The custom of interring the dead with some solemnity is general among all nations--whether savage and ignorant, or civilized and enlightened. In discharging a duty we owe to all, it insures proper respect to the mortal remains of a deceased brother, whatever may have been his failings; and it affords an opportunity for the happy recollection of his virtues, as well as of giving a testimony of the estimation in which they were held. It also chiefly serves to remind those who participate in it of their own mortality, and of the importance of being prepared for Death, which must come upon all. The ceremonies observed on such occasions vary in different nations and societies. Those observed by Masons have an ancient origin, and refer to one of the most important traditions of the Order. They are uniform throughout the Masonic World, in some general and essential matters; and, though they differ in details, being subject to regulations by the legislative authority of the Order, they should be uniform
in each Grand Lodge jurisdiction, and to that end--
The Grand Lodge of Texas hereby establishes the following as the Burial Service to be used by Subordinate Lodges in Texas:
1. No Mason can be interred with the formalities of the Order, nor is entitled to join the procession on such occasions, unless he has been advanced to the third degree of Masonry.
2. The Brethren should observe uniformity in dress; black coats, hats and pants are most appropriate. The proper Masonic clothing is white gloves and aprons. Each brother should also wear a sprig of evergreen on the left lapel of his coat, and black crepe around the left arm.
3. The Holy Bible, Square and Compasses should be covered with crepe.
4. The Deacons' and Stewards' Rods should be trimmed with a black silk knot, or with black ribbon at the upper end.
5. The Officers of the Lodge wear their jewels trimmed with black crepe or black ribbon.
6. Under no circumstances should dress aprons or sashes be worn.
7. If the Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, or either of the Grand Wardens attend any funeral procession, they will preside over and conduct the ceremonies, unless they desire otherwise. Their place in the procession is always after the Master of the Lodge officiating.
8. If two or more Lodges attend, the ceremonies will be conducted by the Lodge of which the deceased was a member. In case of a stranger or sojourner, the Master of the senior Lodge present will preside.
9. The Brethren having assembled at the Lodge Room, or some other suitable place, a Master Mason's Lodge is opened, and the Worshipful Master states the object of the meeting. The Ante-Burial Service is then read (the brethren all standing), unless the Master should deem it most appropriate to have it read at the church or residence of the deceased, in which event the Lodge should be at once called from labor and placed in charge of the Marshal, and a burial procession formed.
10. When the Ante-Burial Service is read at the house of the deceased, the Master will take his station at the head of the coffin (which may be uncovered), the Wardens at the foot, and the brethren around it. If the service be held in a church, the Master, Wardens and brethren will place themselves as above directed, and the service will begin immediately after the close of the religious services.
Master: What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?
Response: Man walketh in a vain shadow; he heapeth up riches, and cannot tell who shall gather them.
Master: When he dieth he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him.
Response: Naked he came into the world, and naked must he return.
[The Master here takes in his hand a copy of the roll, which should be carefully prepared by the Secretary before the service begins, and says:]
Master: Let us live and die like the righteous, that our last end may be like his!
Response: God is our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even unto death!
[The Master then deposits the roll in the archives of the Lodge, or hands it to the Secretary to deposit, and says:]
Master: Almighty Father! in Thy hands we leave with humble submission the soul of our deceased brother.
[The Brethren answer three times, giving the Public Grand Honors each time:]
"The will of God is accomplished! So mote it be. Amen."
[When this service is read at the house of the deceased, the coffin being closed, the following, or some other suitable psalm or hymn, may be sung:]
90 PSALM, L. M.
Long hadst Thou reigned e'er time began,
Or dust was fashioned into man;
And long Thy kingdom shall endure,
When earth and time shall be no more.
But man, weak man, is born to die,
Made up of guilt and vanity;
Thy dreadful sentence, Lord, was just,
"Return, ye sinners, to your dust."
Death, like an overflowing stream,
Sweeps us away; our life's a dream;
An empty tale; a morning flower,
Cut down and wither’d in an hour.
[The Master or Chaplain will then offer one of the following prayers:]
"O Almighty and Eternal God! There is no number of Thy days or of Thy mercies. Thou hast sent us into this world to serve Thee, but we wander far from Thee in the path of error. Our life is but a span in length, and yet tedious, because of the calamities that enclose us on every side. The days of our pilgrimage are few and
evil, our bodies frail, our passions violent and distempered, our understandings weak, and our wills perverse. Look Thou upon us, our Father, in mercy and pity. We adore Thy majesty, and trust like little children to Thine infinite mercies. Give us patience to live well, and firmness to resist evil. Give us, O merciful Father, faith and confidence in Thee, and enable us so to live, that, when we come to die, we may lie down in the grave like one who composes himself to sleep, and that we may be worthy hereafter to be remembered in the memories of man. Bless us, O God! Bless our beloved Fraternity throughout the world; may we live and emulate the example of our beloved brother; and, finally, may we in this world attain a knowledge of Thy truth, and in the world to come, life everlasting. Amen."
Response: So mote it be.
"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 approaching fate, and draw our attention toward Thee, the only refuge in time of need! that, when the awful moment shall arrive, that we are about to quit this transitory scene, the enlivening prospect of Thy mercy may dispel the gloom of death; and after our departure hence in peace, and in Thy favor, may we be received into Thine everlasting kingdom, to enjoy, in union with the souls of our departed friends, the just reward of a pious and virtuous life. Amen."
Response: So mote it be.
[Should this service have been conducted in the Lodge Room, the Lodge is now called from labor, and placed in charge of the Marshal, to repair in procession to the house of the deceased, or wherever his body may be, to accompany it to the place of interment. If the service has been held at the house or church, the procession will be re-formed for this purpose. During the marching of the procession the strictest silence should be observed. While the procession is moving it is under the control of the Marshal (subject to the direction of the Worshipful Master), and he should be promptly obeyed. The General Rules in regard to processions prescribed by the Grand Lodge,
so far as they are applicable to burials, most be observed.]
The following is the order for burial processions of a subordinate Lodge. The procession immediately precedes the corpse:
Tiler with drawn Sword;
Stewards with white Rods:
Musicians, if they are Masons (otherwise they precede the Tiler);
Senior and Junior Deacons;
Secretary and Treasurer;
Senior and Junior Wardens;
Past Masters of Chartered Lodges;
The Holy Writings, on a cushion covered with black cloth, carried by the oldest member of the Lodge;
The body, with the insignia placed upon the coffin.
[After the procession is formed, the brethren should not leave the ranks, but keep their proper places. When it arrives at the place of interment, the members of the Lodge form a circle around the grave, the clergy and officers of the Lodge taking their stations at the head, the family and other mourners at the foot, and the burial service proceeds as follows:]
[To be conducted by the Worshipful Master, or officer officiating as Master.]
"Brethren: Here we view another instance of the uncertainty of life, and the vanity of all human pursuits. The last offices paid to the dead are useful as lectures to the living. From them we are to derive instruction, and we should consider every solemnity of this kind as a summons to prepare for our approaching dissolution.
"Notwithstanding the various mementoes of mortality with which we daily meet; notwithstanding death has established his empire over all the works of nature; yet through some unaccountable infatuation we forget that we are born to die; we go on from one design to another, add hope to hope, and lay out plans for the employment of many years, till we are suddenly alarmed at the approach of Death when we least expect him, and at an hour which we probably conclude to be the meridian of our existence.
"What are all the externals of majesty, the pride of wealth, or charms of beauty, when nature has paid her last, just debt? Fix your eyes on the last scene, and view life stripped of her ornaments, and exposed in her natural poverty; you will then be convinced
of the futility of these empty delusions. In the grave, all fallacies are detected, all ranks are leveled, and all distinctions are done away.
"While we drop the sympathetic tear over the grave of our deceased Brother, let charity incline us to throw a veil over his foibles, whatever they may have been, and not withhold from his memory the praise that his virtues may have claimed. Suffer the infirmities of human nature to plead in his behalf. Perfection on earth has never been attained; the wisest, as well as the best of men, have erred.
"Let the present example excite our most serious thoughts, and strengthen our resolutions of amendment. As life is 'uncertain, and all earthly pursuits are vain, let us no longer postpone the all-important concern of preparing for Eternity, but embrace the happy moment, while time and opportunity offer, to provide against the great change, when all the pleasures of this world shall cease to delight, and the reflections of a virtuous and holy life yield the only comfort and consolation. Thus our expectations will not be frustrated, nor we hurried, unprepared, into the presence of
an all-wise and powerful Judge, to whom the secrets of all hearts are known.
"Let us, then, while in this state of existence, support with propriety the character of our profession, advert to the nature of our solemn ties, and pursue with assiduity the sacred tenets of our Order. Then, with becoming reverence, let us supplicate the Divine Grace, to insure the favor of that Eternal Being, whose goodness and power know no bounds; that, when the awful moment shall arrive, be it soon or late, we may be enabled to prosecute our journey without dread or apprehension, to that distant country, from whose bourne no traveler returns."
[The following invocations are then made:]
Master: May we be true and faithful; and may we live and die in love!
Response: So mote it be!
Master: May we profess what is good, and always act agreeably to our profession!
Response: So mote it be!
Master: May the Lord bless and
prosper us; and may all our good intentions be crowned with success! Response: So mote it be!
Master: May all the influences of our brother for good, that do survive him, be continually expanded and increased, to bless his fellowmen; and may our Father who is in heaven, in His wisdom, counteract all those that tend to evil!
Response: So mote it be!
Master: Glory be to God in the highest! on earth, peace! and good will towards men!
Response: So mote it be, now, from henceforth and forever more!
[The coffin is then lowered into the grave.]
[The apron is taken from the coffin and handed to the Master. The MASTER, holding it in his hand, says:]
"This white apron (or lambskin) is an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason; more ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle; more honorable than the star and garter, when worthily worn."
[The Master drops the apron into the grave, and continues:]
"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 oppose the King of Terrors, nor the charms of innocence elude his grasp. This grave, that coffin, this circle of mourning friends, remind us that we, too, are mortal; soon shall our bodies moulder into dust. Then how important for us that we should know that our 'Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.'"
[The Master, holding the sprig of evergreen in his hand, continues:]
"This evergreen, that once marked the temporary resting-place of the illustrious dead, is an emblem of our faith in the immortality of the soul! By it we are reminded that we have an immortal part within us which shall survive the grave, and which shall never, never, never die. Though like our brother whose remains now lie before us, we shall soon be clothed in the habiliments of Death, and deposited in the silent tomb, yet, through the mercy of God, we may confidently hope that our souls will bloom in eternal Spring."
[The Brethren then move in procession around the grave. The Master, and each
of the Brethren successively, as he reaches the head, will throw in a sprig of evergreen.]
[The evergreen should be thrown in at the head of the grave only.]
[The procession should pass three times around, but if the number of Brethren present be very large, or the situation of the grave render this inconvenient, it will suffice to pass once around. While the procession is formed around the grave, one of the following hymns may be sung. or some other appropriate hymn, with which the Brethren are familiar:]
HYMN, C. M.
Princes, this clay must be your bed,
In spite of all your towers;
The tall, the wise, the reverend head,
Must lie as low as ours.
Great God, is this our certain doom?
And are we still secure?
Still walking downward to the tomb,
And yet prepare no more?
Grant us the power of quick’ning grace
To fit our souls to fly,
That when we drop this dying flesh.
We'll rise above the sky.
8's and 7's.
Breathe no formal sigh of sorrow,
O’er the ashes of the dead!
Only plant the priceless symbol,
Freshly blooming at his head.
When death's gavel-blow shall call us
Off from Labor unto Rest;
May each Brother find refreshment
In the mansions of the Blest.
[After this the Public Grand Honors are given. (Masters should be very careful to instruct the Brethren as to giving these before they leave the Lodge. They should be given together, and with much solemnity.) The Master then takes a spade, and, throwing a small quantity of earth into the grave, says:]
"The dust shall return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
[He then hands the spade to the Brother next him on his left, who throws earth into the grave in a similar manner, repeating the same words. This should be done by every Brother present, unless the number should be great, when it may be done only by the Officers of the Lodge and those Brethren nearest the grave.]
[The Master then continues, as follows:]
"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 corpse to the place of interment, and there to deposit his remains with the usual formalities.
"In conformity to this usage, and in the performance of a duty we owe to our deceased brother, whose memory we revere, and whose loss we now deplore, we have assembled in the character of Masons, and to offer up to his memory, before the world, the last tribute of our affection; thereby demonstrating the sincerity of our past esteem, and our steady attachment to the principles of the Order.
"The great Creator having been pleased, out of His mercy, to remove our brother from the cares and troubles of a transitory existence, to a state of eternal duration, and there-by to weaken the chain by which we are united man to man; may we, who survive him, anticipate our approaching fate, and be more strongly cemented in the ties of union and friendship; that, during the short space allotted to our present existence, 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.
"For as much as it has pleased Almighty God, in His wise providence, to take out of this world the soul of our deceased brother, we therefore commit his body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, looking for the general resurrection at the last day and the life of the world to come, when the earth and the sea shall give up their dead."
[The Master, or other Brother, will then say:
"Let us pray:"
when the following prayer may be offered:]
"Almighty and most merciful God, in whom we live, and move, and have our being, and before whom all men must appear to render an account for the deeds done in the body, we do most earnestly beseech Thee, as we now surround the grave of our fallen brother, to impress deeply, upon our minds the solemnities of this day. May
we ever remember that 'in the midst of life we are in death,' and so live and act our several parts as we will desire to have done when the hour of our departure is at hand.
"And oh! Gracious Father, vouchsafe us, we pray Thee, Thy Divine assistance, to redeem our misspent time; and in the discharge of the duties Thou hast assigned us, in the erection of our moral edifice, may we have wisdom from on high to direct us; strength commensurate with our task to support us; and the beauty of holiness to adorn and render our performances acceptable to Thy sight. And, at last, when our work on earth is done, when the mallet of Death shall call us from our labors, may we obtain a blessing and everlasting rest in that Spiritual House, not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens." Amen.
Response: So mote it be.
[The Lord's Prayer shall always be said by all the Brethren as follows:]
Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, As it is in Heaven. Give us this day
our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen.
Response: So mote it be.
[The Master will pronounce the following:]
May the blessings of Heaven rest upon us and all regular Masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every oral and social virtue cement us. Amen.
Response: So mote it be.
[The grave will be closed, and the procession is then re-formed and moves to he Lodge Room, where the Lodge is closed in due form.]