Braden 168’s most recent Past Master, Worshipful Brother Anthony VanWagner, made two speeches in his first term that he wished to share here, and as he was the Master who raised me, I am enthusiastic to post them. Here is the first…
Remarks after being installed as Worshipful Master of Braden #168
When I see Masons involved in an ID program that protects children from becoming missing or exploited, or supporting a dental records program that targets criminals – when I see these things I take them as signs that Masons really hunger to aid others, to do good in the world. In many ways you could say that we want to usher in justice.
That Freemasons should want this is not so strange or foreign an idea. I remember a Royal Arch Companion who once told me the story of how a police officer in Texas stopped him on the highway. The officer told him there is still a law on the books that it is illegal to display any Masonic symbol on your vehicle if you are not truly a Freemason. The Companion, of course, proved he was a Mason. I wondered from this incident: Why should such a statute like that even get on the books in the first place? The episode hearkens one back to era in Texas and with other places on the American frontier when the Masonic Lodge was not only a place where vital information was passed on, but where decisions of great consequence to the community were made, and even justice dispensed.
I want to digress here for a minute. WB Ray Hayward, and the other Past Masters of Braden have reminded me that as WM my authority here is nigh unto absolute. One of the things that I thought I had wanted to do was to absolutely forbid the discussion of politics – not just within this chamber, as is prudent and customary during our meetings, but even without, even downstairs. My thoughts were that the discussions I heard outside of Lodge were sometimes contentious, divisive, often unproductive, and not worth the risk of hurting another Brother’s feelings.
I will tell you right now that without the bounds of this room I won’t be cutting off political discourse within Lodge.
To do so would have been a big mistake for a number of reasons. Out in the world when we see tyrannical and anti-masonic governments shutting down Masonic Lodges, it is often because they serve as a place for citizens to come together, spread the word to one another, and educate themselves. Ordinary men learn to trust themselves and to support one another directly.
In our modern, electronic age, in an atmosphere where our country has become increasingly more broken up, and even polarized, where next-door neighbors treat each other like strangers, the institution of Freemasonry is more vital than ever.
Personally, I think that things out there will get better for everyone in the long run, but not before we face the night. We may even get close to some very nightmarish scenarios. You know, and I know many individuals who have already faced, or are in the midst of facing some hard times. We can, and we will help them.
When I practice Freemasonry, there is a famous film that I often think of. In this movie the main character comes from a family of philanthropists. He seeks to save his city through the means of symbols. In fact, he attempts to transform himself into an incorruptible symbol, and to shake his city out of a state of complacency by the use of dramatic examples.
In Freemasonry, we have some of those same things at our disposal. We can impress our fellow man with the proper use of our symbols, and give him the opportunity to transform himself, according to his will, in the unfolding of dramatic lessons. These things are alive in Freemasonry.
By now you might be saying, “all of this seems a bit too grandiose, Anthony.” You are, after all, relating this to the example of one man’s grand plan to save his city. I would say though, that on the contrary, it is really very simple, and requires what some might consider the smallest of circumstances.
Whenever we reach out to each other personally, meet upon level, act upon the square, whenever we support the disadvantaged, whenever we visit some of our older Brethren who have difficulty traveling, whenever we learn their history, whenever we pick up a piece of tradition and incorporate it in our lives…we are sharing Masonic light. That light has more than enough power to save cities. We know this, because it helped save a country.
As we go forth we should realize our limitations as far as the human vehicle is concerned – remembering the words written by that man of genius who was initiated into the Blue Lodge degrees. “The exposure of innocence is a lie.” …meaning – people will know us by our actions, not just how we appear to them, or how we present ourselves. I am not an innocent man. I don’t know many who are. So I don’t go around claiming how good a man I am. It does no good to parade our innocence, without regard to reality.
In other words we can’t simply go on about how we’re really a bunch of great guys inside, and expect people to accept it at face value. Form without substance. It will not be enough, because ultimately it’s what we do, that defines us.
(I then thanked my Mother and Grandmother. I thanked last year’s Master, presented him with his apron case, and then made a few statements about the Winter Solstice that recently passed.)
I would like to read the words of the Young John, from the play, “The Ship.”
In the sea my father lieth,
Wept by waters, lost for ever
Where the waste of woe replieth:
“Naught and nowhere!” “Naught and never!”
I that serve as once he served,
I that shine as once he shone,
I must swerve as he has swerved,
I must go as he has gone.
He begat me; in my season
I must such a son beget,
Suffer too the triple treason,
Setting as my father set.
These my witnesses and women —
These shall dare the dark again,
Find the sacred ark to swim in
The remorseless realm of rain.
Flowers and fruits I bring to bless you,
Cakes of corn, and wealth of wine;
With my crown will I caress you,
With my music make you mine.
Though I perish, I preserve you;
Through my fall, ye rise above:
Ruling you, your priest, I serve you,
Being life, and being love.
Here is corn! (I hold the cake of light.)
Here is wine! (I take the cup.)
The Deed Divine!
(They are consumed.)
Let us pray.
Thou, who art I, beyond all I am,
Who hast no nature and no name,
Who art, when all but thou are gone,
Thou, centre and secret of the Sun,
Thou, hidden spring of all things known
And unknown, Thou aloof, alone,
Thou, the true fire within the reed
Brooding and breeding, source and seed
Of life, love, liberty, and light,
Thou beyond speech and beyond sight,
Thee I invoke, abiding one,
Thee, centre and secret of the Sun,
And that most holy mystery
Of which the vehicle am I!
Appear, most awful and most mild,
As it is lawful, to thy child!