York Rite of Masonry - Oldest Freemason Branch
The symbolic degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and
Master Mason, as conferred in Canada, are degrees of the York Rite.
York Masonry is the oldest and best known of all Masonic Rites.
It takes its name from York, England, where the earliest known
record of Masonry exists, dating from about A.D. 923.
Masonry´s first written record is centered around York, the seat
of the Ancient York Grand Lodge. In 1813, this Grand Lodge merged
with another group called the Modern Grand Lodge, to form the United
Grand Lodge of England. This is the basis upon which our present
system of Symbolic Lodge Masonry is built.
You, as a Master Mason, have received the first three degrees of the
York Rite. Having begun your Masonic work in the York Rite, it is
natural that you should want to continue with it.
According to Masonic legend, every man raised to the sublime degree
of a Master Mason received “substitute secrets”, as the “true
secrets” were lost. It may prove a surprise to the average man,
believing his work is completed, to be told that the secrets
pertaining to the ceremony will not be given to him! This is
unfortunate, but the veil is lifted in the degree of the Royal Arch,
and in that degree only. Hence, no man actually becomes a Master
Mason until he is exalted to that holy order.
Some would have the newly raised Master Mason believe that he can
receive the secrets and word in a degree other than the Royal Arch.
This is not true, historically or otherwise. The mother Grand Lodge
of England was so emphatic regarding the necessity of the Royal Arch
degree that many years ago, it set forth this as Paragraph One (1)
of its Laws and Regulations:
“By the solemn act of the union between the two Grand Lodges of
Freemasons of England in December, 1813, it was declared and
pronounced that Pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and
no more, viz: those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellowcraft, and
the Master Mason, INCLUDING THE SUPREME ORDER OF THE HOLY ROYAL
On the North American Continent, there are additional degrees in
the system, supplementing the work of the Lodge, Chapter, and
Council, and the Orders conferred in the Commandery have been
arranged into a system or Rite referred to as the American,
Canadian, or York Rite of Freemasonry. It is American in structure,
as it is a democratic organization in which every member has a voice
and a right to be heard.
2. ROYAL ARCH MASONRY
The various local Chapters operate under the jurisdiction of the
“Grand Chapter” of Province - Royal Arch Masons of Canada in the
Province of Ontario. There is also the General Grand Chapter of
Royal Arch Masons International. The General Grand Chapter
constitutes the largest Masonic Body in the world though it is not
recognized by the Province.
The Chapter confers four degrees (Capitular Degrees), giving a
complete story of Masonic symbolism, in the following order:
Past Master (Virtual) (International not
Most Excellent Master
The Mark Master degree is perhaps the oldest Masonic degree, and
is one of the most highly respected. It teaches practical lessons
for everyday living. This degree supplements the Fellowcraft Degree.
The Past Master degree teaches the candidate the important duties
and responsibilities of the Oriental Chair, and is qualification for
It is commonly known that the symbolism of Freemasonry surrounds
the building of the Temple. In symbolic Free-Masonry, the Temple is
never completed. In the Most Excellent Master degree, we are taught
the lessons of the completion and dedication of the Temple.
In the degree of the Royal Arch, the epitome of Masonic symbolism
is found. It has been said “the Royal Arch is the root, heart and
marrow of Masonry, without knowledge of which the Masonic character
cannot be complete”.
The Royal Arch degree is the completion of the whole system of
Freemasonry. Having begun regular advancement through the Symbolic
Lodge, it is the duty of each Master Mason to complete the degree
series. He who has sought further Masonic education should return to
the Symbolic Lodge, retrace his steps and advance through the Rite
until he can receive the climax of Masonic symbolism, as taught in
the Royal Arch.
Only those who have attained the Royal Arch may be said to have
completed their Masonic Work.
3. CRYPTIC MASONRY
The Councils of Cryptic Masons operate under the jurisdiction of
the Grand Council of Cryptic Masons of each state and most Grand
Councils operate under the General Grand Council of the United
States. They confer the following three degrees:
Super Excellent Master
Without the Royal and Select Master degrees, neither the Master
Mason degree nor the Royal Arch degree is complete. These two
degrees account for the concealment and preservation of the
treasures revealed in the Royal Arch.
The Super Excellent Master is an honorary degree, qualifications
for which are fulfilled by virtue of being in good standing in a
Council. This degree is the most dramatic and spectacular of all
4. KNIGHT TEMPLAR MASONRY
Local Commanderies are governed by the Grand Commandery of each
In the Commandery, the Chivalric Orders of Christian Knighthood
are conferred as follows:
The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross
The Order of Knight of Malta
The Order of the Temple
The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross is founded upon Truth – a
divine attribute, the foundation of every virtue.
Knights of Malta. First called Knights Hospitallers of St. John
of Jerusalem are known to have been in existence as early as 1099
A.D. It was the first organized body whose avowed purpose was the
aid and care of those injured on a battlefield. The teaching of
Christian applications of Masonic precepts begins with this Order.
The Order of the Temple is the crowning glory of York Rite
Masonry. It is widely regarded as the most solemn and impressive
experience in Masonry. Here the aspirant progresses in the footsteps
of Jesus of Nazareth. At the empty tomb grows a sprig of acacia,
teaching that we shall dwell forever in the realms of life and light
Freemasonry demands only a belief in a monotheistic God, where
Hindu, Muslim, Jew and Gentile may together worship around its
alters. The Christian Freemason alone has at his disposal a branch
of the fraternity where he is free to interpret the teachings of the
Symbolic Lodge according to his religious belief. The Masonic Orders
of Christian Knighthood are the logical outcome of the Christian
Mason´s belief in Christ as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. That
Mason believes Christ´s hand will raise the dead to life, and in His
Holy Name the True Word is found and restored at last. “In the
beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
WHAT DOES YORK RITE MASONRY OFFER?
The noble heritage of York Masonry is yours to take. The regular
meetings of the various grades are conducive to firmer relationships
and a closer spirit of brotherly love. Being a York Rite Mason does
not mean you are elevated to a “higher rank´. It is an educational
tool to help you realize the Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of
Man in your own life. We trust the foregoing has increased your
interest in the York Rite.
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