The Order of Judas Maccabeus – Raymond Beardsly

I was trying to find out some more info about this Order when it came up a couple of days ago. Found a PDF called “The Pyramid Texts” and figured it would be useful to have this in a more web-friendly format.

If you want to read more articles like this, I think that the Philalethes Society actually offers an optional CD with a massive back catalogue of articles.

The Order of Judas Maccabeus

by R∴W∴ Raymond Beardsly

The Philalethes – October 1991

In the mid-1970’s, a group of York Rite Masons met in the Rochester area of upstate New York to consider the initiation of a new organization with the purpose of eventually proposing it as a new Body to be incorporated in the York Rite of Freemasonry. The inception of this idea had emanated from the fertile brain of the late Brother Herman Sarachan, often referred to as Mr. Mason in the Rochester area. Brother Sarachan had a distinguished Masonic record, having actively participated in both the Scottish and York Rites, as well as having served as a District Deputy Grand Master in the Monroe County area. He had been the High Priest of Hamilton Chapter #62 and the Illustrious Master of Doric Council #19.

For many years, Brother Sarachan edited a column in the Monroe Masonic News (the monthly Masonic publication in the Rochester area) entitled: “Dear Brother Herman,” in which he answered questions regarding Masonry – history, biography, definition, procedure, law, ritual, protocol, etc. His articles were later incorporated into a book under the same title, published in 1979; in addition, Brother Sarachan had previously published a book on the history of Freemasonry in the Rochester and Monroe County area of New York.

Brother Sarachan believed that there was a need for an additional body in the York Rite for those Masons who either could not for religious reasons or would not for personal reasons join the Commandery of Knights Templar. The first two York Rite Bodies, the Royal Arch Chapter and the Council of Cryptic Masons, like the Symbolic Lodge, are non-sectarian; however, the Commandery of Knights Templar is distinctly a Christian Order of Masonry and is also a military-type organization with uniforms, drills and inspections. As a result, Members of the Chapter and Council who are not Christians or who do not favor the militaristic atmosphere of the Commandery do not have a comparable body to join, which would be more suitable to their religious or personal beliefs and mores. With this in mind, Brother Sarachan proposed that a new body be initiated to meet the needs and desires of these particular Masonic Brethren but which would welcome all Masons who wished to participate. The organization would be known as The Order of Judas Maccabeus.

Judas Maccabeus was the renowned leader of the Jews when they revolted against Roman hegemony in the second century, B.C., particularly after the Romans had desecrated the Temple at Jerusalem by erecting a statue of Zeus over the altar. Under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus, the Jews regained control of Jerusalem and the Temple for a period of time celebrated in Jewish history. Because of his prestige and stature in Hebrew history and tradition, the name of Judas Maccabeus was considered most appropriate for the new body. The Order of Judas Maccabeus would be founded on a non-sectarian basis and without military accouterments, with the goal that it would eventually become a parallel Body to the Commandery.

Thus, in 1974, a group of some 30 York Rite leaders in the local area met in the Rochester Temple to formally consider The Order of Judas Maccabeus. Present were Masons prominent in all the York Rite Bodies, including past heads of all of the Grand Bodies in the State of New York: M∴ E∴ Frank Allen of the Grand Chapter, M∴ I∴ Bruce Dayton of the Grand Council and R∴ E∴ Ward Ekas of the Grand Commandery. All in attendance were unanimously in agreement as to the desirability of instituting a complementary Body to the Commandery that would more appropriately meet the needs of our Jewish and other non-Christian or non-military-minded Companions. It should be born in mind that the majority of York Rite Masons present were Christians and members of the local Commanderies.

The Order of Judas Maccabeus was originally to encompass three Orders: The Order of David, The Order of Judas Maccabeus and The Order of the Temple (referring to the Jewish Temple). The Order of David teaches the lesson of unselfish love and devotion and uses as its framework the story of David and Jonathan, as depicted in the Old Testament in the Book of First Samuel. The Order of Judas Maccabeus teaches the lesson of fidelity and devotion to faith and uses as its framework the revolt of the Jews in 168 B.C. against the Roman hierarchy of Antiochus, who had prohibited the practice of the Jewish faith and had desecrated the Temple, as related in the Apocryphal Books of the Maccabeus.

These first two Orders were prepared under the aegis of Brother Sarachan, and, to date, have formed the basis for initiation into the Order. The Order of the Temple, which ultimately is to form the final phase of initiation into the Order, has not been completed. Brother Sarachan’s health failed and he passed on before he could turn his attention to the proposed Order of the Temple. However, it is now in the process of formulation, and much thought is going into its preparation, in order that it may take its place on a level with such awe-inspiring exemplifications as the Royal Arch Degree of the Chapter, the Super Excellent Degree of the Council and the Order of the Temple of the Commandery.

Members of The Order of Judas Maccabeus are titled “Valiant Princes” and constituent Bodies are termed “Assemblages,” whose principal officers are Commander, Chancellor, Orator, Treasurer, Recorder, Captain of the Guard, Lecturer, Marshall, Warden and Sentinel. The premier Assemblage, inaugurated in the Rochester area, is known as Genesee Valley Assemblage #1.

A number of other Assemblages have been instituted in New York State, specifically in New York, Long Island and Buffalo. Also, Assemblages have been inaugurated in the States of Connecticut and New Jersey. Numerous inquiries have been received from interested York Rite Masons from such States as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and California, to name a few.

Although the early years of Genesee Valley Assemblage #1 did not always run smoothly and for awhile the original enthusiasm was somewhat abated, it is now prospering with a large number of new members. Whereas the charter membership was largely Christian, in recent years a number of our Jewish and other non-Christian Brethren have joined. In the meantime, with the emergence of other Assemblages about New York and adjoining States, a Grand Assemblage was instituted a few years ago with the presiding officer designated to be “The Most Sovereign Grand Commander of North America.”

Any inquiries and questions should be forwarded to the above address. Although there may be those who question the desirability of a new Masonic organization, the criterion that should be applied is the need for and function of such a new Masonic entity. Over the past 35 years, we have experienced the inception of two new Masonic organizations which met specific needs and desires and, as a result, have been highly successful. These are The York Rite Sovereign College of North America and The National Camping Travelers. The first originated for Masons active in all four York Rite Bodies, and the second for Masons and their families interested in camping. Both of these Masonic organization have, in a relatively few years, grown tremendously with both of them having well over 100 constituent Bodies throughout the United States and Canada.

In like manner, The Order of Judas Maccabeus was founded to meet a distinct need in York Rite Masonry. Because of this, those of us who have been intimately connected with its formulation and establishment feel that it will play a unique and increasingly important role in The York Rite of Freemasonry.

Raymond R. Beardsley (December 8, 1925 – December 28, 2016) was a member and Past Master of Northfield Lodge #426 F. & A.M. in Pittsford, NY. He was the Past Most Illustrious Grand Master of the Grand Council of the State of New York, Past District Deputy Grand High Priest, Past Commander of Cyrene-Monroe Commandery #12, and Past District Deputy Grand Master 2nd Monroe District. He was a Scottish Rite Mason and a member of Damascus Shrine in Webster, NY.