Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests
The Degree of Most Excellent Master
Compiler's Note :
It is now clear that the ritual of the Most Excellent Master
bears a close relationship to the old Irish Ceremony of the
Arch Degree, not to be confused with the RA. ceremony. Both
rituals contain a culminating section in which the candidate
completes the building of an Arch by fitting in a final
keystone. Perhaps because the Arch Degree was never widely
worked in Irish Lodges and Encampments, and therefore many
Freemasons were not certain as to its working, it appears to
have been subject to wide geographical variations. Around
the turn of the 19th. Century in the West of Scotland, the
ritual was similar to that reproduced be low and that
version was the likely source of the ceremony worked in the
N.E. of England. However, less than twenty years later, a
very early RA-ritual used by the S.G.R.A.C. of Scotland, had
incorporated the Arch Degree as a part of a Veils Ceremony
and had eliminated any reference to use of a keystone. In
England the title of the degree appears to have become
confused with the similarly named Excellent Master, a Veils
ceremony, which appears in the K.T.P. Appendant Degrees
under the title of Excellent Mason and Master and the Veils.
Most Excellent Masters met in a Lodge and Craft offices seem to have been replicated with the prefix Most Excellent being added to each title. There is however a conductor, entitled Most Excellent Guide. Only one source mentions the style of regalia (Ireland c 1807) and this consisted of Red Aprons with a white border, probably because the ceremony was associated with the Royal Arch. The ritual illustrates however, that a jewel of the degree must also have been employed although we have no way of determining its design.
The Officers occupy the same stations as in a Craft Lodge and a centrally placed Altar is also used, on which is placed the VSL opened at I Kings Vll v. 51 ln the S.E. corner stands a small arched construction, made from wood and painted to appear as if made of stone. In each of the columns, a small opening or space should remain to take two stones white the top of the arch should be complete except for the Keystone. The Keystone and the two stones are placed on the MEM and MEW's pedestals respectively, along with a small setting maul, used to give the raps and at the final perambulations.
MEM: M.E. Wardens, as l am about to open this Lodge of Most Excellent Masters, you will ensure that all within the Lodge are duly qualified.
The ME Wardens pass among those present exchanging the Pass Word and Grip of a ME Master, and thereafter report accordingly and resume their places. If all is well the MEM then continues: ME Inner Guard, are we protected against the ears and eyes of the profane?
MEIG raps on the door * * * * * which is answered by the Outer Guard or Tyler and the MEIG then reports: The Outer Guard is at his station and we are protected ME Master.
MEM raps once and all stand: Then it is my will that this Lodge of ME Masters be duly opened and I do so by * * * *. The raps are repeated by the MEWs, the MEIG and the MEOG.
MEM: ME Brethren, you may now be seated.
The ME Guide signs and retires from the Lodge. The Candidate has been prepared by the ME Outer Guard, having his sleeves rolled up and wearing a plain apron. The ME Guide raps * * * * * upon the door of the Lodge and the MEIG opens the door slightly and enquires:
MEIG: Who comes here, who approaches our Most Excellent Lodge?
MEG: A worthy Brother named …, who, having achieved suitable proficiency as a Master Mason, desires to be advanced to this Most Excellent Degree.
MEIG: How does he expect to be thus advanced?
MEG: By the Word of a Most Excellent Master which I freely give for him. Whispers it.
MEIG: Wait there until 1 report his coming to the ME Master.
MEIG closes the door and advances to the floor of the Lodge where he says: Most Excellent Master, a worthy Brother named ..., who, has achieved suitable proficiency as a Master Mason, and is vouched for by the Word of a Most Excellent Master, seeks advancement to this Degree.
MEM: Let him enter, taking due heed upon what he is admitted and thereafter let him prove himself to be what he professes.
The ME Guide enters with the Candidate and thereafter the MEIG places a small Keystone to the Candidate's breast and says: Enter this Lodge of Most Excellent Masters on the Keystone, which should ever remind you that your Obligations must be ever as strong and steadfast as this stone when set in the arch of a wall.
You will now prove your-self to be an E.A. Cand. does so and the Guide then conducts him around the Lodge, stopping before the MEJW where he is required to prove himself as a FC. Another perambulation is undertaken and this time the Cand. stops before the MESW where he proves himself to be a MM. The Guide then conducts the Cand. twice more around the Lodge stopping, after the second round, before the station of the MEM, where the ME Guide says:
MEG: ME Master, I present to you Brother …, who has displayed to myself and the ME Senior and Junior Wardens, his proficiency in the Three Degrees of Masonry and now seeks, at your hands, advancement to the Degree of a Most Excellent Master.
MEM: Brother …, before you can be acknowledged as a ME Master, it will be necessary for you to undertake a solemn Pledge to keep inviolate the Secrets of this Degree. If you are willing to do so, you will kneel on both knees at the Altar, place both hands on the Holy Bible.
The MEM gives * and all rise.
Now repeat after me, this Pledge. The VSL is placed on a wooden keystone which is painted to give the appearance of marble. The Bible is opened at l Kings Chapter VII V. 51.
Do you solemnly Pledge your Honour as a Man and a Mason, that you will keep the secrets of a Most Excellent Master, separate from any others, do you? Cand. Assents. Do you likewise Pledge that you will never confer this Degree upon any other person unless it be in a lawful Lodge of M.E. Masters and you have the authority for the same, do you? Cand. Assents. Do you further Pledge that you will never, under the pain of the penalty of having your Breast torn open, reveal the secrets of a M.E. Master to any of the uninitiated and even to another Master Mason, unless in the same lawful manner as they shall be revealed to you, do you? Cand. assents. Then having Pledged your honour thrice in respect of these Secrets, I shall communicate them to you. All sit. The Sign is given, in allusion, to the penalty of the Pledge you have just taken, in this manner. Place the right hand over your heart and then open the fingers as if a claw, then draw it over your chest from left to right sharply, as if having the breast torn open. The Pass Word which admits you to a MEM Lodge is Cavelum and the Grand Word is Omnia est consummatum, meaning all is finished or completed. You may now take your seat among the Brethren.
MEG conducts the Cand. to a vacant chair, and takes a seat beside him.
Bro. SW you will call upon your Brother Warden to come to order so that we may celebrate the fixing of the Capstone of the Temple.
MESW gives one *: Brother and MEJW, by the command of the MEM, we will gather in the West and form the procession so that we may journey to the Temple and fix in place the Capstone and thereby complete our labours.
The MEM takes the capstone and his maul from his pedestal and assumes his place at the NW corner. The MESW takes his stone and maul and stands next to the MEM, as does the MEJW who takes his place beside the MESW. The MEG escorts the Cand. to a place where he can clearly see what follows. When all three are in place they perambulate once around the Lodge and then halt before the Incomplete Arch. The MEM attempts to set the capstone in one of the columns but fails to do so. The MESW attempts to set his stone in the space for the MEJS's stone and again fails. The MEJW then successfully sets his stone. Another perambulation is made and again the mar fails but the MESW succeeds. After the third perambulation the MEM sets the capstone, then all speak together: LORD GOD THINE HOUSE IS COMPLETE.
The three then stand in the East and the Cand. is placed before them.
MEM: Bro. …, with this degree, ends all connection between Masonry and the First Temple. This Degree was established to commemorate the completion of that edifice, when the capstone, after being tried in every round of the Building, could fit no place but the Cap or Crown of the whole. I now congratulate you on your advancement and I trust that you will persevere to discover the arcana of the Second Temple, where you will find Masonry to be its most august and sublime as well as the crowning glory of our Ancient Craft. 1 now divest you of the badge of a MM and replace it with this, the badge of a MEM and further, invest you with this, the jewel of this Degree.
The MEG conducts the Cand. to his seat and all resume their stations.
MEM: MEIG, does the Lodge remain protected?
MEIG opens the door and confirms: MEM, the Lodge is ever protected and now remains so.
MEM: Then Brethren, please be upstanding while I close this Lodge of MEMs. MESW, it is my will that the Lodge be closed. Gives *.
MESW: Brethren, by command of the MEM and by bis will, I declare the Lodge to be closed.
Gives * * * * *, MEJW * * * * *, MEIG * * * * *. MEOG * * * * *.