The preamble to the Book of Constitutions states that “Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, viz., those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch’.
It then adds that “At the Quarterly Communication of 10 December 2003 the United Grand Lodge of England acknowledged and pronounced the status of the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch to be ‘an extension to, but neither a superior nor a subordinate part of, the Degrees which precede it”.
The Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch takes up and completes the Masonic narrative of King Solomon’s Temple, which is the subject of Craft Masonry. The Temple at Jerusalem was completed in about 967 BC, shortly after the death of the principal architect and it stood for some 400 years until about 587 BC, when it was destroyed by an army under King Nebuchadnezzar.
The purpose of the following ‘Setting the Scene’ readings is to give a friendly welcome and put the candidate at ease by giving a brief introduction to the three main parts of the ceremony so that the candidate(s) has an understanding of the story of the ceremony he is about to pass through and then better appreciate the whole experience.
There are two versions of the Readings: A Candidates’ version to be read to the candidate(s) outside the Chapter and a Companions’ version to be delivered simultaneously to the Companions inside the Chapter.
It is recommended that the Candidates version of the Readings should be delivered to the Exaltee(s) outside the door of the Chapter, usually by the Principal Sojourner or an Assistant Sojourner, just before each of his three entries into the Chapter as a Master Mason during the Exaltation ceremony.
It is also recommended that the alternative Companions’ version of the Readings should be delivered simultaneously within the Chapter by a suitable member of the Chapter, probably the D.C. or one of the Scribes. A few words of explanation might also be given each time, explaining what is happening outside the door at that moment.
The text of the Setting the Scene readings is reproduced on the inside back cover of the 2018 edition of the Surrey Exalted Companion’s Guide, a copy of which is presented to the candidate after his Exaltation.
Copies of both versions are available from the Provincial Office.
Setting the Scene Readings to the Candidate
Before the First Entrance (Can. wearing MM’s apron and blindfolded).
Brother ………………… welcome to ……………………. Chapter I will now explain a little about the story of the ceremony you are about to go through, its history and meaning and your part in the story or ceremony which we are sure that you will enjoy.
The Temple of King Solomon at Jerusalem, which we learn about in the three Craft degrees, stood for about 400 years, until it was completely destroyed by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar. He killed many of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and exiled most of the rest to Babylon, leaving only a few behind to carry out farming and menial tasks.
After some 70 years the Babylonians themselves were overthrown by the Persian Empire under King Cyrus who also conquered what was left of Jerusalem. Within a year King Cyrus issued a decree allowing the descendants of those exiles from Jerusalem to return home, in order to help rebuild their Holy City and its Temple.
As a candidate for exaltation, you will represent one of those exiles returning to the ruined city of Jerusalem as a Sojourner, or Journeyman Builder to help rebuild the Temple, or more accurately, to help build the Second Temple.
Building on the teachings of the Craft, the Royal Arch encourages you to a greater understanding of yourself and particularly your relationship with your God.
Before the Second Entrance (As MM’s)
Brother……………… You will remember that the First Temple at Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. After the Decree of King Cyrus, many exiles returned almost immediately from Babylon to Jerusalem, led by a Prince called Zerubbabel, and prepared to rebuild the Temple on the site of the former one. Other exiles arrived a little later, and you three represent some of these later arrivals, whom we call ‘Sojourners’.
This next part of the ceremony represents your entrance into Zerubbabel’s Council (or Grand Sanhedrim) to apply to work on some part of the rebuilding of the Temple. Although you are working masons, you are proud to be direct descendants of the royal line of David and princely tribe of Judah, which used to rule Jerusalem.
Before the Third Entrance (As MM’s and after preparation)
Brother………………. As Masons you have carried out your instructions to clear the site of the former Temple, to prepare for the foundations of the Second Temple. Whilst doing so, you have made a discovery which might be of great importance. You are now reporting this discovery to the Sanhedrim under Zerubbabel.
Just as the Second Temple was built on the site of the First, you are about to discover that the teachings of the Royal Arch are built on those of the Craft, to complete your journey in pure Ancient Freemasonry.
These explanations are based on material from the Provinces of Essex, Cumberland & Westmorland and Metropolitan Grand Chapter. We acknowledge their generosity in giving permission.