ACACIA LEAVES AND EASTER LILIES
“Acacia Leaves And Easter Lilies”
April brings us Easter Day – the festival of Memory and Hope. That a day in spring should be set apart in praise of the victory of Life is in accord with the fitness of things, as if the seasons of the soul were akin to the seasons of the year. It unites faith with life; it links the fresh buds of spring with the ancient pieties of the heart. It finds in Nature, with its rhythm of winter and summer, a ritual of hope and joy.
So run the record of times. Older than our era, Easter has been the day of feast and song I n all lands amongst all peoples. By a certain instinct man has found in the seasons a symbol of his faith, the blossoming of his spirit attuned to the wonder of the awakening of the earth from the white death of winter. A deep chord in him answers to the ever-renewed resurrection of Nature, and that instinct is more to be trusted than all philosophy. For in Nature there is no death, but only living and living again.
Something in the stir of spring, in the reviving earth, in the tide of life overflowing the world, in the rebirth of flowers, begets an unconscious, involuntary renewal of faith in the heart of man, refreshing his hope. So he looks into the face of each new spring with a heart strangely glad, and strangely sad, too, touched by tender memories of springs gone by never to return, softened by thoughts of “those who answer not, however we may call.”
Truly it is a day of Hope and Courage in the heart of man. Hope and Courage we have for the affairs of daily life; but here is a Hope that leaps beyond the borders of the world, and a Courage that faces Eternity. For that Easter stands, in its history, its music, its returning miracle of spring – for the putting off of the tyranny of time, the terror of the grave, and the triumph of the flesh, and the putting on of immortality. Man can work with a brave heart and endure many ills if he feels that the good he strives for here, and never quite attains, will be won elsewhere.
There is something heroic, something magnificent in the refusal of a man to let death have the last word. Time out of mind, as far back as we can trace human thought – in the sign or symbol – man has refused to think of the grave as a coffin lid of a dull and mindless world descending upon him at last. It was so in Egypt five thousand years ago; the Shadow he cannot escape, and asserts the worth of his soul and its high destiny. Surely this mighty faith is its own best proof and prophecy, since man is a part of Nature, and what is deepest in him is what Nature has taught him to hope.
For some of us Easter has other meanings than those dug up from the folklore of olden time….for some of us His life of love is the one everlasting romance in this hard old world , and its ineffable tenderness seems to blend naturally with the thrill of springtime, when the finger of God is pointing to the new birth of earth. No brother will deny us the joy of weaving Easter lilies with Acacia leaves, in the celebration of a common hope.
The legend of Hiram (parallels) the life of Jesus and tells us the same truth….both tragedies are alike profoundly simple, complete, and heartbreaking – each a symbol not only of the victory of man over death, but of his triumph over the stupidity and horror of evil in himself and in the world. In all the old mythologies, the winter comes because the ruffians forces of the world strike down and slay the gentle spirit of summer; and this dark tragedy is reflected in the life of man – making a mystery no mortal can solve, save as he sees it with courage and hope. Each was the victim of sinister, cunning, brutal, evil force – here is the tragedy of our race, repeated in every age and land, as appalling as it is universal, and no man can fathom its mystery.
Yet, strangely enough, the very Shadow which seems to destroy faith, and make it seem futile and pitiful, is the fact which created the high, heroic faith of humanity and keeps it alive. Love crucified by Hate; high character slain by low Cunning! Death victorious over Life – man refuses to accept that as the final meaning of the world. He demands justice in the name of God and his own soul. The Master Builder is betrayed and slain; his enemies are put to death – that satisfies the sense of justice.
When man, by the insight and affirmation of his soul, holds it true, despite all seeming contradiction, that virtue is victorious over brutal evil, and Life is the aLord of Death, and that the soul is as eternal as the moral order in which it lives, the heart of the race has found the truth.
Thou wilt not leave us in the dust;
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And Thou hast made him; Thou are just.
With what overwhelming impressiveness this faith is set forth in the greatest Degree of Freemasonry, full meaning and depth of which have not begun to fathom, much less to realize. Edwin Booth was right when he said that the Third Degree of Masonry is the profoundest, the simplest, and the most heart-gripping tragedy known among men. Where else are all the elements of tragedy more perfectly blended in a scene, which shakes the heart and makes it stand still? It is pathetic. It is confounding. Everything seems shattered and lost. Yet, somehow, we are not dismayed by it, because we are made to feel that there is a Beyond – the victim is rather set free from life than deprived of it.
Without faith in a future life, where the tangled tragedies of this world are made straight, and its weary woe is healed, despair would be our fate. By this faith men love and endure in spite of ills. Its roots go deeper than argument, deeper than dogma, deeper than reason, as deep as infancy and old age, as deep as love and death. As we do not ask logic to prove the coming of spring, so there is no need that anyone argue in behalf of the faith – older than history – that power which weaves in silence robes of white for the lilies, of red for the rose, will the much more clothe our spirits with a moral beauty that shall never fade.
But there is a still deeper meaning in the Third Degree of masonry, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. It is not explained in the lectures; it is hardly hinted at in the lodge. Yet it is as clear as day, if we have insight. The Degree ends not in a memorial, but in a manifestation of the Eternal Life. Raised from a dead level to living perpendicular, by the strong grip of faith, the Master Builder lives by the power of an endless life. That is to say, Masonry symbolically initiates us into the Eternal Life here and now, makes us citizens of eternity in time, and bids us live and act accordingly. Here is the deepest secret Masonry has to teach – that we are immortal here and now; that death is nothing to the soul; that eternity is today.
When shall we become that which we are? When shall we, who are Sons of the Most High, born of His love and power, made in His image, and endowed with His deathless life, discover who we are, whence we came, and wither we tend, and live a free, joyous, triumphant life which belongs of right to immortal spirits! Give a man an hour to live, and you put him in a cage. Extend it to a day, and he is freer. Give him a year of life, and he moves in larger orbit and makes his plans. Let him know that he is a citizen of an eternal world, and he is free indeed, a master of life and time and death – a Master Mason.
The Acacia leaves and Easter lilies untie to give us a hint, if not the key, to a higher heroism and cheer, even “the glory of going on and still to be”; a glory which outs a new meaning and value into these our days and years – so brief at their longest, so broken at their best; their achievements so transient and so quickly forgotten. Sorrows come, and heartache, and loneliness unutterable, when those we love fall into the great white sleep; but the Sprig of Acacia will grow in our hearts, if we cultivate it, watering it while with our tears; and at last it will not be a symbol but a sacrament in the house of our pilgrimage.
What to you is Shadow, to Him is Day,
And the end He knoweth;
And not on a blind and aimless way
Thy spirit goeth.
The steps of Faith
Fall on a seeming void, and find
A Rock beneath.