Monday, December 28, 2020

My Masonic New Year

 I enter my Masonic New Year with the understanding that I am making a fresh start. I begin by discarding thoughts, attitudes, and habits that are not compatible with an excellent life. I let go of whatever caused past discouragement, disappointment, or disagreement. I know that seemingly negative outcomes are desires or goals that are yet to be fulfilled. I am open and receptive to new ideas, activities, and relationships. 

Each day, I can follow a fresh plan of fulfillment. I act on divine ideas that I receive in moments of prayer, and inspiration. These ideas flow through wholesome, positive, thoughts. As I use creative thinking to build, upon divine ideas, my activities and my abilities are enhanced. Therefore, I enter this New Year with optimism, joy, and enthusiasm.

Author Unknown

As Freemasons we are constantly seeking to improve ourselves and the world around us. In 2020, the Covid-19 virus has presented us with life changing events, that have made our primary focus day to day living essentials and our safety. 

 This has been a year of change and sometimes chaos. We may be working from home, perhaps while wearing your pajamas perched at the kitchen table or sitting on the sofa with your laptop all the while your toddler plays at your feet because the daycare is closed. School age kids may be remote learning at home or doing hybrid learning which are both their own challenges. 

We have been unable to attend lodge meetings, family gatherings, religious events or even our kid’s athletic games, if they are even happening. I think we may all be suffering a bit from social isolation, and especially at this time of year, may be missing the comradery of Freemasonry, and strong social connections. 

Throw in a shortage of toilet paper, hand wipes and cleaning supplies, plus having to wear a mask everywhere we go, and our world has certainly changed. 

In this turmoil that has been 2020, we may have been distracted, forgetful or neglectful of working on our Rough Ashlar. But then, maybe 2020, and the lack of activities, has allowed us fresh focus. This will be different for everyone. 

Now as the New Year is rapidly approaching this may be a great time to take a few moments for a bit of introspection, to reflect upon the past twelve months, both the good and the difficult, and reorient for the future.

I wish for you All Good Health, Love, Promise and Hope in 2021. 

Happy New Year

Sunday, December 27, 2020

St Johns Day

Lodge of Glittering Star #322

 Today is St. John the Evangelist Day. 


Monday, December 7, 2020

Masonic Christmas Pudding Canceled due to Covid-19

 Christmas Pudding


To me personally one of the absolute best Masonic events in Minnesota every year is the December meeting of Red Wing Lodge #8. The true focus of the evening is of course the Installation of Officers. In 2006 the lodge wanted to add alittle element of style or pizzazz to the evening.

The evening begins with the gathering of Brothers before the meeting for a hearty meal of Clam Chowder or Chili dinner with an incredibly special dessert. A proper very British Christmas Pudding. If you’re not familiar with Christmas Pudding this is something you don’t just go down to the local bakery and pick one up. This is dish that takes 20 hours to create.

Gary Thomas who is the Past Worshipful Master and a Chef by profession makes it every year for us. The Christmas Pudding recipe that he uses is one that has its roots in Medieval England. Its found in Recipe Books from 1390 A.D. It’s a recipe that is steeped in tradition and ritual. The pudding is pretty much stayed the same for 630 years.

The cooking process usually starts on the Sunday before Advent, called" Stir up Sunday" but Gary makes it during the Thanksgiving time when he has alittle more time.

The recipe has thirteen ingredients to represent Jesus and the twelve apostles. It’s filled with raisins, currents and sultanas oh and alittle suet too. The aromatic warming spices of ginger, nutmeg and cloves are a major part as well.

Each member of the family takes a poke at the mixture and makes a wish for the new year. Then they stir it in the direction of East to West honoring the Magi who traveled in that direction on the journey to the Christ Child. 

The mixture is then placed in cheese cloth and steamed for eight hours. Its then placed in a cool place and brought out in England on Christmas. Gary has a different method. He will bring the wrapped mixture out from time to time and soaks with brandy to keep it moist. He also needs to serve it on the first Monday in December.

After dinner on Lodge night. Gary will bring out the pudding pour on warm brandy. The lights in the dining room are turned off and he lights the pudding. The pudding is aglow in a beauitful blue flame. Sometimes it catches the tablecloth on fire…we have not had to call the fire department yet.

Gary makes a brandy butter and serves that on the side with a beauitful scoop of the pudding. If you have never had it before it’s a very dense, sticky, fully developed flavor with a slight boozy taste. I call it heaven on a plate.

It is a perfect dessert after an excellent hearty meal on a cold Minnesota December night. When the room is filled with a few candles, and your Masonic Brothers.

Unfortunately for us this tonight we were required to conduct our December meeting, and Installation of Officers via Zoom. We were limited to 40 minutes of time, so we were limited on the Brotherhood, and no pudding.

The bright side is that Gary Thomas has taken the Chair of Worshipful Master for 2021.Though making the Christmas pudding is Gary Labor of Love, and so is Freemasonry for him. . It’s going to be a great year for all of us. 




Saturday, December 5, 2020

Ed and the Bucket of Shrimp - A Good Story


It happened every Friday evening, almost without fail, 
when the sun resembled a giant orange and 
was starting to dip into the blue ocean.

Old Ed came strolling along the beach to his favorite pier. 
Clutched in his bony hand was a bucket of shrimp.
Ed walked out to the end of the pier, 
where it seemed he almost had the world to himself.
The glow of the sun was a golden bronze. 

Everybody had gone, except for a few joggers on the beach. 
Standing out on the end of the pier, 
Ed was alone with his thoughts...
and his bucket of shrimp.

Before long, however, 
he was no longer alone.
Up in the sky, a thousand white 
dots came screeching and squawking,
winging their way toward that lanky 
frame standing there on the end of the pier.

Before long, dozens of seagulls had enveloped him, 
their wings fluttering and flapping wildly.
Ed stood there tossing shrimp to the hungry birds.
As he did, if you listened closely, 
you could hear him say with a smile,
'Thank you. Thank you.'

In a few short minutes the bucket was empty. 
 But Ed didn't leave.

He stood there lost in thought, 
as though transported to another time and place.
Invariably, one of the gulls landed on his sea-bleached,
weather-beaten hat - an old military hat he'd worn for years.

When he finally turned around and began 
to walk back toward the beach,
 a few of the birds hopped along the pier
 with him until he got to the stairs, and
then they, too, flew away.  
And Old Ed quietly made his way down to the end
of the beach and on home.

If you were sitting there on the pier with 
your fishing line in the water,
Ed might seem like 'a funny old duck,'
 as my dad used to say..  
Or, 'a guy that's a sandwich shy of a picnic,'
as my kids might say.. 
To onlookers, he's just another old codger,
lost in his own weird world,
feeding the seagulls with a bucket full of shrimp.

To the onlooker, rituals can look either 
very strange or very empty. 
They can seem altogether
unimportant ...maybe even a lot of nonsense.

Old folks often do strange things, 
at least in the eyes of Boomers and Busters.

Most of them would probably write 
Old Ed off, down there in Florida .
That's too bad. They'd do well to know him better.

His full name: Eddie Rickenbacker.
He was a famous hero back in World War II.
On one of his flying missions across the Pacific,
he and his seven-member crew went down.  
Miraculously, all of the men survived, 
crawled out of their plane,
and climbed into a life raft.

Captain Rickenbacker and his crew floated 
for days on the rough waters of the Pacific.
They fought the sun. They fought sharks.  
Most of all, they fought hunger. 
By the eighth day, their rations ran out. 
No food.  No water.
They were hundreds of miles from land 
and no one knew where they were.

They needed a miracle.
That afternoon they had a simple devotional service
 and prayed for a miracle.
They tried to nap.  
Eddie leaned back and pulled his military cap over his nose.
Time dragged.  
All he could hear was the slap of the waves against the raft.

Suddenly, Eddie felt something land on the top of his cap.  
It was a seagull!

Old Ed would later describe how he sat perfectly still, 
planning his next move. 
With a flash of his hand and a squawk from the gull,
 he managed to grab it and wring its neck. 
He tore the feathers off, and he and his starving crew made
 a meal - a very slight meal for eight men - of it. 
Then they used the intestines for bait.. 
With it, they caught fish, which gave them food 
and more bait......and the cycle continued. 
With that simple survival technique, 
they were able to endure the rigors of the
sea until they were found and 
rescued (after 24 days at sea...). 

Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal, 
but he never forgot
the sacrifice of that first lifesaving seagull.  
And he never stopped
saying, 'Thank You.'  That's why almost every Friday night he
 would walk to the end of the pier 
with a bucket full of shrimp and a heart full of gratitude.

Reference: (Max Lucado, In The Eye of the Storm, PP..221, 225-226)

PS:  Eddie was  an Ace in WW I and started Eastern Airlines!

PPS: Brother Eddie Rickenbacker became a Master Mason in 1922 in Kilwinning Lodge No. 297 of Michigan. He laid down his working tools in 1973. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Look what I got in the mail. Did you get one?

 The Knights Templar Eye Foundation is sponsored by the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar. Their mission is to improve vision through research, education, and supporting access to care. 

I have had the opportunity of meeting Dr. Michael C. Brodsky who is the Professor of Ophthalmology Research Knights Templar Eye Foundation Mayo Clinic Rochester, Minnesota. It was interesting and inspiring to hear about the people that he helps, and educates every day. He had brought his book that he was able to write partly because of the Knights Templar Eye Foundation. its called " Pediatric Neuro-Ophthalmology".

After talking with Dr. Brodsky, and meeting other Doctors- Researchers-Scientists. I was moved by  their work of helping people see. It inspired me to to support the Knights Templar Eye Foundation on a regular basis. 

This year they have a Yeti Cup that you can receive with just making a  donation of a certain amount. You have to admit it is kind of cool. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Veterans Day 2020

Photo by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans Day

This day, which began as Armistice Day, was originally set as a U.S. legal holiday to honor the end of World War I, which officially took place on November 11, 1918. In legislation that was passed in 1938, November 11 was “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day.” This new legal holiday honored World War I veterans. In 1954, after having been through World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress — at the urging of the veterans service organizations — amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

A day to honor those who have served and now serve in uniform, as well as those who died in service to this great country.

Thomas Paine said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Many of you here today have borne that burden and experienced the fatigue of waging war in order to bring about peace. To you, I say thank you. Thank you for setting the example that inspired me and my peers to raise our hands in voluntary service to this great nation.

That shared service joins us together like no other bond. The camaraderie we share in military service helps define us. I can honestly say the time I’ve spent as a member of the United States Navy is the best of my life. Even after I left the Navy, it will stay with me and define me till the day I die.

I’ve always thought Veterans Day got the short end of the stick, holiday-wise. For many Americans, there is no official day off work, as there is for the July Fourth holiday. And many people view Memorial Day as the official day to pay tribute to service members from the various branches of the armed forces, who’ve given their lives in service to the nation.

And yet this day, Veterans Day, serves a very important purpose. It is the day we recognize not just those who have given their lives in war, but all those who have worn the uniforms of service. This day, above all, is an opportunity to celebrate the choice one makes to serve their country. For some, it meant the world wide conflict of WWII, or a lifetime of peacekeeping missions, or the tense standoff of the cold war. Others, in the jungles of Vietnam or in Korea, Panama, and other conflicts in which we have asked our military to serve over the years.

And of course we can’t forget that today, for many, service means multiple tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, on active duty or as reservists, and Guard members who sacrifice twice when they give up their civilian jobs in order to serve our country.

Roughly 1 percent of our population serves in the military. And as we consider the impact those individuals have had on the world, defending freedom and protecting democracy, Winston Churchill once said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

So today, to honor that debt, I would ask you to take time to honor service members, past and present, in at least one of several ways.

First, volunteer to help a veteran or service member, regardless of whether you are a veteran or not. We have many wounded veterans in our world who need your compassion and your support. Find a way to help them, whether through Veterans Affairs offices or state and local government outreach programs. Given that we as a nation are at war today, there are many families in communities all over the country who could use a helping hand. For many of those on deployment, knowing their families are receiving support while they are serving in the armed forces can bring reassurance and peace of mind. There are dozens of ways you can show your support to our nation’s heroes.

Second, make an effort to promote military service for our youth. In a time of war, volunteers for service are hard to find, but I think promoting military service goes beyond that. We need to do a better job of letting our younger generation know that the military is a viable and valuable career option with unlimited opportunities.

And finally, if you are a vet, please share your story with others. Let everyone know what you’ve done so they can see the many faces of military service and appreciate the personal service of their neighbors. If you are not a vet, find someone in your life who is a vet and ask them about their service — or simply say thank you.

The more we talk about what we do and the impact military service has on our lives, the better able we are to hold it up as an example of excellence.

We have many, many examples of courage, service, and sacrifice to reflect on today. Let’s use this opportunity now, and on Veterans Day in the years to come, to celebrate service to our nation, to demonstrate the appreciation we have for our military and to inspire future generations to dedicate themselves in the name of the many who have come before them.

As Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Today, we give thanks to live in a country where citizens from every generation willingly and courageously raise their hands to stand the watch.

For all those veterans here today — thank you for your service and your sacrifice. I share the pride you feel in being able to count yourselves among that one percent — the greatest military in the world.

For all those not in the military, thank you for choosing to share this special day with us and show your support of our heroes, past and present.

Thank you.

Chris Sajnog-U.S. Navy Seals

 Speech November 11, 2011 in San Diego California


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Modern Day Chivlary

Tower of London Armour Collection-Photo by Tom Hendrickson

Modern Day Chivalry
 Thomas Hendrickson-PGM

Early in my career as a police officer, on one beautiful June or July night, I was on a routine patrol in a police squad car with my partner. We were cruising with the headlights off looking for a burglar who may have been working in our district. The car windows were open, and we were enjoying the fresh evening air while we patrolled.
Suddenly, I heard a woman screaming and shrieking. I said to my partner, “Eddie, shut off the engine”. While sitting in the silence we waited to hear more.  After a few moments we could determine that the screams were coming from just a little distance ahead of where we were and off to the right.  Eddie moved the squad car forward and thru the houses until I could see a light on from a second-floor window. We got out of the squad and ran between some houses through a yard and arrived at the house with the light on.
The screams were continuing, so as we approached the house we drew our guns, and began checking the surrounding area. I looked up to the window with a light on I observed a large naked woman with her arms flailing above her head, screaming “save me, help me somebody”.  Eddie, my partner, said to me “kid, here’s your chance to save a damsel in distress”.
As we inched closer to the house, I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye, and I turned my flashlight to see the object. A small girl, about five or six years old, opened the door and stepped outside. She was wearing a white nightgown and holding a blanket and calmly pointed inside the house and said, “she’s upstairs”.
My partner and I entered the house cautiously, I with my gun in hand.  I then ran up the stairs and searched until I came to the lit bedroom. I looked thru the doorway and observed the large naked woman standing on the bed. When she saw me, she yelled “help me Officer” and then she pointed toward the floor.
I looked at the floor and saw two aquariums tipped on their sides with the lids lying next to them. I could see a snake coiled up under a small piece of furniture and a small white mouse scurried past me.  Realizing that there was no human threat, I put my gun back in the holster.
I again looked at the large naked woman standing on the bed and before I could react or ask a question she said, “catch me” and she jumped off the bed.  As I was not prepared, she and I toppled onto the floor with her on top of me.
Eddie helped the woman up, found a bathrobe for her to put on and lead her down the stairs to safety. I was left on the floor with a snake somewhere in the room.
As I got to my feet, the little girl suddenly appeared and, asked me if I could help put the aquariums back on their stand. As I did that, she had retrieved the snake and put him back in his home. She continued searching for the mice as I headed downstairs. Eddie had calmed the poor woman and we asked her what had happened. She said that she had just gotten out of the shower and was trying to put on her undergarment when she lost her balance and knocked over the stand that held the aquariums containing the snake and mice. They were her daughter’s pets, but she kept them in her room, and was deathly afraid of both.
Once she was calm, we readied to leave, and she thanked us for helping her. As we were walking back to our squad car, I saw the Patrol Supervisor standing next to the car.  He asked what had happened. Eddie replied, “the kid saved the damsel in distress, but he didn’t shoot the dragon”. “Let’s go have coffee, and I’ll tell you all about it.”
That was my first attempt at rescuing a damsel in distress, but I can say it was not what I had in mind when I joined the police department, nor was it what I had expected based on the Walt Disney movies of Snow White or Sleeping Beauty that I had watched as a kid.
I would suspect that when you think of chivalry today your imagination conjures up the images of a knight in shining armor, slaying a fire breathing dragon to save a damsel in distress. Those images were never really the reality, but were a wonderful product of myths, fiction and fairy tales.
Chivalry evolved from a code of conduct that originated in western Europe in the 12th century. The code of conduct dealt with the steel, blood and mud of the knights and noblemen on the battlefield, where the qualities of honor, loyalty, courage, prowess, and generosity were demanded. It evolved over the next two hundred to three hundred years, by influence of Arthurian ideals and the church. The evolution of the chivalric code shows an increased effort to create a more well-rounded or ideal knight. This effort combined the qualities of being courageous in war, loyal to his noble, pleasant and courteous in his leisure, with knightly Christian values. Chivalry became to represent a code of behavior and ethics that all knights were expected to live by.
As a cop, it was my responsibility to enforce all the laws and ordinances. Some violations required me to follow the prescriptive police department rules and policies, however many violations did not. In those circumstances it was left up to officer discretion on how to apply the law. Enforcing the law under adverse conditions can sometimes require judgement like King Solomon in the bible. There were many times when I had to draw from my own personal morality that I had developed through my lifetime. I always felt I had a good moral base for making judgements as I had great parents, I had the Christian teachings I had learned as well as the lessons of Freemasonry to draw upon. I also had a chivalry ethos with slight adaptations to meet the modern age. I treated each person I met with respect and dignity as well as being courteous, and it helped me gained the trust and respect of the community, and of the criminals too.
While we do not fight battles in the same manner as the knights when chivalry was evolving, no horse, no shining armor, and no swords, chivalry is more important than ever in the 21st century and especially given the Pandemic the world is experiencing today.  Our country is experiencing a situation where there are no code books or hard and fast polices to follow. Many individuals are having to make moral judgements with no prior experience to guide them. 
But back to my experience as a street cop.  After the aquarium experience, the following Spring I moved from patrol car to being assigned to walk a beat. The community I was assigned had numerous issues: high crime, high chemical dependency, abandoned homes and boarded up businesses. There was a large park with a field of empty booze bottles and a playground littered with broken glass.
The residents were racially diverse and lived-in high-density housing with concentrated poverty. There were also a lot of families who were working poor and their daily worries were about economic survival as well as their physical survival.
A policeman walking a beat is a return to old fashioned policing. The shift is spent walking the same neighborhood everyday rain or shine. This allows you to know every citizen, some not so law abiding. This process creates a close relationship, where the cop becomes part of the neighborhood and the community, and the cop becomes affectionately known as “our cop”.
You must have the strength, skill, and stamina to not just walk the beat for eight hours, but for running and apprehending criminal suspects or handling emergencies multiple times a day. I have always considered my time on the beat as challenging, but one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. 
In the mornings I would stand at the bus stop where the school children would gather while waiting for the bus to arrive.  There were many bus stops in my assigned beat, but this one was one of the more hazardous. The sidewalk was littered with needles from drug addicts, empty baggies that no longer contained drugs and empty bottles of alcohol left from the night before. Gang members and drug sellers frequented the area to make early morning sales to people going to work.
One morning, one of the children called me Mr. Knight. I replied that name was Tom. He said, “my mama says that you’re our Blue Knight cuz you make sure we’re safe”.  Another child chimed in and asked “Tom, where’s your horse?” I replied, “He’s over there” and I pointed to my squad car parked down the street.
As I was briefing my commander at the end of the week, I mentioned my activities and I told him about being called a knight.  After I finished, he chucked and said, “Tom, the kids are right. Do you know why all cops in the America wear their badges or shields on the left side of their uniform? It’s because the knight would carry his shield with his left hand, and his sword in his right hand.”
Another item I carried as a cop was a large blue bandana. While not standard issue, it became something that I ended up purchasing by the dozen. At first, I intended it to use it to wipe the sweat from my face or to wipe my glasses off in the rain.  However, I found a multitude of uses for a blue bandana. I would give it to a woman who was crying after a domestic assault or a woman sitting on a bus bench who was crying and distraught for not having enough money to buy food and pay the rent. I would use it to stop the bleeding of a victim until my back up squad could arrive or the ambulance. Once, one was used to hold a wedding bouquet together for a couple to be married in the park.  Who knew a blue bandana had so many uses?  
But the blue bandana is less important to the story than the action it symbolized.  To offer something of comfort in a moment of despair, to offer something freely when someone is most vulnerable, to offer that person the experience that they are seen along with a sense of dignity, those are actions that I believe we need more of today. To recognize all human beings, especially during dark circumstances, I believe this is all chivalry, just not the fairy tale version.
As a cop, in most situations, you attend to the matter or incident at hand, but never know how things ended up for the individual. But every once and awhile I would get a small package in the mail at the police station, and inside would be that blue bandana neatly folded with a note of gratitude or thanks. Those notes were exceptionally valuable to me as an officer.
I use these stories to show that chivalry is a mindset that we embody. Today, there is not the fairy tale version of the damsel in distress, no horse or sword, but the mindset is always applicable.  I had Grandmothers and a mother that were strong in many ways, but they were models of compassion and understanding. I never had the opinion that women were the weaker sex, but everyone, male or female can value chivalry.
I believe that chivalry and the values it represents are very much alive in this era of gender equality, but chivalry has evolved to a mindset that everyone can act on.
I took up long distance running while I was a cop. I suffered an injury while running and I was hobbling and walking with a cane for some time. I was using public transportation to commute to work.  One day, I hobbled quickly to catch a train before it left the platform. Once I boarded, I noticed that all the seats were taken, and people were standing in the isle. The train was very full.  As I stood there a woman sitting in front of me stood up. As she stood up, I noted she was very pregnant. She then offered me her seat. I told her that I could not take her seat because of her condition. She smiled and said, “I think you need it more than I do, don’t worry I’m pretty fit”.  I took the seat with thanks. I realized during the ride, that she was right, it was not about gender or condition, but about human kindness and courtesy.  I greatly appreciated her gesture.  Holding an umbrella over someone while stopped at pedestrian crossing during a heavy rain storm is not a matter or strength, gender equality, although maybe some extra height helps.  It is about courtesy, compassion, understanding, helping those that cannot help themselves at that moment in time.
On a cool summer Friday evening in Aurora, Colorado, four hundred people gathered at a movie theater to see the summer blockbuster “The Dark Knight Rises”. About thirty minutes into the movie a lone gunman wearing a gas mask and tactical equipment entered the movie auditorium through a side door. He detonated multiple gas canisters containing gas or smoke before firing seventy-six rounds into the movie goers resulting in twelve deaths and fifty-eight wounded.
Four men died after pushing down their girlfriends to the floor and used their body to shield them from the bullets. One father died while he shielded his two teen age daughters. All the women survived.
There were many other acts of bravery committed by ordinary people that night. Some carried wounded strangers to safety, some performed CPR, some provided comfort to the mortally wounded, and a woman took off her belt, and fashioned it into a tourniquet and applied it to the leg of a man who was bleeding profusely and screaming in pain.
I would argue that the actions by these ordinary people were not only chivalrous but also heroic.
They found the courage to help other people in a time of great need. They did so, with total disregard to their own safety in a very hazardous environment when they could have escaped the shooting and bloodshed. Some stayed and defended someone else, and willing sacrificed their lives in order that someone else may live.
Reporters interviewed some of these courageous people and asked them why they stayed and helped. Many said that they saw other people helping the wounded and thought that they should help too. Courage can be contagious.  You might be surprised how many will offer to help or commit their own act of bravery if they observe someone else doing similar acts.  

Chivalry is not dead, it has just evolved, or perhaps been modified to fit our lives today. As a society everyone can be part of the evolution to carry on good works.  If we all have the spirit of chivalry and apply it to our daily lives, to have the courage to take action when the time and circumstance presents itself, we can all live the ideals of chivalry every day, and the world would be a better place.  

This article appears in the November 2020 Knights Templar Magazine


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Anno Lucis-The Masonic Era

Photo by Tom Hendrickson
Have you ever looked at a Masonic Cornerstone or a formal Grand Lodge document and noticed that there are two different years on it?
One year should be easy to recognize as it is the calendar year and following the year is A.D. (e.g. 2020 A.D.) which is Latin for Anno Domini which means ‘in year of our Lord”. Normally we write the year, and very rarely add the A.D. Now, there may be times when you will see C.E., but that is another discussion…
The other year will look quite different, with a year such as 6020 and will be followed by the initials A.L. which is Latin for Anno Lucis. Anno Lucis means “in year of Light”. The Anno Lucis date is used for Masonic dating or the Masonic calendar. This year is usually used for our ceremonial or commemorative occasions.
Converting the year from Anno Domini to Anno Lucis is quite easy. Simply take the year (i.e. 2020 A.D.) and add 4,000 and it becomes 6020 A.L.
If you have been a Mason for some time, this should be common knowledge for you but I would like to go a bit deeper and explain an interesting aspect of Masonic history that has been largely forgotten and the meaning behind the Anno Lucis year.
Anno Lucis, or “in the year of Light”, represents the symbolic moment that light came into the world at its creation. As found in Genesis 1:3 KJV, “And God Said,” Let there be light: and there was light”. In the early days of the Grand Lodge of England, when they started using Anno Lucis it was sometimes referred to as in the year of Masonry. But, how did they know precisely when God created light in the world?

In the 18th and 19th century it was accepted and common knowledge by most people of the English-speaking world that God Created the world at nightfall on October 22, 4004 B.C. They knew that for it was printed in the Bible. The two men who responsible for that were the Archbishop of Ireland James Ussher and publisher Thomas Guy. Now for the rest of the story...

Photo peter lely-Wikipedia

James Ussher was a key figure in the religious debates of the 16th century and he led a remarkably interesting life. He was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1581. He was taught to read by his two aunts who were blind from infancy. He went on to be one of the first students admitted to Trinity College in Dublin, where he flourished and continued for advanced degrees. He had a library of over 10,000 books, which can be seen today at Trinity College as a monument to wisdom and learning.
Ussher was ordained into the Anglian Church in 1601 and eventually was appointed Archbishop of Armagh and Primate from all of Ireland in 1625. Ussher was present in 1649, when King Charles I was led to the scaffolding and to the execution block. He fainted when King Charles I was beheaded, and he had to be carried off to recover.
Ussher was a very prolific writer during his lifetime with 40 published works in English and Latin. The work that he is most known for today was twenty years in the making, was written in Latin, and published in London in 1650 titled “Annales Veteris Testamenti”. The book was 1,300 pages with 14,000 footnotes with each paragraph numbered and indexed for easy referencing. An English version was published in 1658 titled “Annals of the Old Testament”.
It was James Ussher’s intent to arrange the historical events in the order in which they took place of the Jews, Persians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans into a singular Chronology or timeline, and thus merge the histories. The histories of China and other eastern countries had not yet become well known into Europe yet so those were not included
Ussher’s objective for this book was to write a world history covering every known major event from the creation to 70 A.D, using the Bible as his framework. He believed that the Bible was the only reliable source of chronological information. Ussher and most of society, at the time, held a literal belief of the Bible.
Ussher went to great lengths to collect all the available historical knowledge to help him. He had access to the libraries of Oxford, Cambridge, London, and Trinity College in Dublin.
His reference material included various ancient Old Testament Bibles: Samaritan, Pentateuch, Syriac as well as texts and histories of Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Hebrew all in their original ancient languages, although most of the material he used was secular in nature. He analyzed how ancient calendars were calculated and consulted with Astronomers and used their planetary observation tables.  One of the challenges to overcome in creating this chronology was that all the various countries had different calendars and differing methods of recording time.
Ussher died in 1656 before the English version of his book was published. His book sold well enough, at the time, but the dates of his chronology would have drifted off into obscurity and died a natural death, except for an opportunistic publisher.
Ussher was not alone in calculating the creation of the universe and subsequent chronology. Many other great minds calculated their own Biblical time lines and there was a major effort in the 16th Century, by scholars across Europe to establish a full chronological history. Isaac Newton tried his hand at it and compiled an 87,000-word composition, to support his date of 3998 B.C.  Martin Luther, a theologian and important figure in the Protestant Reformation conducted his own study, determining the date as 3961 B.C. Johannes Kepler, an astronomer also
This was an extremely popular area of study for the scholastic community. At least two hundred different dates were proposed by scholars for the time of creation, ranging from 3483 to 6934 B.C.
Thomas Guy was a London publisher and book seller.  In 1675, Guy began printing the King James Bible including Ussher’s dates in the margins alongside the corresponding scripture text.  With the inclusion of Ussher’s dates in the bible, they became generally accepted across society.  The King James Bible was the most accepted Bible of the English-speaking nations so by publishing Ussher’s dates, they were accepted fact and the first chronology to be widely accepted. 
At the time, a large portion of society believed that the Bible is the actual word of God, and it was interpreted very literally. The powerful combination of the reader seeing in black and white that God created the world in 4004 B.C., and that Adam and Eve were driven out of paradise in 4004 B.C. was immense.  Noah’s Flood took place in 2948 B.C., King Solomon died in 975 B.C. and the destruction of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Jews in Babylon captivity took place in 586 B.C.  All the other events in the Bible from the Creation up to 70 A.D had a date in history and as such Ussher’s dates had the very strong appearance of having Biblical Authority.
It may be hard to imagine now, but at the time when people saw dates, in black and white printed within the Bible, they believed that those dates were Gods own truth.  
In 1701 the Church of England also adopted Ussher’s dates in their official Bibles, and Ussher’s dates would continue to be included in most versions of the King James Bibles until the 1900s. Interestingly, his dates were printed in the Gideon Bible until the 1970s.
In 1721, James Anderson was commissioned to write the history of the Freemasons for the newly formed Premier Grand Lodge. His work became known as “The Constitutions of the Freemasons, Containing the History, Charges, Regulations, &c. of the most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity, For Use of the Lodges”. It was published in 1723 and was greatly expanded in 1738.
Anderson may have exaggerated just a little bit when he created a mythological chronology of the Craft. Like Ussher, Anderson starts his 48-page history using the Bible as the initial framework of the story.  He begins with Adam, who was created with that special knowledge of geometry which was passed on to his descendants. He includes Noah, Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Hiram Abif, and Nebuchadnezzar.
Andersons story winds thru the history of ancient Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire. Freemasonry passes thru France to Britain to the year 1723 showing the very long and ancient pedigree of the Grand Lodge. Anderson devoted quite a bit of space to King Solomon’s Temple. Anderson, it could be argued, wrote probably the most important Masonic work ever published. 
What unites Anderson and Ussher is that Anderson uses Ussher’s dates for the biblical events throughout his Masonic historical story. The history of freemasonry was explained by defining the Masonic Era while using a Masonic Calendar based upon Ussher’s dates.  Thus, the Masonic calendar is based on the calculations of James Ussher and the date that starts the Masonic era is 4004 B, C., Anno Lucis “in the year of Light”.
There were other terms used to define the Masonic Era before Anno Lucis became more popular after the formation of the United Grand Lodge in 1813. James Anderson uses “Year in Masonry” in both his first and second editions of his Constitutions.  There are many others here are a few examples Anno Masonry, Anno Latomorum-“In year of Freemasons”, Anno Lapidariorum “In year of the Stone Cutters”.  
The 1723 edition of Anderson’s Constitutions eventually arrived in America where it was edited and reprinted in Philadelphia in 1734 by Benjamin Franklin. It was the first Masonic book to be printed in America.
Anderson created a mythic origin that continues today.  Most of the Grand Lodges eventually rounded the date to an even 4000, for easy addition, however the Grand Lodge of Scotland continues to use the original date of 4004 B.C.
Ussher’s book survives to this day as it continues to be printed today and can be easily found in bookstores as “The Annuals of the World”.  Today, his work is associated with Young Earth Creationism,
In today’s modern world where we can use Radioactive Dating to determine that the earth is 4.5 billion years old (give or take a few million years) James Ussher dates may seem overly simplistic.  However, both men used their scholarship to make a careful study of all documents and traditions available and using the most accepted scientific method of their time.   I believe we need to judge these ideas, not by our modern concepts, knowledge or technology, but judge them by the intents and thoughts of their time. Perhaps 500 years from now our modern technology, science, and medicines will seem out of date as well. 
Because James Anderson collected and captured and preserved so much of the Masonic symbolism and lore that were anchored in the ancient Craft, we can continue to experience those teachings today.  By Anderson creating or re-enforcing the concept of the Masonic Era using James Ussher’s date of 4004 B.C. as the day our Supreme Architect of the universe brought light into this word, it provides us with a symbol that unites all Freemasons across the world.
Free Masonry’s continued use of Anno Lucis on our Cornerstones, ceremonial documents, and lodge minute books may not be accurate to today’s scientific standards, but I think it’s a loving tribute and part of the mystic tie that continues to bond us with our Brothers of the Ancient Craft from so long ago.


Saturday, June 6, 2020

Freemasonry on the Doorstep
An Individual Freemasons response to the Covid-19 Pandemic
By Tom Hendrickson-P.G.M.

In the past few months, we have watched the deadly Coronavirus sweep across the world, and ferociously spread across the United States. The Covid-19 pandemic has created a type of national emergency that has severely disrupted society and our daily lives, in ways that we have never experienced before. Most of the state governors have imposed drastic measures ordering their residents to remain in their homes and to practice social distancing to slow the spread of this deadly virus.
Our country has experienced many crises in the past. There were wars, acts of terrorism, hurricanes, flooding and many other natural disasters. In those emergencies, we as the public were called to action, but this time is different. This can be life or death for many individuals, it has affected all Americans in multiple ways and the crisis came with inadequate warnings about the magnitude, both for health of the nation and the economy. This national emergency is different as we have been told to go home, wait or work in isolation along with totally and dramatically changing the way we normally live our lives. 
Social distancing started out with avoiding physical contact and staying at least six feet away from other people to lessen our chances of catching COVID-19. Then it quickly expanded to the prohibition of people gathering in groups. In particular, this kept us from our Masonic activities. It also meant not attending our houses of worship, concerts, sporting events or even participating in a pickup game of basketball. Schools, colleges and universities closed and shifted to online learning. Any business deemed non-essential locked their doors. Some employees were sent home with equipment to work from home while others have been layed off or furloughed. Those employees that have confidence in their jobs have no idea when they might return, but some others have no confidence in returning to their jobs ever again.  Self employed individuals wonder how to pay the bills and if life will ever be what we knew as “normal” ever again.

In just a few weeks COVID-19 dramatically changed our lives. We are all struggling with our own anxieties and uncertainties about our lives and COVID-19. Listening to my Brothers, friends and family members I think I can say we all share some of the same anxieties. We all fear catching COVID-19, or that our family members will get sick. We are worried about financial hardship from being laid off from our jobs, or will we have a job to return to? We may have experienced loss from our retirement investments or college savings? How long will my savings last and how can I pay the bills? If older or have health issues, if I catch COVID-19 will it kill me? With no promise of when the situation will be over the uncertainty is starting to influence our mental health. Our fears coupled with uncertainty leave some terrified by the unknown risks.

Shelter in place, social distancing, social isolation or the term lock down have new relevance to our daily lives, and depending on your perspective, may be easier for some to cope with than for others.
Shelter in place or locked down may be different for someone else, but to me they mean the same thing.

Social Isolation or Locked Down is a term depending on your perspective but means the same thing.  

We were ordered to stay in our homes except for buying food, seeking medical attention, pick up prescriptions or for other types of essential services. Health authorities have issued guidelines for people who have serious underlining health conditions that might be at much greater risk for severe illness or death from the COVID-19.

In a very short period of time living day to day became more complex and certainly add to the sense of fear surrounding the Coronavirus. We were only allowed to leave the house for the essential needs. Getting coffee, eating out, visiting the gym, going to the barbershop, watching a movie and even seeing our doctors and dentists become impossible.

Suddenly wearing a mask and rubber gloves become a daily essential and almost routine.  When we go to the grocery store, we are met with long lines, and empty shelves. On one of my trips to the store I could see the anxiety in a woman’s eyes and hear the despair in her voice as she was talking to her husband. “No toilet paper, no hand sanitizer, no bleach, no chicken…now what?”

There were and are some people who cannot leave their homes because they have underlying health conditions and it is too dangerous to risk getting exposed to the virus. Even the Minnesota is “opening up” and relaxing some restrictions, those individuals still have to be careful as the danger has not passed. There are those with mobility problems that have had to change their daily routines.  These groups of people have the added worries of if they will have enough food to eat, and what are they going to do when their medications run out. Where do they turn for help to obtain the necessities of life for weeks or months? Many have lost their spouse and have been living alone for some time. The few friends that they do have left are in the same situation that they are in or are living in a care facility which is, as has been shown in the death rates, its own difficult situation.

Lock down is a term often used by state and federal prisons and also by a young mother who lives in my city and resides in an exceedingly small apartment with two young children. She recently has been laid off and lost her access to daycare. She takes her kids outside for one hour a day for fresh air and exercise or sometimes longer on a nice day. “Just like the prisoners in the supermax” she told me and laughed. She used to go grocery shopping with the kids but now given the virus, she does not dare expose them nor do stores want extra individuals in the stores. She really needs someone to pick up a few things at the grocery store or to watch her children for a short time so she can make the trip.
I have been very lucky that having to shelter in place has not been a hardship and I have enjoyed it.  While I share the anxieties of many individuals, my family has been very fortunate too.

Shelter in Place
My wife has been very blessed to be able to work from home. Her daily commute is from the bedroom to the office saving several hours a day of typical commute time. She has been able to stay focused and connected and still manages to squeeze in laundry between conference calls.
My daughter and grandson have been staying with my wife and I, and it has allowed us all to connect more and have great talks. My daughter is a working Mother, and this has allowed her slow down her pace and focus on work and school. She gets a break while I play with my grandson.
Our normally quiet but spacious home has become, an office, a three-star restaurant (my opinion as I do the cooking), a pre-school, and a gym but most important it is filled with laughter.

However, for those coping with anxiety or depression, being thrusted into social isolation can be particularly destabilizing. They have developed normal schedules and routines that help them to successfully and effectively live their lives with meaning and purpose. Going to work, meeting with friends for coffee, going to the gym, participating in a Yoga class, or attending a book club meeting, all of these options, almost overnight. ceased to exist because of the Coronavirus.
With the problems and benefits I have observed during this period of social isolation, I saw that we as human beings have a strong urge or essential need for social connections. We crave social contact as we sometimes crave food. This is true for all individuals but, I believe, was made more acute by the threat of COVId-19.

For me, Freemasonry means the masonic ritual is not just a ceremony but a teaching to be lived. Freemasonry becomes a way of life. If I did not act or do something, I would not be practicing the oath that I took.  My entire work life I had to create solutions to urgent problems and to act quickly. For me to be able to remove those anxieties and fears was a piece of cake,

I had developed a list of Widows, Brothers, and friends that I call every few days and to see how they are doing. Many of them live alone and their grown children are living several states away and daily life can be lonely for them. I would ask them for a list of groceries they needed, and if there was any anything to be picked up at the pharmacy. I would bring the needed items to their home and place them on their doorstep. I would ring the doorbell, and step back up to allow for social distancing. Everyone was eager for a conversation. I did learn to bring a lawn chair, for some of those talks could last awhile.

The time we are living can be filled with much uncertainty and we should protect and take care of ourselves and our loved ones.  But if you could find a way in your heart to spend a little time on a simple act of kindness for a lodge brother, a widow, or a neighbor, you will find yourself among many others who have found that we can change the world for the better one act at a time.

Freemasonry is my way of life, and I found another place to live my Obligation

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Grand Lodge of Russia-Sing Auld Lang Syne

The Grand Lodge of Russia with Grand Master Andrey Bogdanv has made a video in support of Freemasons across the globe.