One of the most moving experiences any Mason can be a part of is a funeral service for a brother Mason. If you know a man who has been part of the Lodge and passed away, you may very well end up seeing a Masonic funeral, and knowing what to expect can help you to avoid confusion. Here is what goes into a Masonic funeral.
What Masonic Funerals are Not
No Mason is required to have a Masonic funeral, and there is no shame attached to not having such a service performed. No big bad secrets will be revealed at the funeral, if only because the Lodge does not have any, and there will be no spooky magic performed, if only because Masons don’t practice magic. The funeral rite is performed to honor a brother in good standing, to console one another and our families in a time of loss and to remind one another of our own physical mortality.
A Masonic funeral is in large part a celebration of a man’s life, and a reminder to all that he upheld the high standards of character expected in the Lodge. There are typically two speakers in the service, and other parts require the response of all brother Masons present. Leading the service is the “Master,” who is usually the head of the man’s local Lodge. Offering prayers during the service is a Chaplain, an officer also in the local Lodge. The service may also include a eulogy, and the eulogist need not be a Mason. Music may be performed, and the performers are also not necessarily Masons.
Three props will be used during the course of the funeral—the Sacred Roll, the Apron and the Acacia. The Sacred Roll is a document prepared for the funeral which has the full name of the deceased, his precise age to the day, the dates of his acceptance into the Lodge and when he died. This is unfurled and read near the beginning of the service. The Apron is a lambskin garment which is laid over the body or casket. As they will say in the service, it is an ancient symbol of purity. “It reminds us of that purity of life and conduct so essentially necessary to gaining admission into the Celestial Lodge above, where the Supreme Architect of the Universe presides,” the ritual says. The Acacia or Evergreen is a sprig of an evergreen tree, which one may also see displayed in the lapels of brother Masons attending the service. It is a symbol of immortality, it reminds all present that our souls never die, and that no blast of winter may snuff them out.
The reading of the Sacred Roll, the laying out of the Apron and the placing of the Acacia are all honors used to remind us of our brotherhood, our struggle for purity and our ultimate immortality. If you have a family member who is a Mason, he likely already has his Apron, so make sure you know where it is if you would be expected to arrange his funeral.
A Masonic funeral is a way of reminding the brothers of the departed that we will all meet again, that despite the fact that the body of one of our members has been left empty by God, we are still united in fraternity and love. It honors a man of honor, and gives comfort to his loved ones that he has moved on to be with his Creator. It is a beautiful thing, and one of the most solemn duties of all Masons around the world.