Compiled by: Wor.
David J. Lettelier
Click here to view pictures of the real Lafayette Masonic Apron
Here is a recreation of Brother George Washington's Masonic Apron
The name of George Washington claims a place in our American Masonic history. As the "Father of our Country" he is a source of pride to every American Freemason and we are proud to call him a "Brother" in our time-honored Fraternity. He was "raised" to the sublime degree of a Master Mason in Lodge #4 of Fredericksburg, Virginia on August 4th, 1753. On December 20th, 1788 Brother Washington was elected the first Worshipful Master of Alexandria Lodge #22.
It was during the Revolutionary War that the young Marquis de Lafayette came to America from France and joined General George Washington's army for the Battle of Brandywine in 1777. The affection each man held for each other as Friends and Brothers was legend. The American cause had become Lafayette's cause. The legacy that developed through this affection led to the presentation of a special Masonic Apron at Mt. Vernon in August of 1784. It was made of white satin and hand-embroidered by Madame Lafayette.
This apron has become a study in symbolism. Symbols are silent emblems having meaning only when interpreted and given the unique character of the interpretation process, it is also understood that no symbol has an absolute meaning. For example, the apron border colors of red, white and blue are the National Colors of both the United States and France, and the colors of our National Flag. In Masonry the color red is a symbol of courage, white for innocence, and blue for fidelity. The "Lambskin" or white leather apron is itself 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, or any other order that could be conferred upon me, at this or any future period by king, prince, potentate, or any other person, except he be a Mason. It was hoped that I would wear it with pleasure to myself and honor to the Fraternity.
The "All-Seeing Eye" is a symbol of watchfulness and the eye of the Grand Architect. It is the symbol of his Divine watchfulness and care of the Universe. The All-Seeing Eye, whom the Sun, Moon, and Stars obey, and under whose watchful care even comets perform their stupendous revolutions, pervades the inmost recesses of the human heart, and will reward us according to our merits. The "Rays" represent "Light". Freemasons are emphatically called "The Sons of Light" because they are entitled to be in possession of the true meaning and knowledge of this symbol. It is in fact the first of all symbols presented to the initiate, and continues to be presented to him in various forms throughout his Masonic career. But as Light not only came from God, it also makes mans way clear before him, so it is employed to signify moral truth. The "Dove" in early Masonry is a symbol of Noah's messenger. In ancient symbolism, the Dove represented purity and innocence and was often seen bearing an olive branch.
The constellation of "Seven Six-pointed Stars" in Masonry represents the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences: They are Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy. The Six-pointed Star symbolizes Divine Providence and is the Star of David or Shield of David. This starry-decked heaven is where all good Masons hope at last to arrive by aid of that "Theological Ladder" which Jacob in his vision saw extending from Earth to Heaven, the principal rounds of which are denominated Faith, Hope and Charity, which admonish us to have Faith in God, Hope in Immortality, and Charity toward all Mankind. The greatest of these is Charity; for our faith may be lost in sight, hope ends in fruition, but Charity extends beyond the grave, through the boundless realms of eternity!
The "Sun" as the source of material light reminds the Mason of that intellectual light of which he is in constant search. The Worshipful Master who rules and governs his Lodge is said to be the symbol of the rising sun in the east. The sun, therefore is the symbol of sovereignty, the hieroglyphic of royalty; and signifies absolute authority. As the sun rules the day, so does the moon govern the night; as the sun regulates our years, so does the moon mark the passing months. These symbols in Masonry are known as the "Lesser Lights".
The "Three Great Lights" in Masonry are the Holy Bible, Square and Compasses. The Holy Bible is dedicated to the service of God because it is the inestimable gift of God to man, and on it we obligate our Brethren. The "Square" to the Worshipful Master because it is the proper Masonic emblem of his office, and the "Compasses" to the Craft because by a due attention to their use we are taught to circumscribe our desires and keep our passions within due bounds toward all mankind, especially a Brother Mason.
Here are the "Pillars of the Porch" of King Solomon's Temple... King Solomon did not simply erect them as ornaments to the temple, but memorials of God's repeated promises of support to His people of Israel. Boaz, the name of the left pillar means "in strength", the right pillar Jachin means "God will establish", which signifies when combined, the message "In strength, God will establish His house in Israel". And thus were the Jews, in passing through the porch to the temple, daily reminded of the abundant promises of God, and inspired with confidence in His protection and gratitude for His many acts of kindness to His chosen people. The globe on the left pillar represents "Earth", that on the right, "Heaven".
The outer pillars of the temple are called the "Pillars of Enoch". Enoch, fearing that the principles of the Arts and Sciences might be lost, erected two pillars, the one of marble to withstand fire, the other of brass to resist water. On each he engraved all the knowledge which he feared would be lost. The globes are symbols of unity, peace and plenty. These pillars also support the "Rainbow" which is sometimes associated with the Holy Royal Arch. It is also called the "Arch of Heaven", symbolic of the architectural arch.
The "Mosaic Pavement" is a representation of the ground floor of King Solomon's Temple. The Mosaic Pavement is emblematical of human life checked with good and evil. The "Blazing Star" reminds us of that awe inspiring period when the Almighty delivered the two tablets on stone, containing the Ten Commandments, to His faithful servant Moses on Mt. Sinai; when the rays of His divine glory shone so bright that none could behold it without fear and trembling. It also represents the sacred name of God, as a universal spirit who enlivens our hearts, who purifies our reason, who increases our knowledge, and who makes us wiser and better men.
The "Ark" is emblematical of the Divine Ark which carries us over this tempest-tossed life. It is sometimes shown with the "Anchor", an emblem of a well-grounded hope and a well-spent life. With hope, the anchor holds the soul sure and steadfast.
The "Square within Bounds" is a symbol formed by four stonemason's squares of equal arms superimposed one on the other to form a central cube. The square and cube are both significant symbols. The square is an emblem of morality, or the strict performance of every duty. The square teaches us to regulate our conduct before God and man. The cube is a symbol of truth, wisdom, and moral perfection.
The "Forty-Seventh Problem of Euclid's" first book of Geometry contained a mathematical theorem so complex that when Pythagoras solved the problem he exclaimed; "Eureka" which signifies "I have found it"! It has been adopted as a symbol of a Past Master. It teaches Masons to be general lovers of the arts and sciences.
The "Working Tools" of an Entered Apprentice Mason are the twenty-four inch gauge and common gavel. The "Twenty-four Inch Gauge" is an instrument made use of by Operative Masons to measure and lay-out their work, but we, as Free and Accepted Masons, are taught to use it for the more noble and glorious purpose of dividing our time. It being divided into twenty-four equal parts, is emblematical of the twenty-four hours of the day, which we are taught to divide into three equal parts, whereby are found eight hours for the service of God and a distressed worthy Brother, eight for our usual vocations, and eight for refreshment and sleep.
The "Common Gavel" is an instrument made use of by operative Masons to break off the corners of rough stones, the better to fit them for the builder's use, but we as Free and Accepted Masons, are taught to use it for the more noble and glorious purpose of divesting our hearts and consciences of the vices and superfluities of life, thereby fitting our minds as living stones for that spiritual building - that house not made with hands - eternal in the heavens.
The "Plumb" is an instrument made use of by operative Masons to try perpendiculars, the "Square" to square their work, and the "Level" to prove horizontals, but we, as Free and Accepted Masons are taught to use them for more noble and glorious purposes. The "Plumb" admonishes us to walk uprightly in our several stations before God and man, squaring our actions by the Square of Virtue, ever remembering that we are traveling upon the Level of Time, toward "that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns."
The "Trowel" is an instrument made use of by operative Masons to spread the cement which unites the building into one common mass; but we as Free and Accepted Masons, are taught to use it for the more noble and glorious purpose of spreading the cement of brotherly love and affection; that cement which unites us into one sacred band, or society of friends and brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist, but that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who best can work and best agree.
The "Setting Maul", in operative Masonry is used for setting stones, that is, tapping them to a firm seat in the mortar by urging them sideways into place. It is considered by some to be a symbol of untimely death.
The "Coffin" containing the remains of a deceased friend and Brother reminds Masons that we are the custodians of a great heritage passed along to us in the story of the "Hiramic Legend".
The "Sprig of Acacia" is the symbol of the immortality of the soul; as the flower, which "cometh forth and is cut down", reminds us of the transitory nature of human life.
The "Beehive" is an emblem of industry. It teaches us that we came into this world rational and intelligent beings, so should we be industrious ones.
The "Sword Pointing to a Naked Heart" demonstrates that Justice will sooner or later overtake us, and that although our thoughts, words and actions may be hidden from the eyes of man, they are not hidden to the All-Seeing Eye.
The "Tassel" consists of a cord with tassels on the end. It represents the "Mystic Tie"; that bond which unites men of diverse opinions into one sacred band of Friends and Brothers.
In closing, the ceremonies and lectures in Symbolic Masonry beautifully illustrate this all-engrossing subject; and the conclusion we arrive at is... that youth, properly directed, leads us to honorable and virtuous maturity, and that the life of man, regulated by morality, faith and justice, will be rewarded at its final hour by the prospect of eternal bliss, and he who has received from his Master this approving language... "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joys of thy Lord".
"Encyclopedia of Freemasonry" by Albert G. Mackey, MD, 33 Degree. Revised Edition under William J. Hughan, 32 Degree and Edward L. Hawkins, MA, 30 Degree. Volumes No. 1 & 2 Published by The Masonic History Company, New York & London, 1917.
"The Florida Masonic Monitor", Twenty-third Edition, Prepared by the Committee on Work, GL #214, 1992. James W. Creecy, Chairman.
"The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania Poster" reprinted January 1985 by Museum Curator and Librarian Bro. Frank W. Bobb titled "Bro. George Washington's Apron" as presented by the Marquis de Lafayette at Mt. Vernon in August of 1784.
Hon. Frank W. Bobb, Jr., Curator, Masonic Library and Museum of
Proper Use of the
George Washington Apron Lecture
The George Washington apron lecture was designed for Lodges to use it in their membership development programs. A good choice of potential Phoenixmasons would be Junior Colleges, and civic groups such as Boy Scouts, Jaycees, Kiwanis, etc.
The Lecture should be fully memorized and performed well to achieve the desired effect. The dress code is formal. White dinner jacket and white gloves wearing the Lafayette apron. You should develop your own flash cards for the various symbols and working tools or have an overhead projection made from the color poster of the apron. It would help to have an assistant work with you, holding up the flash cards or pointing out symbols on the overhead projector.
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