The Epiphany (2023)

This was written for the January 5, 2023, stated conclave of Worth Commandery № 19, K∴T∴, but not delivered due to illness.

Sir Knights,

Tomorrow, we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. This is a time when we remember the wise men who brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the newborn King Jesus. As we read in Matthew 2:1-12, these wise men came from the East, following a star that led them to Bethlehem. There, they found the child Jesus with his mother Mary.

But what can we learn from these wise men, and how can their journey speak to us today? Isaiah 60:1-6 speaks of a time when the light of the Lord will rise upon his people. The nations will come to them, bringing gifts of gold and frankincense. This passage foreshadows the arrival of the wise men, who brought these gifts to the newborn King.

But the wise men brought more than just physical gifts. They brought a message of good news, the praises of the Lord. They recognized that Jesus was not just a human child, but the savior of the world. They knew He would be the one who would bring light to the nations, and bring salvation to all who believe in Him.

Psalm 72 makes a prophecy of a righteous king who brings peace and prosperity to all nations. Among other things, the Psalm foretells the gifts that Jesus received as an infant! The wise men’s gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh symbolize their honor and reverence for Jesus as their King. By bringing these gifts, they fulfilled the prophecy of the psalm!

The arrival of the wise men was not just a momentous occasion for Jesus and his family. It was a moment of great significance for the entire world. In Ephesians 3:1-12, Paul writes that the coming of Jesus was part of God’s plan to bring salvation to all people. This salvation comes to us no matter who we are, or where we’re from. 

Paul speaks of the mystery of Christ, which has been revealed to all people through the Gospel. The mystery is that all people are fellow heirs of the promise of salvation in Christ. The Spirit made this truth known to the Apostles and Prophets. Through this gospel, the wise men recognized Jesus as their King, even though they weren’t Jewish.

As we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, let us remember the wise men and the gifts they brought to Jesus. Remember: the coming of Jesus was not just a momentous occasion for his family and for Israel. It was momentous for all of us. May we, like the wise men, recognize Jesus as our King and bring him the honor and reverence he deserves. May we seek to bring the Gospel’s good news to all people. May they, in turn, experience the unsearchable riches of Christ.


Feast of the Holy Name (2023)

Written for the Worth Commandery Facebook page, and published on New Year’s Day, 2023.

Happy New Year, Sir Knights! May God bless us and keep us all.

Today, on January 1st, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Name. This feast reminds us of the power and significance of the names we carry. We see the importance of naming in the story of Abraham, whom God called to be the father of many nations. In the New Testament, we see the power of the name of Jesus, who was, and is, a servant, savior, and king.

What does it mean to bear the name of Jesus? Saint Paul tells us that Jesus, being in the form of God, didn’t try to grasp equality with God. He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant. In other words, Jesus demonstrated true humility by putting the needs of others above His own.

We are called to bear Jesus’ name, and to emulate His example of humility and selflessness. This means putting the needs of others before our own, and living our lives in service to others.

This is not easy! We live in a world that values power and status above all other things. This broken world is not for us. All we have to do is look to the example of Jesus. He reminds us that true greatness comes not from what we have or what we accomplish. True greatness comes from the love and compassion we show to those around us.

Let us pray that we may have the strength and courage to bear the name of Jesus with honor and humility. Let us be a light to those around us! May we shine the love and grace of God into a world that needs it.


Worth Commandery Christmas Message (2022)

Written to be published as a circular letter for Worth Commandery № 19, K∴T∴

Sir Knights,

Popular portrayals of the Nativity can seem tough or bleak, with nativity plays showing Mary & Joseph having no place to stay at all. They go from door to door, asking for a room, turned down each time. At their wit’s end, they settle in for the night inside a stable or barn, where they prepare for labor and delivery, all by themselves.

This was not so! Luke 2:7 says, “… because there was no place from them at the katalyma.” Many Bibles use a traditional translation of katalyma as “inn,” but this word has another meaning – “guest room.” Mary and Joseph would not have been staying in a lodging house. They were traveling to Bethlehem, where her family lived, and it would have been a full house! Mary and Joseph weren’t strangers, but welcome guests. They stayed within the first floor of the home, where folks cooked meals and kept livestock during the winter. The heat from this room served to keep the upper floors warm. Jesus wasn’t born in a cold barn; rather, His loving family welcomed Him in a warm, happy household!

At Christmas, we should not just celebrate that Jesus, our Savior, came to Earth, but how he did so. Christ became a human, in all aspects. He had human experiences and was one of us. His humanity is a call to action. He came to live among us, teach us, and love us. In this way, we received a perfect example of human goodness and holiness. Because of Him, we know what it looks like to follow the way of the Lord without fault.

As we joyfully receive Jesus as our Redeemer, let us remember His humanity while on Earth, striving ever to emulate His humility, kindness, and love for others. May we, with sure confidence, behold Him when he comes to be our judge. 

Merry Christmas, Sir Knights. God bless you and keep you, always.

Dallas Commandery Christmas Observance (2022)

Written for the annual Installation of Officers & Christmas Observance of Dallas Commandery № 6, K∴T∴

The Collect

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Homily

Tomorrow is the fourth and last Sunday of Advent. Christmas is right around the corner! The scripture readings for tomorrow reflect that in many ways. They are Isaiah 7:10-16, Psalm 80:1-7 & 16-18, Romans 1:1-7, and Matthew 1:18-25.

Our Isaiah reading sets up a profound contrast for our Gospel reading. In it, Ahaz, King of Judah, is facing a brutal war from the northern kingdom of Israel, and the kingdom of Aram. Ahaz is afraid, but God sends Isaiah to speak to him. Isaiah, as a messenger of God, commands Ahaz to demand a sign from God. Ahaz refuses, citing religious tradition. Isaiah then announces the Immanuel prophecy, which is one of the most important prophecies in the entire Bible, and foretells the coming of Jesus. Isaiah also tells Ahaz that even though he disobeyed God, he will still be victorious in the war against Israel and Aram, but will be vanquished by Assyria.

Our Gospel reading presents us with a similar situation which turns out completely differently. Let’s read it:

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Normally, when we think about Advent, or Christmas, we think about Jesus as a baby, or perhaps Mary herself. However, we rarely think of Joseph! He isn’t what we would consider to be a “speaking role” in most cases. This Sunday, though, we shine the spotlight on him in a mighty and powerful way, telling the story of the “other annunciation.”

In this reading, Joseph is here to teach us, lead us, and hold a mirror up to our faces. In writing these passages, there are certain things that Matthew wants us to know about Joseph:

  • Joseph is righteous.
  • Joseph is faithful.
  • Joseph is ordinary.

These ideas about Joseph light our way in the dark and serve as driving character influences. 

Joseph is righteous. He was a religious and observant Jew, so being righteous, in a very big way, entails listening to God, particularly by following the laws and commandments of God. Matthew lays Joseph’s knowledge of the situation out pretty clearly: his fiancee, Mary, who he has not lived with yet, is pregnant, and he knows that he’s not the father. This is a bad situation, made worse by the fact that now, Joseph has to follow the law, if he wants to remain observant. Jewish law regarding an unfaithful wife provided two options: a public accusation and trial, or a more quiet divorce. The idea of staying with Mary, or just leaving her, without having some sort of punishment enacted, would have been unthinkable to Joseph. Standing by a decision like that would be saying that Joseph valued his relationship with Mary — or maybe his own pride — was more important than God’s laws and commandments.

Laying charges against Mary publically would have been a death sentence. In that day and age, women were explicitly second-class citizens, and in many cases, not even allowed to testify in court. It wouldn’t even have been his word against hers — it would have been his word alone! After being found guilty, she would have been violently executed by public stoning — a messy, slow, and terrible death.

Instead, Joseph sought the path of mercy and kindness, which is a type of righteousness in and of itself. He decided that he was going to divorce Mary by privately serving her with the equivalent of divorce papers. Betrothal was the first part in a two-step system for getting married, and was considered legally binding, so it had to be formally dissolved. This could be done by either party in the betrothal, by serving papers in front of several witnesses. Some folks would still find out why he was divorcing her, but it wouldn’t be many, and her life would be spared. This teaches us that Joseph is both righteous by the law, but merciful.

Joseph is faithful. A scene has been set for us: Joseph has decided to follow the law as best as he can, and move on with his life. However, on the night that he makes his decision, he is visited in his sleep by the Angel of the Lord. The Angel starts off the conversation by reminding Joseph that he is a descendant of King David, strengthening and encouraging him, and then tells him not to be afraid of taking Mary as his wife. The Angel then gives Joseph a stunning revelation: the son she will bear was conceived by the Holy Spirit and will save the whole world. Joseph’s prophetic dream ends with the Angel reciting from the prophecy of Isaiah, and he wakes up.

Joseph trusts the Angel of the Lord. Without any questions, without any pushback, and with seemingly no doubts, he changes his mind completely. When he laid down the night before, he was ready to divorce Mary and leave, never to see her again. When he woke up, he finalized their betrothal and took her as his wife. He stays with her, adopts the boy as his own son, and names him Jesus. This little child grows into Joseph’s heart, and the world is forever changed. 

Yes, Joseph is righteous by the law, but he is also faithful, and listens to the Lord. Contrast that with King Ahaz from our Isaiah reading! King Ahaz was also visited by the Angel of the Lord, and given a command. Unlike Joseph, King Ahaz rejected the revelation from God, and abided by dogmatic religious tradition instead. What Ahaz did is almost like standing in the kitchen, smelling a pie burning in the oven, and deciding not to take action, because the recipe calls for five more minutes!

The Gospels go on to demonstrate how important Joseph’s role as a “listener” to God is three more times. Joseph’s second dream from the Lord is a warning to protect his family, leave Bethlehem, and flee to Egypt, because King Herod is sending men to kill the infant Jesus. When Herod dies, but before the news reaches Egypt, Joseph receives his third dream, letting him know that it is safe to return to Israel. Finally, he receives a fourth dream — another warning to protect his family — and settles in Galilee, instead of their original destination of Judea.

There’s one more thing that we need to know about Jesus’s earthly father: Joseph is ordinary. Joseph has hopes and dreams, just like all of us. He has — or had — plans to build a normal life with Mary, have a normal family, and be a normal builder. When he found out that Mary was pregnant, and knew there was no way he was the father, he was hurt. Joseph — and therefore the Holy Family — is also broke. After Jesus is born, Joseph and Mary go to the Temple and sacrifice two turtledoves. According to Levitical law, parents were supposed to sacrifice a lamb after the birth of a child, but there was a hardship exemption: if your household couldn’t afford sacrificing a lamb, you could instead sacrifice two turtledoves or two young pigeons. This helps paint a picture of the Holy Family’s life, and the humble origins of the King of Heaven.

All of these aspects of Joseph are what he and Matthew use to hold a mirror up to our faces. Just like so many other characters from Scripture, Joseph is meant to be us, and we are meant to be Joseph. One of his strongest functions is echoing God’s invitation to participate in a holy life of righteousness and faith, through praying, listening, and acting.

The first lesson that Joseph teaches us is that we need to listen to God. Listening to God can happen in many different ways — there are all sorts of avenues that God uses to speak to us, and the vast majority of them aren’t life-shattering prophetic dreams from angelic beings. God speaks to us through prayer, through religious liturgy, through fellowship with both believers and non-believers, through the beauty of the sun’s rising and the sun’s setting, through the destructive fire that rips through a forest, and through the healing rain that raises new trees. When my son hears my voice, he’ll turn his head in my direction, and smile or laugh, and in that moment, I can feel God. Most often, God speaks to us quietly. One of the best examples comes from First Kings, Chapter 19:

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

This is why prayer — and silence — is so important for us. Prayer and active listening not only gives us an opportunity to hear God, but also teaches us how to recognize His voice in the first place! Without retreating to prayer and holy silence regularly, it becomes much harder.

Listening to God is only part of the equation, though. Just like Joseph, we have to not just listen, but respond! We have to learn how to act on the commands given to us by that still, small voice. The act of praying regularly helps prepare us for that. Living a life of faith and Christian practice on an everyday basis lays the groundwork down for taking tough steps and responding to God in times of challenge. We may, from time to time, even be called by God to break with tradition, whether it’s “capital-T” Tradition of the religious sort, or just cultural knowledge we’ve grown up with. After getting that call, what matters most is how we choose to respond. Will we stay bound up by self-importance and tradition, to reject God’s word, like King Ahaz, or will we humble ourselves, listen faithfully, and see the plan through, like Joseph?

The last lesson that Joseph teaches us is that Jesus grows into our hearts, just how Jesus grew into Joseph’s heart. When we clear space in our hearts for God, listen to Him, and act on His commands, we also create room for Christ in our hearts, and let him grow in ourselves. It’s also one of the reasons why God gave us children. We are created in the image of God, and when we learn to love our children unconditionally, we learn to love God unconditionally. This is one of the many ways that the still small voice of God speaks to us!

All this is to help open God’s great invitation to us. Joseph was asked to be the caretaker and legal father of Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh. Mary herself was asked to physically give birth to him and put her life at risk in many ways! Together, they raised God on Earth, loved him unconditionally, and kept him safe throughout his childhood. When it comes to tall orders given to people other than Jesus Himself, those pretty much take the cake. The Holy Family — Joseph, Mary, and Jesus — accomplished God’s will on Earth in a way that has never been replicated, and will never be, until the coming of the New Jerusalem. We ourselves will never be called to tasks of these magnitudes, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be called to monumentous, world-changing tasks of our own. Every God-directed action that we take changes us forever, and affects everyone around us. These effects ripple out into our communities, and even our countries. To listen to God, and respond to Him, is to change the world. 

Advent is a season of reflection and preparation. On our way to Christmas, let’s make sure that we’re prepared to think and pray, to listen and act, to change the world, and, most importantly, to do so by loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and all our strength, and by loving our neighbors as ourselves.


Worth Commandery Christmas Observance (2022)

Written for the annual Installation of Officers & Christmas Observance of Worth Commandery № 19, K∴T∴

The Collect

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 


The Homily

Prepare ye the way of the LORD! This is one of several instructions given to us by John the Baptist. It’s iconic. It’s dramatic. It demands our attention. John says these words while baptizing the faithful in the wildernesses of Judea. This is all described in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 3, Verses 1 through 12. That’s the Gospel reading for tomorrow, the Second Sunday in Advent.

This is a perfect command for this time of year. It’s not quite Christmas; we’re in the middle of Advent. This is a penitential season that calls us to prepare for Christmas. In our scripture reading cycle, we are getting ready for the birth of Jesus. This is a time of new beginnings, with new hope for all. We need to be ready for it! At times, this can feel a lot more literal. We make plans, clean our homes, and buy gifts. We prepare, prepare, and prepare.

Tomorrow is the Second Sunday in Advent, which gives us these scripture readings:

  • The Book of Isaiah, Chapter 11, Verses 1 through 10
  • Psalm 72, Verses 1 through 7 and 18 through 19
  • The Letter to the Romans, Chapter 15, Verses 4 through 13
  • And the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 3, Verses 1 through 12.

Our Isaiah reading is a powerful prophecy. It’s one of the most important ones in the Hebrew Bible. It describes the coming of a Messiah, starting at the vivid opening line:

“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”

As Christians and Knights Templar, we understand this to be Jesus Christ. The reading describes a beautiful, peaceful, and just world. Wolves, lambs, lions, children, snakes, and all sorts of animals live in harmony. The knowledge of God fills the whole world!

The Gospel reading, of course, is the crux of our lesson today:

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 

This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”

Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, 

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

That’s where our Gospel reading concludes. What do you think of that wake-up call? John pulls no punches and minces no words with his instruction. He calls us to “prepare the way of the Lord.” First, though, he gives us a command in preparation: repent! Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. John sends a clear message. In order to prepare the way, we must repent. 

It sounds harsh, in some ways. Confession, sin, repentance. These words can sound a little ugly. Combine them with John’s fiery delivery, and they sound downright imposing. A smelly, half-naked man, yelling in the desert inspires little comfort.

Repentance doesn’t have to be scary. John is quoting from Isaiah, one of the most hopeful books of the Bible. Isaiah gives us beautiful visions of paradise! We need to look at sin and repentance from a different perspective. The way we frame ideas makes a real difference. 

Let’s boil things down to their most simple form. Christianity is about having two loving relationships. One is a focused love of, and with, God. The other is a universal love of our neighbor. What is sin, then? Sin, in this context, is failing to participate in those relationships. We need to both love, and give ourselves to love. When we don’t do that, we are in sin. Confession, then, is admitting that we need to love better. Repentance is our new (or renewed) commitment to that love.

John’s call to repentance is radical and transformative. This is the changing of one’s life at its core. It happens as a result of deep penitence or spiritual conversion. It’s the turning around of your whole nature. Repentance — this turning around — is a continual process. Our salvation is secure, true. Preparing for the kingdom, though, is a work in progress.

John warns us that “the kingdom of heaven has come near.” What does this mean for us? Jesus makes this clear in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 17, Verses 20 and 21, when he says,

“The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” 

This, then, means that the kingdom is here, at our feet, and all around us!

This kingdom, though, promised us peace. Isaiah says so. Jesus says so. If the kingdom is “here,” then where is the peace? Everywhere we look, there is a lack of peace. There are twenty-two separate wars raging across the globe. Our kids aren’t safe in their own schools. Last year, the opioid epidemic killed eighty-one thousand people. We haven’t even started talking about broken homes. What about folks with no home at all? Something is missing in the way of peace. 

When Sarah and I first took our son home, I stopped reading the news for a long time. Every time I tried to catch up, I’d have to stop. I would hold Raffi in my arms, awestruck by the beauty of creation. At the same time, I would fear for his future. Late many nights, while soothing his colic, a dark question plagued me. What kind of world is my boy going to grow up in?

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. That’s not a question a father has to ask. There can be peace — but how do we achieve it? The answer to our question is right here, in scripture. Let’s refer to the book of Isaiah, Chapter 32, Verse 17:

The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.

That righteousness is fulfilling those relationships with God and our neighbor. That righteousness grows from our repentance and the resulting healing. It comes from living in, and living towards, God. The peace that we’ve been looking for isn’t something that we just find. It isn’t even something that we can claim or earn. We grow the peace of the kingdom, just like fruit! In the New Eden, we are the gardeners. 

This makes sense for Christmastime. The season of Christmas is about rebirth and renewal. It’s a reflection of Easter. The rebirth is right there! Repentance is about letting God work through you so much that you change! You won’t be the same person you were before! This isn’t a one-time deal, either. Every time we make this commitment, we transform. In some cases, it’s a big transformation. In some cases, it’s just enough. But in all cases, it’s a gift from above. It’s a new lease on life: a rebirth. 

Jesus came to Earth on Christmas Day to bring us the kingdom. It’s here, with us, at this moment. It’s our job to prepare it for his return. When we say, “us,” and “our,” it means us, right here. The Saints who repent and build the kingdom aren’t just dead people in old paintings. The 1929 hymn, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God,” says it best:

They lived not only in ages past,
there are hundreds of thousands still,
the world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea,
for the saints of God are just folk like me,
and I mean to be one too.

We are the saints of God! We repent, love and give ourselves to love, and seek peace. This is the Great Work that furthers the Kingdom, right here! When we build, we’re not just building for ourselves. We build for everyone that comes after us. When my baby boy smiles at me, I know who I’m building the kingdom for.

When we took our first breaths, the world handed us swords and spears. With his words and his resurrection, Jesus gave us a hammer and an anvil. It’s our job to prepare the way of the Lord. Let’s beat those swords into plowshares, and those spears into pruning hooks.


The Latin Rule

This post is the script of a talk I gave as a 2022 Grand Commandery York Rite Conference Speaker. It is preserved as closely as possible to the actual talk delivered at the conferences, including voicing, phrasing, etc. Please enjoy.

The Latin Rule

A Templar Talk for the 2022 Texas York Rite Conferences

By Gabriel Jagush, Past Commander, Worth Commandery № 19, K∴T∴

Sir Knights,

My name is Gabriel Jagush. I am a Past Commander of Worth Commandery № 19 in Fort Worth. Today, we’re going to explore the Latin Rule. This was the monastic code by which our spiritual ancestors, the Knights Templar, governed their lives. We’ll also reflect on what it means to us as Templar Masons.

A “Rule” is a system of regulations for a monastic order. Each member of the community has to follow this Rule. Every monastic order uses (or used) a Rule of some kind. The Knights Templar were no exception.

Historians have studied many monastic Rules. They have taught us a lot about the spiritual beliefs and structures of those orders. However, the Latin Rule of the Knights Templar has not been studied this way. In fact, it has never been fully translated into English. The full text contains hundreds of regulations. So far, English translations only cover the first seventy-two sections. This is known as the Primitive Rule.

The Latin Rule was the guiding document for the Knights Templar. They used it to govern themselves, their monasteries, and their entire order. It was important from a legal perspective, too. It let the Church recognize them as a valid military-monastic order. As Templar Masons, we can use it to help govern our own lives and actions.

The Rule covers many aspects of consecrated life. A lot of it prescribes how to worship both in public and in private. For example, you had to attend church services multiple times a day. If you couldn’t attend services, you had to pray to make up for it. You had to pray the Lord’s Prayer thirteen times at 2 AM, seven times every three hours, and nine times for evening prayer. 

Other regulations governed how the Knights ate. They ate only three meat-based meals per week. At all other meals, they ate simple plant-based food. They didn’t eat breakfast. During lunch and dinner, they ate in complete silence. They used only hand signals to communicate. A member of the Order read Scripture out loud at every meal.

Some regulations are interesting to us as Masons. §24 dictates that “permanent brothers” couldn’t wear furs, hides, or skins. They were, however, allowed to wear lambskin or ram’s skin. The reception of candidates into the Order is similar to how we investigate candidates for the lodge. It’s also similar to the installation of the Worshipful Master. Brethren traveling through different regions were instructed, “let them not defile by word or action the purpose of the order, but by their examples let them display – especially to those with whom they may be joined – the salt of wisdom and the spice of good works.” This should sound familiar to every modern Knight Templar!

The defining trait of the Latin Rule is its emphasis on humility. Unselfishness, obedience, and living a simple, quiet life mark the Rule like a steady drumbeat. We can especially see this in the regulations about clothing. 

Clothing was uniform in color. The color varied depending on the brother and his role in the order. Members wore black, white, or sometimes brown. Clothing had to be simple. Any clothing that required more than one person to put on – like that of the nobility – was forbidden. §28 set grooming standards. Hair had to be “regular and orderly.” Beards could not be “excessive or facetious.” The Rule forbade pointed shoes and shoes with buckles, which were expensive exotic imports. Gold, silver, and jeweled horse tack was forbidden unless it was old and had been given as a gift. Horse feed bags had to be plain. You couldn’t put your family coat of arms or another “cover” on any of your weapons, shields, or armor. Doing so meant you were attached to secular titles and worldly connections. This wasn’t compatible with the spirit of the Order.

Other sections of the Rule address humility more directly. §43 condemns bragging about your sinful ways before joining the Order. §47 and §48 tell Knights to humbly accept any legal actions taken against them. This applies even if the judgment may not be fair. That may remind us a little of the Entered Apprentice Charge.

There are parts of the Rule that don’t translate as well to a modern day perspective. §44 forbids going hawking with a falconer. At first, this might seem like a deviation from the theme. Further context helps us out here. Hawking and falconry were hobbies reserved for the rich as a spectator sport. Someone sworn to live a humble life couldn’t take part in this. Thus, we see the continued development of the theme of humility. Avoid selfishness. Obey God, the Church, and the Order. Live a quiet and simple life.

We can’t summarize the entire Rule in this talk. It’s a document that deserves several deep dives from every Sir Knight. As Templar Masons, it calls to us. What can we learn from it today? How can we guide our lives by its wisdom? We are the spiritual descendants of those Knights. Their Rule is our inheritance. We know that it’s got real value.

Nowadays, not many of us – myself included – live by a monastic code. We have “house rules.” Our commanderies have bylaws. The Grand Commandery has a book of statutes and regulations. The Grand Encampment has a Constitution. What about a personal Rule? 

I have a question for the Sir Knights here today. Imagine that you are writing a formal moral code for yourself. This is something to live by as a man and a Templar Mason. What is the first or most important rule you’d write down?

[Short, limited discussion.]

Sir Knights, I have to wrap us up here. You can learn more about the Latin Rule in “The Original Rule of the Knights Templar.” This is a master’s thesis by Robert Wojtowicz of Western Michigan University. If you’d like a copy, please send me an email. 

Thank you so much for your attention. I hope you all enjoyed this talk. God bless!

The Royal Arch Degree: An Early History

This post was originally written to be delivered as a talk for the 2021 Texas York Rite Conferences on behalf of the Most Excellent Grand Chapter of Texas. As such, much of it is in an oratory style. I have chosen to preserve it in this tone of voice. All information presented is freely available online and not considered “secret.”

The Royal Arch Degree:

An Early History

Gabriel Jagush, PHP, Texas Chapter № 362, RAM



I want to start with a disclaimer. Please don’t go into this talk thinking that I intend this to be a rigorous work of scholarship! Yes, this talk leans on established masonic authors and primary sources. The primary basis, though, is my personal collection of notes and thoughts. I am grateful to Most Excellent Companion Myer for letting me share this with y’all.

I will, of course, defer to more experienced academics when it comes to corrections. I plan to alter, correct, and add to the talk over the course of time. If this ends up being a very different talk by the last conference, that would be more than acceptable to me.


At first, I intended for this to be more about the chronology of the Royal Arch Degree. Over the course of researching the subject and writing the talk, I changed my mind. To me, it’s become more interesting to relay a few stories about early Royal Arch Masons. Through those stories, though, we will learn more about the history of the degree. 

We’ll talk about:

  • the earliest confirmed dates of Royal Arch Masonry, 
  • an early clandestine capitular rite,
  • the torture of John Coustos by the Portuguese Inquisition,
  • and what this all might mean.

The Earliest “Hard Dates”


The first written record that we have of the Royal Arch comes from the January 14, 1744 edition of Faulkner’s Dublin Journal. As part of a Masonic Saints John Day parade in the city of Youghal (You-All), on December 27, 1743, two “Excellent Masons” carried a “Royal Arch” through the town.1

Robert Harvey (of the Research Lodge of Ireland) thinks that the “Excellent Masons” were Deputy Wardens.2 I noticed an inconsistency, though. In the parade, one pair of “Excellent Masons” carries the “Royal Arch” and a second pair of “Excellent Masons” carry a level and a plumb line.3 As per Harvey’s account, the Master and Wardens are one group of three; the Deputy Master and Deputy Wardens are another group of three.4 At a total of six officers, this doesn’t account for the two other “Excellent Masons.” If not Deputy Masters, who are they?

Were these two brethren masons who were of an “excellent” quality? Were they “Excellent Masons” because they had received a specific degree? To add to this, was the “Royal Arch” like the kind of arch that we see within our modern Chapter rooms? Was it something more representative, like an Ark of the Covenant, as Companion John Stokes claims?5 We don’t have a lot of the context we need to answer these questions – or, at least, I don’t.


Our journey now takes us to Bridge of Allan, Scotland. The oldest known Chapter in the world is Stirling Rock Royal Arch Chapter № 2. Their earliest documented meeting dates to July 30, 1743.6 7 This begs the question: how long had they been in operation before then? We can now push back the earliest date of the Royal Arch further than before. How much further can we go?

The Spurious Dublin Rite

Short Book (Long Title)

Let’s move on from “hard dates” and go back to Dublin, and tell a story that feels like it’s from the Wild West of Freemasonry. In 1744, Fifield D’Assigny (Fye-Field d’Ah-See-Nee) wrote a short book with a very long title.8 I’ll refer to it as A Serious and Impartial Inquiry. In great part, it’s a critique of how far Freemasonry had fallen in his day, with suggestions on how to fix it. It turns out that even in 1744, Freemasonry was always better in the good ol’ days.

The Grift in Action

D’Assigny also writes about a newcomer to the Dublin masonic scene who started a spurious Capitular Rite “somewhere about 1740.”9 He claimed to be a Master of the Royal Arch bringing over a rite from York, and used this pretense to scam  “several worthy men.”10 He also said they could only understand most of the “beauties of the Craft” through this new degree.11 This grift ran for a span of a few months. The deceit was so convincing that D’Assigny says even “many of the learned and the wise” fell for it.12 

One day, a Mason who was a “brother of probity and wisdom” showed up in Dublin, and blew the whole thing apart. You see, he was an ACTUAL Royal Arch Mason who had ACTUALLY received the degree. Somehow,13 he was able to show and prove that the spurious Dublin rite was a sham.14 The grifter was then “justly despised” by all the brethren, who expelled him.15


This seems like it would have resolved the situation, but this did hurt many Dublin masons. A real Royal Arch rite existed, but they didn’t have a right to take part in it, and the real degrees were a secret to them.16 D’Assigny himself agreed that even though they had passed “usual degrees of probation,” this didn’t entitle them to the rights and benefits of a Royal Arch Mason. They should, instead, make a proper application, received with “due formality” by the proper authorities.17

D’Assigny further elaborates that the Royal Arch Rite was an “organized body of men who have passed the chair, and given undeniable proofs of their skill in Architecture.”18 He is describing Past Masters. This is consistent with the old prerequisite for Companions to have served as Master of a lodge. D’Assigny describes this “untainted” group of brethren as a “Lodge.”19 It is not clear if he’s referring to a lodge utilizing an additional Royal Arch degree, or if there was not yet a lexical distinction between Lodges and Chapters. 

The Guy Who Could Stare at the Sun

D’Assigny also writes of an “itinerant Mason” who claimed that his judgement was so “illumin’d,” and his eyes were so strong, that he could stare at the brightest rays of the noonday sun without harm.20 He claimed that there were three more “material steps” needed to approach our “Summum Bonum,” or “highest good.”21 D’Assigny thoroughly rejected this second attempt at someone peddling a spurious rite, and felt it necessary to warn the Brethren.

John Coustos & His “Sworn Evidence”

Early Life

Moving onwards, we have the opportunity to explore the story of John Coustos and his “Sworn Evidence.” Coustos was born in Bern, Switzerland in 1703,22 and moved to London, England with his family in 1716,23 where he became a naturalized citizen.24 He was a jeweler and a businessman.25

In 1730, he was initiated in one of the lodges under the Premier Grand Lodge of England, and it was particularly notable because it is the oldest recorded instance of a new initiate being presented with a pair of white gloves.26 His entry into Freemasonry brought him interesting new connections, including the British Prime Minister, Robert Walpole. Although most accounts agree that Coustos was Protestant, there were allegations that Coustos was of Marrano descent,27 or in other words, that he was descended from Spanish and Portuguese Jews. This brought him to the attention of Walpole after a particularly unpleasant trial of Fransica Francia, who was a Mason and a “Sephardic Jacobite Jew.”28 Walpole then employed Coustos as a spy from 1730 to 1732, sending him (and others) to infiltrate French masonic lodges in London, and use their new connections to monitor the movements and activities of exiled Jacobites in Paris.29 Coustos travelled the Continent frequently for business, and ended up living in Paris for five years before he travelled to Portugal.30

The Portuguese Inquisition

In approximately 1742, in one of his frequent business trips, Coustos found himself travelling to Lisbon. There, he hoped to find passage to Brazil in an effort to “make his fortune” in the New World.31 However, when he petitioned the King of Portugal for permission to travel to Brazil, the King refused his petition, on account that Coustos’ skills as a jeweler made him a threat to any possible treasures in Brazil that the Portuguese throne wanted to lay claim to.32 He stayed in Lisbon long enough that he ended up founding a masonic lodge and serving as its Charter Master.33

As the Protestant Worshipful Master of a mostly-Catholic masonic lodge in a predominantly Catholic country, Coustos attracted a lot of unwanted attention – specifically, from the Portuguese Inquisition. At one point, he noticed that he was no longer receiving his mail.34 According to Coustos, this was a common tactic used by the Inquisition when they were closing in on someone whom they suspected of crimes against the Church.35 A year later, a woman gave up the identity of several influential Masons in Lisbon when she was giving confession to her priest, which caused the Inquisition to open up an active case against them.36 Subsequently, one of Coustos’ friends betrayed his identity and location, and in 1743, the Inquisition seized him under the pretense of diamond theft.37

The Inquisition whisked him away, and kept him as a captive for an extended period of time. Over the course of several months, he was put under oath multiple times, tortured brutally and repeatedly in different ways, and even subjected to the torture known as “the rack,” where his limbs were tied to winches and he was stretched out.38 Because of this torture, Coustos found himself forced to give up some of the secrets of Freemasonry.39

During this period, three of his friends and brothers were hanged by the Inquisition.40 Starting in 1744, he was sentenced to four year’s hard labor in a ship’s galley.41 One of his duties was to deliver water to the various prisons of the city, but because of the damage to his body from the torture, and because each load of water weighed approximately one hundred pounds, he fell “grieviously sick.”42 While convalescing in the infirmary, it became apparent that he would not be able to carry out his sentence, and was “excused” from it when he bribed the overseers.43 Once he was able to actually rest, Coustos got a friend of his to write to  his brother-in-law, asking him to inform the Earl of Harrington as to what was going on.44

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Coustos lucked out, and in October of 1744, he received a letter from King George II, demanding that the Inquisition release him.45 They agreed to give up Coustos, but only on the condition that he had to leave on the first ship to England, and could never return to Portugal.46 In addition to this, he would also be required to disclose which ship he would take, who was captaining the ship, and what day he would depart, down to the very hour he planned on boarding the ship.47

Coustos was elated – but only for a short while. While he was waiting for an English ship to arrive in harbor, he heard some news along the grapevine that very rightfully put him in a full state of panicked alert. An unnamed Freemason had been seized by the Inquisition and tortured similarly to Coustos until he “earned” his freedom by converting to Roman Catholicism.48 Like Coustos, the Inquisition had placed him under oaths not to reveal any of the events that happened during his imprisonment. However, unlike Coustos, this brother did not lay low, and instead told others about how he had been tortured.49 Coustos feared for his life, and approached the captain of a Dutch ship, and asked for permission to hide on board.50 The captain agreed, and Coustos went to the Inquisitor’s office with a friend, telling him that he would be leaving for England on the Damietta at 9 AM the next day, to which the Inquisitor agreed, on the condition that Coustos come to the office first, so that the Inquisition could provide an official escort and see him off.51

Coustos and the Dutchmen were very suspicious of this, so he immediately went into hiding on their ship, which was anchored, but not docked.52 The next day, when he didn’t show up at the office, the Inquisitor immediately suspected that Coustos had flown the coop, and sent 30 spies after him, who ransacked docked ships, tore apart his old house, and even looked for him in wardrobes and closets.53 Inquisition rowboats circled the Dutch ships for days and days, Coustos was forced to hide below deck for three weeks before they could safely set sail.52 He arrived in London on the 15th of December, 1744, and two years later, wrote a book called The Sufferings of John Coustos for Freemasonry and for His Refusing to Turn Roman Catholic in the Inquisition.55

Bernard Jones & His Thoughts

The Portuguese Inquisition actually kept very good records of their torture sessions, and some of Coustos’ confessions survived. An extract reads as follows:

… when the destruction took place of the famous Temple of Solomon there was found below the First Stone a tablet of bronze upon which was engraved [a familiar Biblical word meaning] God, giving thereby to understand that that Fabric and Temple was instituted and erected in the name of the said God to whom it was dedicated, that same Lord the beginning and the end of such a magnificent work, and as in the Gospel of St John there are found the same words and doctrine they, for this reason, cause the Oath to be taken at that place.56

We can immediately see here that Coustos is obviously talking about the Royal Arch legend. Companion Bernard Jones, who wrote Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch, felt that the information was credible and very important to the history of Capitular masonry, but he ascribes the idea to a sort of proto-Royal Arch ritual, or pieces of ritual, used in Craft lodges under the Premier Grand Lodge during the 1730s.57

I feel that at this point, I have to depart from Jones’ conclusion. Based primarily on the history of Stirling Rock Chapter and D’Assigny’s account of the spurious rite in Dublin, I think that Jones isn’t going far enough in his assessment of where Coustos learned these particular secrets. I think that he learned them through actually experiencing the Royal Arch, and not just a proto-ritual – although when, where, and how is lost to us.

The Possible French Connection

Coustos as a Temporary Parisian

We know that Coustos had been a Mason for over a decade by the time he was arrested in Lisbon. Prior to serving as Charter Master of his lodge, he was a member of several lodges in London, and Jones speculates that he may have served as Master of one of them.58 He also spent considerable time in Paris, which was a hotbed of masonic activity.

Kelly’s Theory

R.W.Bro. W. Redfern Kelly, among other brothers, held a theory that the Royal Arch may have been created in 1738 or 1739 by an English mason who witnessed a brand-new Continental degree, brought it back to England, and revised it in order to begin conferring it.59 This is only one of many theories trying to establish a French origin to the Royal Arch.

While I don’t want to rule it out, I am personally not entirely convinced that a French origin is likely. If we accept Kelly’s theory regarding a possible date of 1738 or 1739, then we have to ask a lot of questions about how Royal Arch Masonry spread so quickly to Scotland and Ireland.

Conclusion & Summary

I’m running out of time. To close, these stories I’ve told today happened long before the 1750s drama of the Moderns and Antients, or the beginning of the first Grand Chapter in the 1760s.

From documents as simple as a newspaper or charter, to stories as wild as masonic con-men and torture at the hands of the Portuguese Inquisition, we’ve gotten to get a little peek behind the mists of early Royal Arch Masonry, and see how well-developed it already was by the time it appeared in the historical record.


  1. Harvey, R. J. (1974). Royal Arch Masonry in Ireland in the Early 19th Century. Transactions of the Lodge of Research № CC (Ireland), XVI (Transactions for the years 1969 – 1975).
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Fourthly, the Royal Arch carried by two Excellent Masons. Fifthly, the Master with all his proper implements, his rod gilt with gold, his Deputy on his left with the square and compasses. [ . . . ] Sixthly, the two Wardens with their truncheons gilt in like manner. Eighthly, two Excellent Masons, one bearing a level and the other a plumb line.”
  4. Harvey, R. J. (1974). Royal Arch Masonry in Ireland in the Early 19th Century. Transactions of the Lodge of Research № CC (Ireland), XVI (Transactions for the years 1969 – 1975).
  5. Castells, F. D. (1927). Antiquity of the Holy Royal Arch. London: A. Lewis.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Edinburgh № 1 was chartered in 1778, despite having a lower Chapter number.
  8. “A Serious and Impartial Enquiry into the Cause of the Present Decay of Free-Masonry in the Kingdom of Ireland… To Which Are Added, Such Instructive Remarks… to Revive the Honour of That Antient Craft…”
  9. Bernard Edward Jones, Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch (London: Harrap, 1980).
  10. F. D’Assigny, A Serious and Impartial Enquiry into the Cause of the Present Decay of Free-Masonry in the Kingdom of Ireland. … To Which Are Added, Such Instructive Remarks … to Revive the Honour of That Antient Craft… By Fifield D’Assigny .. (Dublin: Printed by Edward Bate, 1744).
  11. Bernard Edward Jones, Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch (London: Harrap, 1980).
  12. F. D’Assigny, A Serious and Impartial Enquiry into the Cause of the Present Decay of Free-Masonry in the Kingdom of Ireland. … To Which Are Added, Such Instructive Remarks … to Revive the Honour of That Antient Craft… By Fifield D’Assigny .. (Dublin: Printed by Edward Bate, 1744).
  13.  D’Assigny does not elaborate how.
  14.  F. D’Assigny, A Serious and Impartial Enquiry into the Cause of the Present Decay of Free-Masonry in the Kingdom of Ireland. … To Which Are Added, Such Instructive Remarks … to Revive the Honour of That Antient Craft… By Fifield D’Assigny .. (Dublin: Printed by Edward Bate, 1744).
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Ibid.
  22.  McKeown, T. (n.d.). John Coustos. Retrieved January 11, 2021, from
  23.  John Coustos, The Sufferings of John Coustos For Free-Masonry, and for His Refusing to Turn Roman Catholic, in the Inquisition at Lisbon; Where He Was Sentenc’d, During Four Years to the Galley; and Afterwards Releas’d … To Which Is Annex’d, The Origin of the Inquisition, … Extracted from a Great Variety of the Most Approved Authors. … (London: W. Strahan, 1746).
  24.  McKeown, T. (n.d.). John Coustos. Retrieved January 11, 2021, from
  25.  John Coustos, The Sufferings of John Coustos For Free-Masonry, and for His Refusing to Turn Roman Catholic, in the Inquisition at Lisbon; Where He Was Sentenc’d, During Four Years to the Galley; and Afterwards Releas’d … To Which Is Annex’d, The Origin of the Inquisition, … Extracted from a Great Variety of the Most Approved Authors. … (London: W. Strahan, 1746).
  26. Ibid.
  27.  Zeldis, L. (2008, October 9). Some Sephardic Jews in Freemasonry. Retrieved January 11, 2021, from
  28.  Schuchard, M. K. (2012). Emanuel Swedenborg, secret agent on earth and in heaven: Jacobites, Jews and Freemasons in early modern Sweden. Leiden: Brill.
  29. Ibid.
  30.  John Coustos, The Sufferings of John Coustos For Free-Masonry, and for His Refusing to Turn Roman Catholic, in the Inquisition at Lisbon; Where He Was Sentenc’d, During Four Years to the Galley; and Afterwards Releas’d … To Which Is Annex’d, The Origin of the Inquisition, … Extracted from a Great Variety of the Most Approved Authors. … (London: W. Strahan, 1746).
  31. Ibid.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Bernard Edward Jones, Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch (London: Harrap, 1980).
  34.  John Coustos, The Sufferings of John Coustos For Free-Masonry, and for His Refusing to Turn Roman Catholic, in the Inquisition at Lisbon; Where He Was Sentenc’d, During Four Years to the Galley; and Afterwards Releas’d … To Which Is Annex’d, The Origin of the Inquisition, … Extracted from a Great Variety of the Most Approved Authors. … (London: W. Strahan, 1746).
  35. Ibid.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Ibid.
  39. Bernard Edward Jones, Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch (London: Harrap, 1980).
  40.  McKeown, T. (n.d.). John Coustos. Retrieved January 11, 2021, from
  41. Bernard Edward Jones, Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch (London: Harrap, 1980).
  42.  John Coustos, The Sufferings of John Coustos For Free-Masonry, and for His Refusing to Turn Roman Catholic, in the Inquisition at Lisbon; Where He Was Sentenc’d, During Four Years to the Galley; and Afterwards Releas’d … To Which Is Annex’d, The Origin of the Inquisition, … Extracted from a Great Variety of the Most Approved Authors. … (London: W. Strahan, 1746).
  43. Ibid.
  44. Ibid.
  45. Ibid.
  46. Ibid.
  47. Ibid.
  48. Ibid.
  49. Ibid.
  50. Ibid.
  51. Ibid.
  52. Ibid.
  53. Ibid.
  54. Ibid.
  55. Bernard Edward Jones, Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch (London: Harrap, 1980).
  56. Ibid.
  57. Ibid.
  58. Ibid.
  59. Ibid.

Being Quoted in “A Light in the Darkness”

One of the coolest moments in my Masonic career so far. A mysterious package arrived for me, but at the Fort Worth Temple, where I (almost) never receive mail. In it, I found a book titled Loge Liberté chérie: A Light in the Darkness.

Alexander P. Herbert, a brother from Ohio, wrote a book about Loge Liberté chérie, the secret lodge chartered by Belgian Resistance fighters inside Esterwegen concentration camp during the Holocaust. He quoted me in the book’s introduction!

The book is a quick read, but incredibly moving. It captures both how positively heartbreaking their conditions were, but also how powerful and uplifting the resilience of the human spirit can be.

I have written a letter of thanks back to him – this has floored me.

A Pentecost Blessing

Happy Pentecost, brethren.

Today, in the Western Christian Church, it is Pentecost – the great feast commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the disciples of Christ after the Ascension. While it is a Christian holiday, I think that all brethren, regardless of their faith, can appreciate the allegorical and alchemical symbolism involved, much in the same sense as the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite does.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

Acts 2:1-6

I don’t want to connect the dots too much for y’all, because it’s more fun to sit and contemplate individually. However, I encourage meditation on the idea of  “I N R I” as a spiritual process of regeneration through the sacred fire of truth and love (AASR 18°).

May Love and Truth purify us all, helping us to become our higher selves while growing in the knowledge of the Divine, and may we all find ways to live and serve the glory of the Great Architect of the Universe.


The Legalities of Masonic Learning

This was a Junior Warden’s Law Talk for the November 2019 stated meeting of Fort Worth Lodge № 148, AF&AM.

There are many laws that the Grand Lodge has laid down about teaching & and learning. These laws establish a set of rules that we have to follow to stay out of trouble.

Article 127 states that “no ritual other than that promulgated by this Grand Lodge shall be taught or used in this Jurisdiction.”1 To “promulgate” something is to promote it or make it “widely known.”2

This means that we can’t:

  • teach you an alternative trial lecture, or
  • use the ritual from another Jurisdiction, or
  • make up our own work.

There’s a grand tradition in Masonry of pointing out how different Grand Lodge laws don’t work. The most literal interpretation of this law’s phrasing is a good example of this. At face value, it means that teaching a candidate incorrect work by accident is also against the law! It also begs a few questions:

  • How do we define “ritual?”
  • The full-form degree lectures are no longer made “widely known” by the Grand Lodge. Are the full-form lectures legal?
  • Are the funeral services considered ritual? If so, are the services that are no longer included in the Monitor, and thus no longer promulgated, legal to use?

Article 138 states that if the holder of an esoteric certificate asks a lodge or Mason(s) to “employ or accept his services to teach or exemplify the work” shall lose his certificate. 3

Two things worth noting are:

  • there’s no mention of receiving compensation.
  • “Employ or accept his services” isn’t defined in the text.

Let’s use another literal interpretation. If I walk up to an Entered Apprentice and tell him, “let me teach you the work,” I am breaking the law.

Article 139 states that you can’t exemplify ritual or be compensated for it unless you hold an esoteric certificate.4 This means that you can’t lead a floor school if you don’t hold a certificate. It may also bar you from instructing students. The language of “receive compensation therefor” also seems to imply that you can be paid for leading a floor school. Article 142 supports this, in that no compensation can occur for a floor school unless the lodge authorizes and pays for it to happen in a lodge room. <sup>5</sup>

Article 140 states that we can ask any member of the Committee on Work or any certificate holder to teach the work. <sup>6</sup>

There several types of Masons who may not receive instruction in the work:

  • Someone suspended for non-payment of dues. <sup>7</sup>
  • An Entered Apprentice or Fellowcraft whose advancement was protested. <sup>8</sup>
  • An Entered Apprentice or Fellowcraft who is required to petition for advancement due to lapse of time. <sup>9</sup>

Article 439.2 states that a Master Mason who goes ninety days without during in his proficiency is automatically suspended. It also states that he can still receive instruction and be examined in an open lodge. <sup>10</sup> Master Masons will want to pay close attention to that point. This article means that Grand Lodge law allows for members of the lodge to or, sit in lodge with a suspended Mason. That would be a violation of our obligation.

It shall also be a Masonic disciplinary violation for a Lodge, a committee or any combination of Masons, or an individual Mason to possess, or use a cipher/code book on a Lodge premises, or to use a cipher/code book or access a cipher/code book in any form, including electronic access, in the presence of a candidate when instructing the candidate in the esoteric work of a Masonic Degree. <sup>11</sup>

Title V, Chapter 2, Article 508.24

That one speaks for itself.

In short, there’s a lot of ways to be unpleasantly surprised, legally speaking, when instructing or learning. It’s important that we pay attention to these kinds of laws. We don’t want anyone to get in trouble just for trying to progress in Masonry, or participating in lodge activities.


  1. Grand Lodge of Texas. The Laws of the Grand Lodge of Texas A.F. & A.M. Containing the Corporate Charter, the Constitution and Ancient Charges, the Statutes and Masonic Forms. Revised 2019. Title I, Chapter 17 “Committee on Work”, Article 127 “Ritual”.
  2. Merriam-Webster, s.v. “promulgate,” accessed November 11, 2019,
  3. Grand Lodge of Texas. The Laws of the Grand Lodge of Texas A.F. & A.M. Containing the Corporate Charter, the Constitution and Ancient Charges, the Statutes and Masonic Forms. Revised 2019. Title I, Chapter 17 “Committee on Work”, Article 138 “Certificates: Forfeiture.”
  4. Ibid. Article 139 “Esoteric Work: Who May Exemplify.”
  5. Ibid. Article 142 “Esoteric Work: Schools of Instruction.”
  6. Ibid. Article 140 “Esoteric Work: Employing Instructor.”
  7. Ibid. Title II, Chapter 18, Article 323 “Effect of Suspension.”
  8. Ibid. Title IV, Chapter 4, Article 434 “Procedure After Rejection.”
  9. Ibid. Article 434a “Procedure After Lapse of Time.”
  10. Ibid. Article 439.2 “Examination in Master’s Degree.”
  11. Ibid. Title IV, Chapter 2, Article 508.24 “Certain Other Masonic Disciplinary Violations.”