General Ahiman Rezon, by Daniel Sickels, , at sacred-texts.com
When the solemn rites of the dead are to be performed at the grave, the procession should be formed, and proceed to the place of interment in the following order:
Tiler, with drawn sword;
Stewards, with white rods;
If they are Masons, otherwise they follow the Tiler;
The Holy Writings,
On a cushion, covered with black cloth, carried by the oldest member of the Lodge;
Supported by two Deacons, with white rods;
If the deceased was a member of a Royal Arch Chapter and a Commandery of Knights Templar, and members of those bodies should unite in the procession, clothed as such, the former will follow the Past Masters, and the latter will act as an escort or guard of honor to the corpse, outside the Pall-bearers, marching in the form of
a triangle; the officers of the Commandery forming the base of the triangle, with the Eminent Commander in the center.
When the procession has arrived at the place of interment, the members of the Lodge should form a circle around the grave; when the Master, Chaplain, and other Officers of the acting Lodge, take their position at the head of the grave, and the mourners at the foot.
After the Clergyman has performed the religious service of the Church, the Masonic service should begin.
THE Chaplain rehearses the following or some other appropriate PRAYER:
ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father, we adore thee as the God of time and eternity. As it has pleased thee to take from the light of our abode one dear to our hearts, we beseech thee to bless and sanctify unto us this dispensation of thy providence. Inspire our hearts with wisdom from on high, that we may glorify thee in all our ways. May we realize that thine all-seeing eye is upon us, and be influenced by the
spirit of truth and love to perfect obedience—that we may enjoy the divine approbation here below. And when our toils on earth shall have ended, may we be raised to the enjoyment of fadeless light and immortal life in that kingdom where faith and hope shall end—and love and joy prevail through eternal ages. And thine, O righteous Father, shall be the glory forever.—AMEN.
Response.—So mote it be.
The following exhortation is then given by the Master:
BRETHREN: The solemn notes that betoken the dissolution of this earthly tabernacle, have again alarmed our outer door, and another spirit has been summoned to the land where our fathers have gone before us. Again we are called to assemble among the habitations of the dead, to behold the "narrow house appointed for all living." Here, around us, in that peace which the world cannot give or take away, sleep the unnumbered dead. The gentle breeze fans their verdant covering, they heed it not; the sunshine and the storm pass over them, and they are not disturbed; stones and lettered monuments symbolize the affection of surviving
friends, yet no sound proceeds from them, save that silent but thrilling admonition, "Seek ye the narrow path and the straight gate that lead unto eternal life."
We are again called upon to consider the uncertainty of human life; the immutable certainty of death, and the vanity of all human pursuits. Decrepitude and decay are written upon every living thing. The cradle and the coffin stand in juxtaposition to each other; and it is a melancholy truth, that so soon as we begin to live, that moment also we begin to die. It is passing strange that, notwithstanding the daily mementos of mortality that cross our path; notwithstanding the funeral bell so often tolls in our ears, and the "mournful procession" go about our streets, that we will not more seriously consider our approaching fate. We go on from design to design, add hope to hope, and lay out plans for the employment of many years, until we are suddenly alarmed at the approach of the Messenger of Death, at a moment when we least expect him, and which we probably conclude to be the meridian of our existence.
What, then, are all the externals of human dignity, the power of wealth, the dreams of
ambition, the pride of intellect, or the charms of beauty, when Nature has paid her just debt? Fix your eyes on the last sad scene, and view life stript of its ornaments, and exposed in its natural meanness, and you must be persuaded of the utter emptiness of these delusions. In the grave, all fallacies are detected, all ranks are leveled, all distinctions are done away. Here the scepter of the prince and the staff of the beggar are laid side by side.
While we drop the sympathetic tear over the grave of our deceased brother, let us cast around his foibles, whatever they may have been, the broad mantle of Masonic charity, nor withhold from his memory the commendation that his virtues claim at our hands. Perfection on earth has never yet been attained; the wisest, as well as the best of men, have gone astray. Suffer, then, the apologies of human nature to plead for him who can no longer plead for himself.
Our present meeting and procedings will have been vain and useless, if they fail to excite our serious reflections, and strengthen our resolutions of amendment.. Be then persuaded, my brethren, by this example, of the uncertainty of human life—of the unsubstantial nature of
all its pursuits, and no longer postpone the all-important concern of preparing for eternity. Let us each embrace the present moment, and while time and opportunity permit, prepare with care for that great change, which we all know must come, when the pleasures of the world shall cease to delight, and be as a poison to our lips; and while we may enjoy the happy reflection of a well-spent life in the exercise of piety and virtue, will yield the only comfort and consolation. Thus shall our hopes be not frustrated, nor we hurried unprepared into the presence of that all-wise and powerful Judge, to whom the secrets of all hearts are known. Let us resolve to maintain with sincerity the dignified character of our profession. May our faith be evinced in a correct moral walk and deportment; may our hope be bright as the glorious mysteries that will be revealed hereafter; and our charity boundless as the wants of our fellow-creatures. And having faithfully discharged the great duties which we owe to GOD, to our neighbor, and ourselves; when at last it shall please the Grand Master of the universe to summon us into his eternal presence, may the trestle-board of our whole lives
pass such inspection that it may be given unto each of us to "eat of the hidden manna," and to receive the "white stone with a new name," that will insure perpetual and unspeakable happiness at his right hand.
The Master then (presenting the apron) continues:
The lambskin, or white apron, is the emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason. It is more ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle; more honorable than the Star and Garter, when worthily worn.
The Master then deposits it in the grave.
This emblem I now deposit in the grave of our deceased brother. By it we are reminded of the universal dominion of Death. The arm of Friendship cannot interpose to prevent his coming; the wealth of the world cannot purchase our release; nor will the innocence of youth, or the charms of beauty propitiate his purpose. The mattock, the coffin, and the melancholy grave, admonish, us of our mortality, and that, sooner or later, these frail bodies must moulder in their parent dust.
The Master (holding the evergreen) continues:
This evergreen, which once marked the temporary resting-place of the illustrious dead, is an emblem of our faith in the immortality of the soul. By this we are reminded that we have an immortal part within us, that shall survive the grave, and which shall never, never, NEVER, die. By it we are admonished that, though, like our brother, whose remains lie before us, we shall soon be clothed in the habiliments of DEATH, and deposited in the silent tomb, yet, through our belief inn the mercy of GOD, we may confidently hope that our souls will bloom in eternal spring. This, too, I deposit in the grave, with the exclamation, "Alas, my brother!"
The brethren then move in procession around the place of interment, and severally drop the sprig of evergreen into the grave; after which, the public grand honors * are given.
The Master then continues the ceremony:
From time immemorial, it has been the custom among the Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, at the request of a brother, to accompany his remains to the place of interment, and there to deposit them with the usual formalities.
In conformity to this usage, and at the request of our deceased brother, whose memory we revere, and whose loss we now deplore, we have assembled in the character of Masons, to offer up to his memory, before the world, the last tribute of our affection; thereby demonstrating the sincerity of our past esteem for him, and our steady attachment to the principles of the Order.
The Great Creator having been pleased, out of his infinite mercy, to remove our brother from the cares and troubles of this transitory existence, to a state of endless duration, thus severing another link from the fraternal chain that binds us together; may we, who survive him, be more strongly cemented in the ties of union and friendship; that, during the short space allotted us here, we may wisely and usefully employ our time; and in the reciprocal intercourse of kind and friendly acts, mutually promote the welfare
and happiness of each other. Unto the grave we have consigned the body of our deceased brother; earth to earth (earth being sprinkled on the coffin), ashes to ashes, (more earth), dust to dust, (more earth); there to remain till the trump shall sound on the resurrection morn. We can cheerfully leave him in the hands of a Being, who has done all things well; who is glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders.
To those of his immediate relatives and friends, who are most heart-stricken at the loss we have all sustained, we have but little of this world's consolation to offer. We can only sincerely, deeply, and most affectionately sympathize with them in their afflictive bereavement. But we can say, that HE who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, looks down With infinite compassion upon the widow and fatherless, in the hour of their desolation; and that the Great Architect will fold the arms of his love and protection around those who put their trust in him.
Then let us improve this solemn warning that at last, when the sheeted dead are stirring, when the great white throne is set, we shall receive from the Omniscient Judge, the thrilling invitation,
[paragraph continues] Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
The following, or some other suitable ODE, may be sung:
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Arranged from Dr. CLARE. by Br. JAS. B. TAYLOR.
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Thou art gone to the grave; and its mansion forsaking,
Perchance thy weak spirit in doubt lingered long;
But the sunshine of heaven beamed bright on thy waking,
And the sound thou didst hear was the seraphim's song.
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Here another guest we bring;
Seraphs of celestial wing,
To our fun’ral altar come,
Waft our friend and brother home.
There, enlarged, thy soul shall see
What was wailed in mystery;
Heavenly glories of the place
Show his Maker face to face.
LORD of all! below—above—
Fill our hearts with truth and love;
When dissolves our earthly tie,
Take us to thy Lodge on high.
The service may be concluded with the following or some other suitable PRAYER:
MOST GLORIOUS GOD, author of all good and giver of all mercy, pour down thy blessings upon us and strengthen our solemn engagements with the ties of sincere affection. May the present instance of mortality remind us of our own approaching fate, and, by drawing our attention toward thee, the only refuge in time of need, may we be induced so to regulate our conduct here, that when the awful moment
shall arrive, at which we must quit this transitory scene, the enlivening prospect of thy mercy may dispel the gloom of death; and that after our departure hence in peace and thy favor, we may be received into thine everlasting kingdom, and there join in union with our friend, and enjoy that uninterrupted and unceasing felicity which is allotted to the souls of just men made perfect.—AMEN.
Response. So mote it be.
Master. The will of God is accomplished.
Response. So mote it be.
Master. From dust we came, and unto dust we must return.
Response. May we all be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.—AMEN.
Thus the service ends, and the procession will return in form to the place whence it set out, where the necessary business of Masonry should be renewed. The insignia and ornaments of the deceased, if an officer of a Lodge, are to be returned to the Master, with the usual ceremonies, and the Lodge will be closed in form.
336:* The grand honors practiced among Masons during the burial ceremonies, either in public or private, are given in the following manner: Both arms are crossed on the breast, the left uppermost, and the open palms of the hands striking the shoulders; they are then raised above the head, the palms striking each other, and then made to fall sharply on the thighs, with the head bowed. This is repeated three times. While the honors are being given the third time, the brethren audibly pronounce the following words—when the arms are crossed on the breast:—"we cherish his memory here;" when the hands are extended above the head—"We commend his spirit to Goa who gave it;" and when the hands are extended toward the ground—"And consign his body to the earth."