Brethren and Friends,
Tonight we come together in the bonds of brotherhood to celebrate the Feast of Tishri. The feast has its origins as a fall harvest festival. Harvest festivals are central to all human existence. Every culture. Every geography. Every climate. When man, seeing the coming darkness of the seasons, collected the bounty of nature to endure hardship, and celebrated the hope of renewal with the bonds of community and set the pattern of their success.
This hope is one of the perennial aspects of the Rite. From the theodicy of the 18° to the Obligations of the 32°, The Holy Doctrine and the Royal Secret, and even the Ceremony of Remembrance and Renewal. But we as Scottish Rite Masons embrace not just hope, but also the burdens and responsibilities – e.g. action – to fulfill it. As Masters of the Royal Secret, knowledge without action is meaningless.
Right now, the world is slipping into darkness. Not just because the sun is setting. The days grow shorter; the bounty of nature is exhausted, and the sun grows dimmer as it retreats below the horizon. The cold dark winter lumbers closer and closer.
But tonight there is a more immediate darkness at our threshold. Right now, in this Jurisdiction, Masons seek to redefine masonry based on their – and only their – view of the Craft. Blinded by their own brilliance, they severe the bonds of Brotherhood in their pursuit of their truth. Right now, in this jurisdiction, Masons and Non-Masons ally and conspire to determine the fate of Lodges and control elections. Right now, in this jurisdiction, a Brother sits at home, alone, hungry, because he was furloughed, but feels unable to ask for help. Right now, in this Jurisdiction, Brothers look the other way at the darkness before them.
But I have hope. I have hope because we are gathered here tonight.
Like those ancient Brethren, staring into the cold black of winter, we have gathered our resources. The bounty of the bonds of brotherhood and we set the pattern of our success.
The Feast of Tishri, commemorates one of the holiest months of the ancient Israelites. We practice the Feast not as a religious observance, but as a commemoration of our shared belief in some higher power – be it God, Yahweh, Allah, Brahma, Krishna, Odin, Jupiter, Zeus, the Pythagorean Geomatrician, the Creative Principle, Deism, etc… As Masons we are told that without Faith, a Man’s word is without currency or merit. But there is a more to this practice. A Man, who cannot admit or believe in some higher power/supreme being, is a Man who seems himself as the pinnacle of creation. It is a man, whose ego is unchecked. He may be a good man, but he cannot be made a better man, for in his heart of hearts, he is already best. It is our vision of a better, greater, higher being that allows us to humble ourselves, and join together with an honest integrity – it allows us to admit, we can improve, it forces us to do it.
The Feast of Tishri, also commemorates the Dedication of Solomon’s Temple, an edifice of particular interest to us as Masons. The very name Solomon, is derived from the word Shalom, means peace. After nearly 100 years of western’s and action movies, we think of evil as something that can be violenced away, or killed. We think of defeating evil by the acts of great men and great armies and great battles. Solomon’s father David, was denied the right to build the Temple, because his reign was one of violence and bloodshed. From this we as Masons learn that it is the small acts of humble folk that keeps the darkness at bay. And before you dismiss this notion, consider that this month, hundreds of thousands of Masons in the Southern Jurisdiction alone will gather to celebrate. Small acts add up.
The Feast of Tishri, also commemorates our Masonic vision of the New Temple of Peace, the Temple not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, for tonight we ARE that Temple. Each of us are the stones, and our mystic bond the cement. Tonight we shelter each other. Tonight we illuminate each other. Tonight we nourish each other. Tonight we bond with each other, and face the darkness together – not alone.
This is why the Feast of Tishri is important. For in this simple act we not only instruct in, but practice the use of very tools we employ against the looming darkness. This is why you can stand up against those who would demean your vision of the Craft for the sake of advancing theirs. This is why you can stand up to Brothers, gathering with Non-Masons to conspire against your Lodge. This is why Scottish Rite is important, for this is what the Scottish Rite is. And for those Master Masons gathering with us tonight, this is us saying we can do it without you, but we don’t to.
And this is me concluding tonight’s talk. Thank you.
— Jason A. Mitchell 32° KCCH PVM, PWM