The Season of Renewal

This year, the winter solstice [Northern Hemisphere] will be on 21 December, at 15:58 GMT.

At this point the sun will be at the lowest point in its yearly cycle, and it will stay at this position for the next three days.

After this, our sun will begin to climb towards its highest point in the summer solstice.

However, on the morning of 25 December, you will see an interesting stellar spectacle.

In the East can be seen the three stars of Orion’s Belt, at one time called The Three Kings, pointing down towards the star Sirius.

You can also notice that a line can be drawn from the three kings, through Sirius, to roughly the point on the horizon where the sun is about to rise.

The Three Kings follow the bright star to the birth of the sun in a new solar year.

 

The zodiacal ceiling at Dendera Temple – illustrating the passage of the constellations and decans.
IMAGE CREDIT:  © Philippa Lee 2009

I’m sure you have gleaned that this story sounds incredibly familiar.

This spectacle takes place at the same time every year. Literally, the sun ‘dies’ for three days, then is reborn on the Christmas morning, heralded by this formation of stars.

Even in the pre-Christian period this time of year was always considered to be when light overcomes darkness with a promise of new life in the spring and the fullness of the Summer.

A motif that is mirrored in the Christian story itself.

The true meaning of Christmas then, is the promise of renewal. Regardless of how low one might fall, there is always the ongoing hope of change and rebirth.

Our Masonic system is also about continual change and self-development, and there are two particular symbols, within the craft, that teach us the power to move forwards in our lives.

The first of these is comprised of the Senior and Junior Deacons.

 

Mercury the messenger. The figure on Junior and Senior Deacon wands in some craft lodges.
IMAGE CREDIT:  © publisher’s private collection

The Emulation ritual states that the job of the Senior Deacon is to: ‘Bear all messages and commands from the Worshipful Master to the Senior Warden, and to await the return of the Junior Deacon.’

Similarly, the job of the Junior Deacon is to: ‘Carry all messages and communications of the Worshipful Master from the Senior to the Junior Warden, and to see that the same are punctually obeyed.’

Both of these offices, then, symbolise a chain of communication. Now, it must also be pointed out that the Junior Warden marks the sun at its meridian, or the light of conscious awareness in the human mind; and the Senior Warden marks the setting sun, that is the edge of the dark of the sub conscious.

Go beyond, and into that dark, unexplored territory and you arrive at the seat of wisdom, represented by the Master.

The meaning of all this? That there lies, deep within us, a place of wisdom that is continually sending messages to our conscious awareness, to guide us.

It comes as no surprise, then, that another job of these officers is to guide candidates through the Masonic ceremonies.

When it comes to a point where a candidate is meant to say something, the Deacon is there to whisper to them the correct words.

Clearly, this is talking about a sense of instinct that we can utilise in our daily lives.

If we quiet our minds and listen, and, furthermore, have trust in this faculty, then we are emboldened in any new situation.

We can bravely step forward into new challenges, simply knowing that we will understand what we need to do at each given moment.

We are each far more capable than we think we are.

 

Fellowcraft second degree trestle tracing board
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Another symbol that reinforces this same message is the Winding Staircase. You may recall that, in the story of the craft, there is a winding staircase that leads to the middle chamber of King Solomon’s Temple.

By ascending the staircase, one is moving upwards and inwards to a place of reward. This middle chamber also represents the seat of wisdom within us.

Remember, though, that this is a winding staircase. As we ascend, we cannot see what lies around the corner.

Our experience is presented to us, literally, one step at a time. Clearly, this is a symbol of one’s journey through life, which is the subject of the second degree within the masonic story.

As we move into the future, we have no idea what is around the corner. Nevertheless, onwards we go on our adventure.

On a moment to moment basis, then, we have no choice but to trust that we will be able to handle whatever life may throw at us.

However, we have seen that the lesson of the Deacons teaches us that we already have all the equipment we need.

By throwing ourselves into our lives and opening up to experience, we can truly evolve and come to know ourselves more fully.

Additionally, in this process of self-discovery, we learn how we can be of benefit to others and truly contribute.

 

Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini, Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence, Italy
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

This inner strength is symbolised by story-telling throughout history.

In Greek myth, we have the hidden lineage of heroes like Perseus and Hercules, which they come to discover, to the benefit of all around them.

As a more modern example, we have Luke Skywalker as he comes to know his connection to the power of The Force.

It is very clear, then, that the story within Freemasonry is not alone in its attempt to convey how we can find and utilise our true potential.

Indeed, this message has been repeated over and over again, generation after generation, all over the world.

 

Engraving of a wyvern-type ouroboros by Lucas Jennis, in the 1625 alchemical tract De Lapide Philosophico. The figure serves as a symbol for mercury, and renewal.
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

At this seasonal time of renewed hope for a brighter future, I invite you to consider the true message of Christmas.

As the new year dawns, look within with faith and courage, and keep moving forward.

Resolve to keep challenging yourself to experience new things and overcome new tests, in order to better know yourself.

Discover the potential buried in your depths so that you might share your gifts with a world who needs them, in order to make it a better place.

With that, may I wish you a very happy Christmas, and an enlightening new year.

Article by: Craig Weightman

Craig Weightman grew up in Hinckley, Leicestershire and was educated at the University of Leicester, gaining a degree in Psychology and Computer Science.

He was initiated into Freemasonry in 2003, and became master of his lodge in 2014.

Outside of his interests in Freemasonry, Craig is a lecturer in Computer Games Design and Computer Science at a college in Warwickshire. He also develops websites for businesses.

Craig is the author of 'A Journey in Stone'.

 

Books: by Craig Weightman

A Journey in Stone

By: Craig Weightman

Starting with the rough ashlar, the symbol of the individual as they enter masonry, he moves through an explanation of how the working of stone is an apt metaphor for transformation

 

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