world, set forth at the time of the Union the following: "It is declared and pronounced that pure and Ancient Craft Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, namely, those of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason, including the Holy Royal Arch.

And that the Grand Lodge might not create any misconstruction of their declaration, it was added:

"This article is not intended to prevent any Lodge or Chapter from holding meetings in any of the degrees of Chivalry, according to the Constitution of said Order."

Thus, the Order of the Temple was given an official place and standing in the structure of Masonry.

During the early and unwritten history of the Masonic Fraternity, there was a strong tone of Christianity which ran throughout the Symbolic structure, but by the time Anderson published his Constitutions, Christianity was virtually taken out of the ritual and Constitutions, because of a great desire to make the fraternity such as might be acceptable to men of any religion who subscribe to a belief in a Supreme Being.

Removal of Christian Symbolism

This was truly unfortunate for those who interpreted the Lodge symbols as Christian doctrines. To deprive Freemasonry of the Ancient Craft of its Christian symbolism in an attempt to make it more universal, was, to them, unmasonic, and characterized as being compared to "removing a Masterpiece of Art from a gallery, or depriving a Crown of its Most Precious Jewel.

And the Christian Freemason sought out an Order which interpreted his Freemasonry in the Light of the New Dispensation.

He ended his search when he entered any asylum of Knights Templar.

It was Dr. William F. Kuhn, the great Masonic thinker, who said: "Freemasonry is not a series of degrees to give those who have the money to purchase them, certain titles and decorations, for even in Freemasonry 'a fool may be a belted Knight', and an Entered Apprentice may have a clearer conception of God and man's relation to Him, than he who wears the insignia of the highest rank. Moral conception does not exist merely in believing but in believing and doing. The Stoics of Rome persuaded themselves to believe that they were of Divine Essence and elaborated a finely spun system of philosophy, but they permitted the poor to lie starving at their doors."

Templars believe in practice; their charities may not be proclaimed from the house tops, but the records of the smallest preceptor of Knights Templar should prove that Charity and Hospitality are yet the grand characteristics of this great Christian Order. Templary realizes that it is hypocritical to profess and teach great platitudes without making an honest effort to practice what is professed. Our governing body (Sovereign Great Priory) administers a substantial fund known as The Knights Templar Charitable Foundation, contributed to by all members and administered without ostentation. This fund originally designed for orphans of deceased Knights Templar is also used for many deserving welfare cases and education of deserving students, including those for the ministry.

What are the Chivalric Orders?

We have referred to the Orders conferred by a Preceptory. In Canada the work of the Preceptory is divided into three parts:

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The Order of the Red Cross.

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The Orders of Mediterranean Pass and Malta.

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The Orders of the Temple.

The Red Cross Order is not, strictly speaking, a Christian Order. Its value in the Templar system is its bridging of the gap between the Royal Arch degree and the Order of the Temple. It is a story founded upon an important period in Hebrew history and stresses Faith in God, the importance of Truth, and the value of Liberty and Justice.

The Order of Malta brings to the novitiate the story of another of the great Chivalric Orders, whose deeds of heroism fill the pages of history, and whose Christian character forms a bright page in religious history.

The most striking degree or Order in Masonry in the opinion of most expert ritualists is the Order of Consecration as set out in the Canadian Work. It is rightly described as the "ne plus ultra" of the Masonic system and is especially appreciated by all Christian Freemasons. We cannot describe its beauty or the impressions which are created in the mind of the Candidate. It must be seen to be appreciated.

Rise up, 0 Men of God
Have done with lesser things
Give Heart and Soul and Mind and Strength
To serve the King of Kings.
Lift high the Cross of Christ
Tread where His feet have trod
As brothers of the Son of Man
Rise up, O Men of God.

To Royal Arch Masonry has been given the WORD. To Knights Templar is given the INTERPRETATION. Shall we say more?

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