Are you Considering a Masonic Funeral?

By Brother Felix A. Colon


      Many a member has expressed interest in having his Lodge perform a Masonic funeral upon their death. This is your right as a Mason. But how does one go about making this preparation and where can such a service take place?

      First, a Masonic funeral is held at the request of a departed Brother or his family. Second, the service may be held in a chapel, home, church, synagogue or Lodge room with committal at graveside, or the complete service can be performed at any of the aforementioned places without a separate, committal. Also, a memorial service may be requested, however, you should make your wishes known to your immediate family. The Masonic service may be held in conjunction with a religious service and/or other fraternal service such as Legion or Elks or may be the only service performed. This is at the pleasure of the family, the only restriction being that the Masonic service, once started, must be completed without interruption for another service.

      Discuss this with those responsible openly and frankly. It is highly recommended that you: (1) put your wishes in writing, (2) give a copy to the person who will handle your affairs, and (3) place another copy with your will, insurance papers and other valuable documents so that your survivors can clearly comply with your expressed wishes.

      Whether or not you desire to have a Masonic funeral, keep in mind that the emotional anguish and trauma suffered by the survivors (more often than not), affects their ability to think with the clarity they normally possess. This is a normal reaction and it is not unusual for widows and others to be at a loss and unable to recall important dates, anniversaries, event, personal interest and major accomplishments of the deceased, therefore everybody should consider preparing an autobiographical profile of their life and updating it as necessary to keep it current. The contents should include such information as: date and place of birth, number of brothers and sisters, marriage(s), number of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, etc., religious affiliation, favorite scripture(s), hymn(s), song(s), church offices held, occupation or vocation, social accomplishments, recognitions or awards, membership in fraternal or civic/service clubs, offices held, dates of military service, rank held and any major medals, citations or commendations earned, also any public offices held. By way of additional information, include such things as hobbies (art, etc.) educational and professional accomplishments. You will want to record travels or unusual experiences you have had, not only as a child, but special events that took place as you were growing up. You may also want to record your own account of certain family events that stand out in your memory and share why these events were important to you. Take the opportunity to write down all those good thoughts that will make you look good. It is a lot easier to edit what you have written than it is to try to create a profile of isolated and fragmented memories.

      The funeral - properly planned for - can be a source of great comfort and healing to loved ones and friends, especially when those present get an accurate profile and better insight into the life of the person they have come to honor. This data is also invaluable to the person conducting the service.

 

How to Conduct A Masonic Funeral Service

MASTER Brethren and Friends: It has been a custom among the Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons from time immemorial, at the request of a departed Brother or his family, to assemble in the character of Masons and, with the solemn formalities of the Craft, to offer up to his memory, before the world, the last tribute of our affection.

      Our Brother has reached the end of his earthly toils. The brittle thread which bound him to earth has been severed and the liberated spirit has winged its flight to the unknown world. The silver cord is loosed; the golden bowl is broken; the pitcher is broken at the fountain; and the wheel is broken at the cistern. The dust has returned to the earth as it was, and the spirit has returned to God who gave it.

      An anthem or other solemn music may here be introduced.

      Master reads Sacred Roll:   Brother (full name), a Master Mason. Member of (Name of Lodge and Number) . Entered into rest (date), Age x years, y months and z days.

      Almighty Father! Into Thy hands we commend the soul of our beloved Brother.

      The Great Creator having in His infinite wisdom, removed our Brother from the cares and troubles of this earthly life, thus severing another link in the fraternal chain by which we are bound together, let us who survive him be yet more strongly cemented by the ties of Brotherly love; that during the brief space allotted to us here, we may wisely and usefully employ our time, and, in the mutual exchange of kind and friendly acts, promote the welfare and happiness of each other.

      While we pay this fraternal tribute to his memory, let us not forget, my brethren, that we, too, are mortal; and that our spirits, too, must return to the God who spake them into existence. "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not." The almighty fiat has gone forth "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return;" and that we are all subject to that decree, the daily observation of our lives furnishes evidence not to be forgotten.

      Seeing then, my brethren, that life is so uncertain, and that all material pursuits are vain, let us no longer postpone the all-important concern of preparing for eternity; but let us embrace the present moment, while time and opportunity are offered, to provide for that great change when all the pomp and pleasure of this fleeting world will pall upon the senses, and the recollection of a virtuous and well-spent life will yield the only comfort and consolation. Thus we shall not be unprepared to enter into the presence of the one all-wise and powerful Judge, to whom the secrets of all hearts are known; and on the great day of reckoning we shall be ready to give a good account of our stewardship while here on earth.

      With becoming reverence let us supplicate the Divine Grace, whose goodness and power know no bounds, that, on the arrival of the momentous hour, our Faith may remove the clouds of doubt, draw aside the sable curtains of the hidden world beyond, and bid Hope sustain and cheer the departing spirit.

      CHAPLAIN: Most Glorious God! Author of all good, and Giver of all mercy! Pour down Thy blessing upon us, we beseech Thee, and strengthen our solemn engagements with the ties of sincere affection! Endue us with fortitude and resignation in this hour of sorrow, and grant that this dispensation from Thy hands may be sanctified in its results upon the hearts of those who now meet to mourn! May the present instance of mortality draw our attention toward Thee, the only refuge in time of need. Enable us to look with eyes of Faith toward that realm whose skies are never darkened by sorrow; and after our departure hence in peace and in Thy favor, may we be received into Thy everlasting kingdom, to enjoy the just reward of a virtuous and well-spent life. Amen!

      BRETHREN: So mote it be!

      Solemn music may here again be introduced, after which the Master continues.

      MASTER: Our Brother has been raised in that blissful Lodge which no time can close, but which will remain open during the boundless ages of eternity. In that Heavenly Sanctuary, the Mystic Light, unmingled with darkness, will reign unbroken and perpetual. There, under the protection of the All-Seeing Eye, amid the smiles of Immutable Love, in that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, there, my brethren, may Almighty God in His infinite mercy, grant that we may meet again, to part no more.

      Master displays apron

      The Lambskin Apron is an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason; more ancient than the Golden Fleece or the Roman Eagle, more honorable than the Star or Garter, or any distinction that can be conferred by king, prince, potentate or any other person. By it we are continually reminded of that purity of life and conduct so essentially necessary to gain admission into the Celestial Lodge above where the Supreme Grand Master of the Universe forever presides.

      Master displays Acacia

      This Evergreen, which once marked the temporary resting place of one illustrious in Masonic history, is an emblem of our enduring faith in the Immortality of the Soul. By it we are reminded that we have an imperishable part within us, which shall survive all earthly existence, and which will never, never die. Through the loving goodness of our Supreme Grand Master, we may confidently hope that, like this Evergreen, our souls will hereafter flourish in eternal spring.

      We shall ever cherish in our hearts the memory of our departed Brother and, commending his spirit to Almighty God, we trustingly leave him in the hands of that Beneficent Being who has done all things well; who is glorious in His Holiness, wondrous in His Power, and boundless in His Goodness; and it should always be our endeavor so to live that we too may be found worthy to inherit the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world.

      NOTE: A eulogy may be delivered at this point by Master or any other person, if desired, after which the Master proceeds.

      MASTER: We extend to the bereaved relatives and friends of our departed Brother our sincere sympathy in this hour of sorrow, and we pray that "He who tempers the wind to the shorn Lamb" will give them His divine comfort and consolation, and that they may come to realize that the spirit of our Brother is happy in his Father's house, where "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and where there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away."

      "Committal" may take place in the Chapel or Lodge room or graveside at the place of interment.

      MASTER: Soft and safe to thee, my Brother, be thy resting place! Bright and glorious be thy rising from it! Fragrant be the acacia sprig that there shall flourish! May the earliest buds of spring unfold their beauties o'er thy resting place, and there may the sweetness of the summer's last rose linger longest! Though the winds of Autumn may destroy the loveliness of their existence, yet the destruction is not final, and in the springtime, they shall surely bloom again. So, in the bright morning of the resurrection, thy spirit shall spring into newness of life and expand in immortal beauty, in realms beyond the skies. Until then, dear Brother, until then, farewell!

      CHAPLAIN: The Lord bless us and keep us! The Lord make His face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us! The Lord lift upon us the light of His countenance and give us peace! Amen!

      BRETHREN: So mote it be!
 

For more information on a Masonic Funeral, call your Lodge Secretary


      The above is based on a 1979 California ritual. There may have been some minor revisions since, and there are slight variations depending on where the service is performed in a Chapel, private Home, Church, Synagogue, Temple or if the entire service is conducted at Graveside or for a Memorial Service where the deceased is not present.

 

  This is an open letter to clergy of all faiths concerning "Masonic Funerals."

It was written to encourage and foster understanding between the Masonic Fraternity and Ministers who may not *be members of the Masonic Lodge. While this letter is primarily addressed to the' clergy, we hope it will be helpful to others who may have questions about Masonic Funerals.

Other Lodges, some veterans' organizations, and various societies, as well as Freemasonry, have funeral services, but this letter is primarily concerned with those of the Masonic Institution. To start, it may be well to point out that Freemasonry is not a religion, although it is religious. That is, the Fraternity does not believe itself to be an instrument of God for the purpose of reconciling men to Himself, but teaches that men do need such reconciliation and should seek it through loyal involvement with the religious faith of their preference. The lodge has no "plan of salvation" or way of atonement to offer its members. Rather, it teaches the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God. The participation of the Masonic Institution in a funeral service is an expression of its fraternal affection for the deceased and for his family rather than the exercise of a priestly ministry representing God.

Masonry includes many appendant groups, bodies, "rites," orders, and auxiliary organizations. The basic unit is the Lodge, often called the "Blue Lodge." It is this group which will, most often, conduct the Masonic Funeral because every Mason belongs to such a Lodge whether or not he belongs to any other bodies in Masonry. On occasion one of these other bodies will hold a funeral service. For example, the Order of the Eastern Star, which includes women as well as men, sometimes officiates at the funerals of its women members.

No one is ever Obligated to have a Masonic Funeral. It is not a requirement of the Fraternity that a member have his funeral service conducted, either in whole or in part, by the Masonic Order. Any member who was in good standing at the time of his death may have a Masonic Funeral if he requested it or if his family so requests. Any participation in tire service, other than the attendance of individual Lodge members as a part of the general congregation, is always by request to the Fraternity.

Freemasonry has no wish to displace or hinder any Minister of God in the pastoral care of his charge. If the fraternity is requested to participate in a funeral, it desires to cooperate with the clergy in any way possible.

We understand that different religious groups have differing requirements and regulations concerning funerals and we wish to respect the convictions of all the clergy involved.

When Masonic participation is requested in a funeral, we would suggest that the presiding officer of the group involved get in touch with any clergy who are going to serve as quickly as possible, well before the hour of the service. In most cases it will be the "Worshipful Master" of the Blue Lodge who will conduct the Masonic portion of the service. If the minister is uncertain about what the Lodge intends to do, it is quite in order for him to contact the Master of the Lodge and suggest that the two of them get together to discuss the situation.' The "Worthy Matron" of the Eastern Star Chapter or the "Eminent Commander" of the Knights Templar would also be happy to consult with you when their groups are going to serve at the funeral.

Except for a few groups, the Knights Templar being one, Masonic bodies are composed of individuals who profess different religions. Some Masons are Christians, some Jews, some Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, and some are of other faiths. The general Masonic funeral services are intended to be suitable for persons of any faith. The Knights Templar are all Christians and their funeral service is specifically Christian in nature.

Masonic involvement in a funeral, may range from conducting the entire service to simply attending in a body while someone else conducts the service. As the minister in pastoral relation to the family involved, it is your prerogative to suggest to the family the type of involvement you think proper and helpful in a specific situation. In general, the Lodge will' do as much or as little as you and the family agree they should do. As the Pastor to the family, it is your right and duty to guide them in the requirements of your faith. If there are certain things which the tenets of your faith require in funeral services, do not hesitate to indicate to the family and the presiding officer that it will be necessary for you to perform particular portions of any Joint service.'

In some cases problems have been eliminated by having the Masonic Service the evening before the funeral. Sometimes the Lodge conducts the grave side services only, and sometimes the Lodge provides a floral emblem and the pallbearers. Whatever the Lodge does, it desires to cooperate with you in every way.

There is no single Masonic Funeral Service. Some Grand Lodges (the statewide organization) have a prescribed service. Others permit several services. Sometimes a few of the customs involved may seem unusual to non-Masons. For example, the presiding officer may wear a hat while doing his part in the service, the Lodge members may place sprigs of evergreen on the casket, and a small white leather apron may be placed in or on the casket. The hat is worn because it is Masonic custom for the presiding officer to have his head covered while officiating. In some states the Grand Lodge has directed that the hat not be worn at a funeral because it seems strange to the non-Masons present. -To Masons the sprig of evergreen is a symbol of immortality. The white leather apron, called a "lambskin," is the badge of a Mason and it is his to wear, even in death. He wore that apron when he was made a Mason, on the day he received his first degree. It has symbolic allusions to God's care which is provided for us, but which we can not supply to ourselves.

Sometimes the wording of the Masonic Services is a bit old, and may reflect the thinking and values of an earlier day. Many of the services are rather long, particularly when the Masonic observance is to be a part of the service and not the whole of it. As a minister, you are quite free to discuss your feelings and offer suggestions and direction to the person who is going to conduct the Masonic portion of the ser-vice.

We would be most happy for you to become better acquainted with the Masonic Fraternity's practices in this connection. If you would like to do so, the Master of a nearby Lodge would be glad to spend some time with you, show you the Masonic Service used in your locale, and discuss Masonic Funerals at greater length with you before a particular service arises. We would like to leave you with this one bit of information. Masonry teaches that our membership is never to interfere with our obligations to God, our country, our neighbors, our families, or ourselves. It is our desire that there never be any conflict with the Church, Temple, Synagogue, Mosque, or other religious group to which our brother belonged concerning his funeral service.

MASONIC FUNERALS
Published by

THE MASONIC SERVICE ASSOCIATION

8120 Fenton Street

Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

Rev. Dr. Felix A. Colon  is an ordained minister, with a Ph.D. in Theology and a Past Master of Glendale Lodge #368 F.&A.M., Glendale, California, and a member of the fraternity for 50 years. His email address is fcolon1@juno.com.

 

         

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