Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests
Degree of Funeral Master
This degree was conferred on Master Masons, only on the
occasion of an assembly of the Lodge, held immediately prior
to the interment of a departed Brother or, in a Lodge of
Sorrow, held as a memorial meeting for a departed Brother.
The arrangements of the Lodge are as in a normal Craft Lodge
except that the altar is fully covered by a black cloth and
that on it should be placed a closed VSL with a sprig of
acacia thereon and the S & C, the latter being closed,
all being symbolic of the fact that the deceased Brother no
longer takes his place amongst his Brethren. The Officers
are those of a Craft Lodge. All present should wear black
rosettes on the apron and no collars or jewels are worn.
There is no limit to the number of candidates that may be
WM: Bro. Wardens, Are all present Funeral Masters?
If so satisfied the Wardens give their affirmation, if not they pass among those present and take the PG and W.
After this the WM continues: Bro. JW is our Lodge properly guarded?
JW: WM, our Lodge is duly guarded against the un-sympathising and the profane.
WM: Then Brethren, l deciare this Lodge of Funeral Masters, duly opened. * * *.
The three knocks should be given very slowly.
Thereafter the WM advises the two Deacons that they should retire and determine if there are any Master Masons awaiting without who seek to avail themselves of this Degree of F.M. The Deacons retire and re-enter with those wishing to be admitted. They are placed before the altar and are advised to kneel on both knees and place bath hands on the VSL, being careful not to displace the items upon it.
WM: Brethren, you have sought to be admitted as Funeral Masters and I must therefore enquire if you are willing to take a solemn obligation.
Then you will repeat after me. With the exception of the candidates, all present stand with the SoF. I, …, on my honour as a Master Mason and in the midst of this Lodge of Funeral Masters, solemnly promise never to improperly reveal any of the Secrets of this Degree, to anyone, or be present at the doing so, unless the recipient be a Master Mason, properly qualified, the ceremony being performed in a Lodge of Funeral Masters, duly called and legally held, and by the WM, or acting WM. Failing this, may I be expelled from all Masonic privileges when living and the rites of sepulchre when dead.
The Chaplain then reads Genesis XXIII.
WM: The secrets restricted to a Member of this Degree are as follows. The Sign is given by placing the right hand behind the right ear in allusion to Verse 6 in Genesis XXIll. The Grip is that of a Master Mason except that the two Brethren stand side by side as if standing at the side of an open grave. The Pass Word which will admit you into a Lodge of Funeral Masters is Alas, My Brother, and the Grand Word is Judgement (Genesis XXIII v 2.) but in some Lodges this is replaced by the word Acacia. The knocks given in this Lodge are three, with long pauses between them to emphasise its solemnity.
The symbol of a Funeral Lodge is the Raven, for Masonic legend informs us that this bird was the first creature to perform the rite of Sepulchre over one of the children of Adam. For when Cain fled in horror from the murder he had done, the Raven pityingly covered the corpse of Abel with leaves and twigs.
If the Lodge has been convened in memory of a departed brother, then the WM calls the Brethren from labour to refreshment and one toast is given in memorial after which the Lodge is recalled to labour.
WM: Brother JW, what is our last duty?
JW: To see that the Lodge remains duly guarded. Same as at the opening.
WM: Brother JW, what is the hour?
JW: The hour when, though we have had to mourn and lament, our sorrow has turned to joy for our Brother now resides in that Hollowed Place in the care of the Great Architect.
WM: Brother SW, your place and duty there?
JW: In the West WM, to mark the setting sun of life, but with a sure and certain hope of immortality dwelling with Him, in whom we live, move and have our being.
WM: Then Brother SW, after the Chaplain bas besought a Blessing, you have my command to close this Lodge.
Chap.: O, Thou Eternal Fountain and Source of all goodness, we, Thy frail offspring, beseech Thee to protect and guide us through this life, and so elevate and enlighten us that, when Thou art pleased to call us to Thyself, we may be able to depart with joy and thankfulness. Amen.
All: So mote it be.
SW: Brethren, in the name of Him who created us, who will preserve us, and, in due time, take us unto Himself, and Whom let us ever revere and adore, and by command of the WM, I deciare this Lodge of Funeral Masters, duly closed.
SW alone gives the three slow knocks and steps in front of his pedestal. Then all the Brethren in turn pass the SW's station and give him the Grip and Word of the Degree, the WM being first and all walk slowly and silently from the Lodge.