April 2, 2007

My Brothers,

A man is dining in a fancy restaurant and there is a gorgeous redhead sitting at the next table. He has been checking her out since he sat down, but lacks the nerve to start a conversation. Suddenly she sneezes and her glass eye comes flying out of its socket toward the man. He reflexively reaches out, grabs it out of the air, and hands it back to her. "Oh my, I am so sorry," the woman says as she pops her eye back in place, "Let me buy your dinner to make it up to you."

They enjoy a wonderful dinner together, and afterwards they go to the theatre followed by drinks. They talk, they laugh, she shares her deepest dreams and he shares his. After paying for everything, she asks him if he would like to come to her place for a nightcap...and stay for breakfast. They have a wonderful, wonderful time. Next morning she cooks a gourmet meal with all the trimmings. The guy is amazed. Everything has been so incredible. "You know," he says, "you are the perfect woman. Are you this nice to every guy you meet?" "No," she replies, "you just happened to catch my eye."

And now for our topic, beauty. Usually it's just something that catches our eye. We don't think very much about what beauty is but, as the saying goes, we know it when we see it. Beauty is one of those words that is used a lot but the meaning is taken for granted; we think we know what it means and figure that the next person understands it the same way we do. It gets trickier when we actually have to say what beauty is because we stumble through words that say something about attractiveness in other people or the prettiness of a landscape or sunset. So, let's think about it for a moment and try it ourselves. What does the word 'beauty' mean?

Webster says that beauty is: "the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit." Now, 'exalts' means to raise high, so, beauty in a person or thing pleasurably raises the senses, mind or spirit. We also talk about beauty in Masonry. We say, "The three great pillars of Masonry are Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty; it being necessary that there be Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn every great and important undertaking." Were your ideas about beauty close to what Webster says? Did you think about what Masonry says regarding beauty?

We're addressing these questions about beauty because ever time I've delivered the Lecture of the first degree and spoken of the three pillars which are represented in the Lodge by the WM, SW, and JW, I find myself glancing over to our Brother Junior Warden as I talk about Beauty. My Brothers, I have to tell you that he is not a gorgeous redhead. I have no trouble seeing Wisdom in the WM, or Strength in the SW, but, with apologies to our Brother Junior Warden, where's the Beauty?

Beyond the laughter, this says something about the way I, and maybe most of us, think about beauty and especially about Beauty in Masonry. Masonry says that we are to adorn with beauty every great and important undertaking. There's a clue about what this should mean to us in the word, 'adorn'. Adorn means to enhance something by adding something beautiful in itself. When we Initiate a Candidate, the beautiful ceremonies are a great and important undertaking; the arts, parts, and points of the ceremonies are beautiful in themselves. We adorn them, we add something beautiful in itself, when we are flawless in the ritual, when we add vocal spirit and emotional meaning to the Lectures and Charges and presentations. We adorn the ceremonies by reaching out with the beauty of the Masonic spirit found in each of us and that raises and exalts the spirit of the whole thing.

Let's go back to our three pillars and their representative functions in the Lodge. The WM, in his Wisdom, says do it. The SW, in his Strength, says who will do it. That leaves the JW to see to the Beauty of it. We donít usually think that this goes much beyond calling us from labor to refreshment to enjoy fellowship and repast. In reality, his true function is greater than that. Under his watchful eye, the eye of Beauty, he is supposed to see to it that we adorn the beautiful ceremonies. As the representation of the pillar of Beauty, he ensures that we meet the high standards of Masonic Beauty, that we adorn Masonry with ourselves, our minds and spirit. As the pillar of Beauty, he calls us to order at the opening and closing of the Lodge, and is the first principal officer of the Lodge to determine if we are duly and truly prepared, worthy, and well qualified to adorn our fraternity.

So, whether beauty is appreciated in the redhead seen sitting at the next table or in the adornment of our beautiful ceremonies under the watchful direction of the JW, the spirit of Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So, what catches your eye?

Br Stephen C. Harrington