Oration at Banner Dedication, Banner District No.7 East Anglia, May 1st 2019
Donald Woodgate GHPAward, GCPO, PAsstGHP
Banners, Flags, Ensigns and Standards are devices which are very ancient indeed. Functionally the terms are nearly interchangeable. they were originally used in military situations as a means of identification, a rallying point, a means of organising military units. The Chinese Manchu army was organised under a hierarchical system of banners. There are Biblical references to banners amongst the ancient Israelites. In Britain and Europe armies fought under banners which would usually bear the personal arms of the leader.
We are used to the cloth standard hung from a horizontal crosspiece attached to a vertical pole as is the case here. However in the past, design has varied. For instance the use of simple vertical poles surmounted by ornaments such as suns or serpents. Today broad banners carried between two poles are also common.
In the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries banners were adopted for identification, solidarity and to proclaim beliefs by non military organisations which have a marching tradition. This include Trades Union, Friendly Societies, Temperance Groups, Orange Orders, Women’s, and Peace Organisations, Political Parties and organisations such as Churches, Chapels, and Sunday Schools.
In Freemasonry banners have been important since the Eighteenth Century as a means of identification and demonstration of solidarity with Lodges and other Masonic units. In this Order Banners and Standards have been used in Grand College and carried in front of the Rulers on official visits. Banners are sometimes an integral part of the ritual. Examples of which can be found in Royal Arch, Knight Templar and Red Cross of Constantine.
The word “banner” is derived from the Old French “Banere”, from the Latin “Bandum” which is cognate with “Band” (to tie together, to have a moral obligation). Incidentally “abandon” literally to break with such a moral tie. “Banns” of marriage have the same derivation.
Banners are recent introduction by Grand College. There are two universal designs; one for
Tabernacles and one for Districts. The only distinguishing feature between different banners being the name and number of the tabernacle or district at the bottom.
Turning to this splendid banner.
The superscription and infra-scription with the name of the Order and of the District require no further comment. The background is white, symbol of purity and also resurrection and renewal. This reflects the pure unadorned white of our mantle.
Very prominent are the two seals or logos to each side and dependant from the superscription. That of the Knight Templar Priests is dominated by the image of the Mitre, such an integral part of our order. The image of the mitre is an old one. Our version seems to have 2 connections. One is to the military headgear worn by English soldiers in the 18th Century. The other is, of course, the connection to ecclesiastical headgear worn by bishops in the Christian Church. This incidentally is very ancient indeed, going back to priestly wear in ancient Egypt.
The logo of the Order of Holy Wisdom contains the lit lamp, referring to the Light of the World. Both seals are included within a geometric form called a “vesica piscis”. This is a figure produced by two overlapping circles of equal radius. It has interesting mathematical properties, and from the point of view of our order, is the basis for the simplest way of generating equilateral triangles armed with only a straight edge and compass. It is also a very important and ancient symbol. It originally was associated with the goddess of love, Aphrodite (Greek) or Venus (Roman), and later associated with Mary, often having Christ depicted within. Eventually becoming wholly adopted by Christians to represent Christ with the fish symbol as Ichthos and appears as a sort of graffiti at ancient Christian sites. It is found all over churches in the decoration, stained glass and stonework, and is the basis of the modern fish logo seen on lapel badges, windscreens etc. Seals of Ecclesiastical organisations are often within a vesica piscis. Our Order’s is no exception.
The dominant feature of the banner is a golden equilateral triangle containing a lamb, flag and book with seven seals. The background colour is royal purple.
This colour was worn by rulers in the ancient world. In the context of our Order it can be taken as referring to “Christ the King”, celebrated as the last great feast of the Christian year. It also is a reference to that original and great biblical Priest-King Melchizadek; so important to our order and, like the seals, indissolubly linked in the Word of the Order.
The equilateral triangle is a defining feature of our Order; appearing as it does in every aspect of our ritual, pillars and set up of our tabernacles. It is an emblem of the deity, representing His Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience and in Christian Masonry the Indivisible Trinity.
The feature to which one is inevitably drawn is the central representation of the Lamb, and Flag.
The Lamb is of course The Holy Lamb of God, one of the many biblical appellations given to
Jesus Christ. (ref. John1:29 &36) The figure has a golden nimbus or halo containing a cross; a type halo reserved for Christ. The face is interesting being almost human or perhaps leonine. It lies legs crossed and head erect. This is the risen sacrificed Christ depicted allegorically as the sacrificed, but eventually triumphant lamb. Again the white depicting innocence or purity. The sacrifice was voluntarily undertaken by Jesus and in obedience to God the Father. The flag born by the Lamb, a red cross on a white background signifying His triumph over death and sin; a once and for all redemptive sacrifice for us all. The red cross on a white background is, of course, mirrored on our tunics.
There are interesting parallels with the sacrificed ram which appears in the story of Abraham’s call to sacrifice his son Isaac. However, by contrast, on that occasion the sacrifice by the ram was substitutional and involuntary. For, as we are told (Gen 22:13) there was “a ram caught in a thicket by it’s horns”.
The book on which the lamb lies has seven seals. In the bible this refers to the apocalypse or end of all things (Revelation 5-8). In this biblical version, the seals are opened by the Lamb. The first four release four horsemen: War, Pestilence, Judgement and Death, followed by release of martyrs, apocalyptic destruction and finally Silence.
In our ritual the opening of the seals becomes an allegory for the personal Christian life journey of each of us. The seals are opened by, successively: The Lion of Judah, Lamb of God, Prince of Peace, King of Righteousness, Great Jehovah and Gracious Emmanuel. The first six are all names for Christ. The seventh is opened by Melchizadeck, the first priest-king of Salem (later Jerusalem).
The overall point indicating the essential requirement for Christ’s aid on our spiritual journey. Each stage opening a door and, after the making of a promise, help on the journey leading to reward. The opening of the final seal by Melchizadeck presents the pilgrim at the final barrier to true Union, state rarely attained in this life.
For, as Paul says, “now we see as through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (1 Cor13:12)
This barrier or veil in our Order symbolically lies between the seventh pillar and the High Priest’s chair. Such a barrier is common. The Jewish Temple’s Holy of Holies was separated by a veil.
Kabbalistically progress is stopped by the veil of Paroketh. Christians kneel at the altar rail
separating the chancel from the sanctuary.
In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress the final obstacle on Christian’s pilgrimage is a river and to quote his beautiful prose:
“My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage to him that can get it; my marks and scars I carry with me to be a witness for me that I have fought His battles who will now be my rewarder. So he passed over and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.”
Knight Priests would you please stand facing East in an attitude of prayer.
I invite you to join me in saying the Angus Dei, the Lamb of God.
That wonderful prayer at the heart of Christian worship since the 8th Century.
O Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world: have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world: have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world: grant us Thy peace.
Thank you Knight Priests