Explanation of the Master Mason certificate
Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons
of British Columbia and Yukon
Brother _________________, having passed a satisfactory examination of a Master Mason in open Lodge, nothing remains but to present you with your Master Mason Certificate. However, before doing so, I would first like to offer you a brief explanation of its origin and the Masonic Symbolism integrated into its design.
The Master Mason Certificate, approved and adopted by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of British Columbia and Yukon, is a close copy of the Certificate designed and approved by the United Grand Lodge of England in 1819, and is sometimes referred to as the “Pillars Certificate” or “Grand Lodge Certificate”.
In recent years, some design changes have been made to enhance its appearance and to conform to other Certificates issued by the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. This has involved the repositioning of the wording “The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of British Columbia and Yukon.” These words were formerly on two lines below the illustration at the top.
[What you see before you is an enlarged version of the Certificate you are about to receive.]
The illustration at the top is surrounded by the Rose, Shamrock and Thistle to remind us that the Grand Lodges of the British Isles are parent stems from which we derive our Masonic Life. Within this Imperial garland is a Royal Coat of Arms, implying that Royalty has patronized Freemasonry within the Commonwealth. The Royal Motto, written in French below the Coat of Arms, translates into English as “God and my Right”. It expresses two of the great principles of Freemasonry, namely a belief in the Great Architect of the Universe and a determination to maintain that Liberty of conscience for which Freemasonry has always stood.
In the foreground is a Shield. On one half are the Lion and the Crown; on the right hand side three Castles* with the Compasses superimposed over a Chevron. The Lion, Crown, and Castles are symbols respectively of Power, Authority and Protection. The compasses superimposed over a Chevron, may be construed as embracing the whole Craft and keeping it within due bounds. On the left hand side of the Shield stands “Faith” with folded hands in an attitude of Devotion, on the right “Hope” “is an attitude of Adoration with her Masonic Symbol, the “Anchor” which may be expressed as an emblem of a well-grounded hope and a well-spent life. Behind the shield stands “Charity”, embracing the Orphaned children, a symbol of the Love and Protection which is extended to the helpless and the weak by the Brethren of the Craft.
In the background are depicted the mountains of our sunset province with their peaks of eternal snow looking down over forest, stream and plain, all suggestive of the vast resources for our material benefit. Above all is the Triangle, which represents to us three things and each threefold. These are the creative, preservative and destructive powers of the Deity; the spiritual, intellectual and physical nature of man; and the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms of the earth.
Within the triangle is the all-seeing Eye of Divine Direction, to which we should look for guidance in every path of Life.
In the body of the Certificate are three Pillars representing Wisdom, Strength and Beauty.
They also represent the three great orders of architecture. The Ionic is the centre, the Doric on the left and the Corinthian on the right and, when the Lodge is at labour, such as now, they are represented by the Worshipful Master in the East, the Senior Warden in the West and the Junior Warden in the South.
Between these Pillars, inscribed in English on the left and Latin on the right, will be a brief history of your progress in Freemasonry, namely the dates you were initiated, passed and raised in _________________Lodge No._______. Of the two year dates shown, one accords to the regular everyday calendar and the other to the Masonic calendar. The Masonic calendar uses Anno Lucis, meaning “In the year of Light” and is abbreviated as “A.L.” Anno Lucis, the year of Light, is arrived at by adding 4000 to the regular calendar year, representing the number of years once supposed to have elapsed between the beginning of the world and the start of our regular calendar.
The black and light white floor symbolizes Darkness and Light, the sorrows and joys of our checkered existence. The Terrestrial and Celestial Globes indicate the Universality of the Craft. The Ashlars are indicative of a progressive science, whilst the Working Tools suggest the several degrees through which you have passed and the moral lessons explained in those degrees. The Trowel, shown propped against the rough Ashlar, is not referred to in the Canadian Ritual but in the Ancient Work it is one of the working tools in the Master Mason Degree.
The half-round object protruding from the top of the perfect Ashlar is called a “Lewis”. It is an iron contrivance for raising heavy blocks of stone, and was an instrument used in “Operative Masonry.” In speculative Masonic usage a “Lewis” is the uninitiated son of a Mason.
At the base of the centre pillar are what we esteem the three great, though emblematic, Lights of Freemasonry; they are the Volume of the Sacred Law, the Square and the Compasses. The Volume of the Sacred Law is to rule and govern our faith; the Square to regulate our actions; and the Compasses to keep us in due bounds with all mankind, particularly with our Brethren in Freemasonry. They also remind us that the Lodge is at Labour when they lay open on the Altar.
[To digress for a moment, you will note that the Compasses are opened at 60 degrees when placed upon the Volume of the Sacred Law. This alludes to the equilateral triangle our ancient Brethren placed upon the Altar. When set at 60 degrees, and a straight line is drawn between the points of the compasses, it forms an equilateral triangle. To continue:]
In the upper centre of the Certificate is where the name of the presiding Grand Master is placed and, in your case, it is that of Most Worshipful Brother _____________________. On the left is where the Seal of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Freemasons of British Columbia and Yukon is placed. At the bottom centre is a space provided for the signature of the Grand Secretary, Right Worshipful Brother __________________. His signature certifies that the information recorded on the Certificate has been duly entered in the books and records of Grand Lodge.
The English translation for the Latin phrase “Ne Varietur” is “It should never be varied.” Therefore your signature, as written on the Certificate, should never be changed because, at some future date, you may wish to use this Certificate as a means of identification, especially if visiting a Lodge in some other jurisdiction. Your Certificate, along with your paid-up dues card, is your passport to Freemasonry throughout the world.
Finally, may I suggest that you have your Certificate suitably framed and hung in your home to serve as a constant reminder of the fundamental principles of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. These fundamental principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth cannot be overemphasized.
Brotherly Love is the basis of Freemasonry, and its practice will ultimately result in harmony and peace. Relief is the exercise of Charity in both a practical and a spiritual sense. Truth should be the pursuit of everyone for the survival of the human race, and it depends largely upon the recognition and practice of physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual truth.
Congratulations on having passed a satisfactory examination as a Master Mason. I must now ask you to step forward to the Secretary's desk and affix your signature in the place provided, to indicate your acceptance of the Constitutions and Regulations of Grand Lodge.
* The three towers are part of the arms granted to the London Company of Masons in 1472: "Sable or black on a chevron, between three towers argent or silver, a pair of compasses." While compasses, and squares, appear on the arms of a number of trade guilds, the three towers may well be unique to stonemason guilds.
Source: Grand Secretary's office.