The symbolic degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason, as conferred in the United States, are degrees of the York Rite. York Masonry is the oldest and best known of all Masonic Rites.
The York Rite takes its name from York, England, where the earliest known record of Masonry exists, dating from about A.D. 923. Masonry´s first written record is centered around York, the seat of the Ancient York Grand Lodge. In 1813, this Grand Lodge merged with another group called the Modern Grand Lodge, to form the United Grand Lodge of England. This is the basis upon which our present system of Symbolic Lodge Masonry is built.
In North America, the term “York Rite” has been established for well over 150 years, and is generally recognized as consisting of three constituent and indispensable bodies: the Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, the Council of Royal and Select Masters, and the Commandery of Knights Templar.
Together with the Blue Lodge they teach an integrated story of Ancient Craft Masonry by a series of events, biblical and legendary, each body depending upon the two others for its Masonic background, and all three working together in a harmonious program of Masonic education, teaching the ancient Masonic story of the building, destruction, and rebuilding of King Solomon’s Temple. The Ancient York Rite stands on the records of history as the oldest and purest of all Masonic Rites.
Royal Arch Chapters
In Texas, local Chapters operate under the jurisdiction of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Texas. The Chapter confers four degrees (Capitular Degrees), giving a complete story of Masonic symbolism, in the following order:
- Mark Master
- Past Master (Virtual)
- Most Excellent Master
- Royal Arch
The Mark Master degree is perhaps the oldest Masonic degree, and is one of the most highly respected. It teaches practical lessons for everyday living. This degree supplements the Fellowcraft Degree.
The Past Master degree teaches the candidate the important duties and responsibilities of the Oriental Chair, and is qualification for advancement.
It is commonly known that the symbolism of Freemasonry surrounds the building of the Temple. In symbolic Free-Masonry, the Temple is never completed. In the Most Excellent Master degree, we are taught the lessons of the completion and dedication of the Temple.
In the degree of the Royal Arch, the epitome of Masonic symbolism is found. It has been said “the Royal Arch is the root, heart and marrow of Masonry, without knowledge of which the Masonic character cannot be complete”.
The Royal Arch degree is the completion of the whole system of Freemasonry. Having begun regular advancement through the Symbolic Lodge, it is the duty of each Master Mason to complete the degree series. He who has sought further Masonic education should return to the Symbolic Lodge, retrace his steps and advance through the Rite until he can receive the climax of Masonic symbolism, as taught in the Royal Arch. Only those who have attained the Royal Arch may be said to have completed their Masonic Work.
Royal and Select Master Councils
In Texas, York Rite Councils operate under the jurisdiction of the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters in Texas and most Grand Councils operate under the General Grand Council of the United States. They confer the following degrees:
- Royal Master
- Select Master
Without the Royal and Select Master degrees, neither the Master Mason degree nor the Royal Arch degree is complete. These two degrees account for the concealment and preservation of the treasures revealed in the Royal Arch.
The Super Excellent Master is an honorary degree, qualifications for which are fulfilled by virtue of being in good standing in a Council.
Commandery of Knights Templar
Texas Commanderies are governed by the Grand Commandery, Knights Templar of Texas which is in turn governed by the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the U.S.A. In the Commandery, the Chivalric Orders of Christian Knighthood are conferred as follows:
- The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross
- The Order of Knight of Malta
- The Order of the Temple
The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross is founded upon Truth – a divine attribute, the foundation of every virtue.
The Knights of Malta, first called Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, are known to have been in existence as early as 1099 A.D. It was the first organized body whose avowed purpose was the aid and care of those injured on a battlefield. The teaching of Christian applications of Masonic precepts begins with this Order.
The Order of the Temple is the crowning glory of York Rite Masonry. It is widely regarded as the most solemn and impressive experience in Masonry. Here the aspirant progresses in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth. At the empty tomb grows a sprig of acacia, teaching that we shall dwell forever in the realms of life and light eternal.
Freemasonry demands only a belief in a monotheistic God, where Hindu, Muslim, Jew and Gentile may together worship around its alters. The Christian Freemason alone has at his disposal a branch of the fraternity where he is free to interpret the teachings of the Symbolic Lodge according to his religious belief. The Masonic Orders of Christian Knighthood are the logical outcome of the Christian Mason´s belief in Christ as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. That Mason believes Christ´s hand will raise the dead to life, and in His Holy Name the True Word is found and restored at last. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.
The noble heritage of York Masonry is yours to take. The regular meetings of the various grades are conducive to firmer relationships and a closer spirit of brotherly love. Being a York Rite Mason does not mean you are elevated to a “higher rank´. It is an educational tool to help you realize the Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of Man in your own life.