During this ceremony, we hear the names of our departed Brethren. These individuals are our Brothers with whom we have shared the beauty and grandeur of Masonry. The reading of these names is reminiscent of an ancient Sanskrit injunction: “Lead us from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, from death to immortality.” As Masons, we are travelling together on a mystic journey, a journey toward greater and greater light. “The Ceremony of Remembrance and Renewal” is a celebration of our Masonic bonds, an opportunity to remember our Brothers who have journeyed on before us, and a time to reflect upon our own individual quest.
In the course of our life journey, we experience cycles of darkness as well as peak experiences of joy and spiritual growth. Symbolically at this time, we move our thoughts from the darkness of winter to the renewal of spring and the promise of more light. The very name Lent is taken from the Latin word which means “to lengthen,” and it is during the period of Lent that the rays of light begin to lengthen until the advent of the Vernal Equinox where day and night are equal.
The Vernal Equinox has been recognized by cultures and religions in all times as very spiritual. For example, the Christians celebrate this season with Lent, Maundy Thursday and Easter, the Iranians with the celebration of Jamshedji Nauroz, and the Jews with the observance Passover.
We might say that the Vernal Equinox is:
- A time of renewal
- A time of more light in our life
- A time of the crossing over from the darkness of winter into the light and renewal of spring
- A time for extending our vision of universal brotherhood
- A time to erase the divisions of race, creed, and religious intolerance
- A time to remember those who have journeyed on to the Celestial Lodge
- A time to thank the Creator for the men and women in our military who are sacrificing their very lives that we may enjoy the blessing of liberty and justice in our democratic society
- A time for reflection upon the spiritual truths exemplified in the lives and ideals of the avatars, saviours, sages, and messengers of light of all ages.
Freemasonry provides us with insights into the assimilation of light. Our Craft has been likened to a deep well out of which each Mason draws according to his own understanding and enlightenment. During the “Ceremony of Remembrance and Renewal,” we draw from that well.
The language of Masonry consists of its universal symbols and rituals. A symbol contains the essence of a truth. A universal symbol contains a universal truth. The universal symbols displayed during the “Ceremony of Remembrance and Renewal” include, among others, the Cross, the Star of David, and the Volumes of the Sacred Law. These universal symbols can be viewed on many levels.
For example, the Christian might associate the cross with the crucifixion; the Buddhist with the sacred Boddhi tree under which the Buddha received enlightenment; the psychologist as an archetypical symbol found within the collective unconscious; and the philosopher as a universal metaphor of human perfection to be found within man himself.
The Star of David is also a universal symbol. Culturally, it is synonymous with Judaism. In addition, however, the Star of David is sometimes referred to as the Seal of Solomon. The United States dollar bill has a Star of David etched on one side with 13 points or stars in the form of two intersecting triangles. Symbolically, the triangle is the symbol of Deity found in teachings of Freemasonry as well as in many of the world’s religions. For example, in Christianity the Trinity is represented as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Hinduism, it is represented as Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. And in Freemasonry, it is represented by the three greater and lesser lights.
A deeper interpretation of the Star of David is that the bottom triangle symbolizes God within man while the upper triangle represents the Transcendent Deity. Taken together, the two interlaced triangles reveal the union of man with Deity.
Multiple Volumes of the Sacred Law rest on the Masonic altar. They may include the Holy Bible, the Koran, the Upanishads, the Zend-Avesta, or whatever book or books Masons deem to be their sacred scripture. Scripture is the means by which we regulate our life and discover truth. In Freemasonry, we are taught that scripture is given to us by God for the “rule and guide of our faith.”
Freemasons use these universal symbols in the context of their own culture, their own religious preference, and their own self-development. In addition to being universal symbols, the icons noted above are images we individually associate with our respective cultures and personal beliefs. They provide us with insights into ourselves and light for our journey through life.
Accordingly, we, each of us, worships the Creator in our own way, according to the dictates of our own conscience, in our own church, or our own synagogue, or our own mosque, or in our own temple. The ritual exemplified in the “Ceremony of Remembrance and Renewal” allows each person, regardless of religious background and belief, to share, in a broader, more universal context, the spiritual significance of this festive season.
As Masons, we strive to exemplify Masonic light. The “Ceremony of Remembrance and Renewal” provides a moving experience and a symbolic foundation on which to build an expanded, more universal celebration of the grandeur, the beauty, the harmony, and the mystery of life and our Craft. To cite the final words of the ceremony: “I give to you all the hope of spring renewed with its attendant bounty. May Brotherly Love prevail and may we ever be united in every social and moral virtue, cemented in the mystic and universal bond of Masonic Brotherhood.”
[Note: this is not my own writing, but I can no longer find the source document, so I wanted to preserve the excellent content of this article.]