A Masonic Funeral and Burial Service
for Arts & Sciences Lodge
Assembled and Supplemented by Steven B. VanSlyck, PM
The Grand Lodge desires that all brethren taking part in the service, whether members or past or present lodge or Grand Lodge officers of any kind, wear undecorated, plain white aprons, whether furnished by themselves or the lodge.
All Masons who walk in procession should observe, as much as possible, a uniformity of dress. A proper badge of mourning around the left arm, with white gloves and aprons, are most suitable. Ostentatious display of masonic costume shall be avoided. See the published Grand Lodge service relative to drapings, rods and other paraphernalia to be used if marching with the VSL or body.
If there will be a procession with the coffin, casket or urn, it shall be conducted as described in one of the public funeral services published by the Grand Lodge.
The Craft will march into the room to conduct the service. Processing in two evenly numbered lines is the appropriate way, but circumstances may recommend a better method to be worked out with the funeral director. It is best for the lines to stand along each side of the room, from the casket to as far back as necessary
Do not hesitate to tell the funeral director if he has you standing in front of the family or others and they can't see the service, as this is very rude.
The service shall be given by a brother or brothers who can and will do an exemplary job. If the lodge is without a fully capable person, do not hesitate to call on someone from another lodge. The work SHALL be done in a perfect or near perfect manner. Better the service not be performed at all than to insult a grieving family with a shoddy presentation.
No participating Mason is to leave the room until the service is concluded and the Master closes the lodge.
This is a special, emergent meeting of the lodge and shall be recorded in the minutes regardless of whether or not there is a quorum.
A Masonic Funeral and Burial Service
for Arts & Sciences Lodge
WM: I now declare _________________ Lodge No. _____, Free and Accepted Masons, open in mourning.
WM: From time immemorial it has been the established custom of the Fraternity, when requested by a brother or his family, to perform the last, sad rites over his remains. In conformity with this laudable usage, and at the special request of our deceased brother, whose memory we revere and whose loss has wounded us deeply, we are here assembled, under legal dispensation, in the form and character of Masons, to offer up the last tribute of our fraternal affection and regard to his memory; thereby demonstrating to the world the sincerity of our past esteem.
WM: From time immemorial it has been the established custom of the Fraternity, when requested by a brother or his family, to accompany his remains to the place of interment, there safely to deposit his [body | ashes] with the solemnity such occasion observes and to perform the last, sad rites over his remains. In conformity with this laudable usage, and at the special request of our deceased brother, whose memory we revere and whose loss has wounded us deeply, we are here assembled, under legal dispensation, in the form and character of Masons, to resign his [body | ashes] to the earth from whence [it | they] came, and to offer up the last tribute of our fraternal affection and regard to his memory; thereby demonstrating to the world the sincerity of our past esteem.
WM: With all proper respect to the established customs of this nation, with due deference to our superiors in church and state, and with unlimited good-will to all mankind, we here appear in the character of our profession to remember one of our own. Invested with the badges of our beloved fraternity, we humbly implore the blessing of Heaven upon all our zealous endeavors for the general good of society, and pray for a steady perseverance in the principles of piety and virtue. Brother Chaplain?
Chap: Our father, who art in Heaven, we come to thee at this time, when our hearts are heavy with sorrow and affliction, for that comfort and support which thou alone can give. We pray, our father, that thou wilt fill our hearts so full of thy great love that we may be reconciled to this parting from our friend and brother, and be able and willing, because he is with thee, to say, “It is well.” Amen.
Resp: So mote it be.
WM: Brother Secretary, read the scroll.
Sec: Reads the deceased brother’s masonic record.
WM: Brethren, the hour of dusk has passed and the sun has set. We are called once again by the inexorable mandate of the dread messenger, Death—against whose free entrance into the circle of our fraternity the barred doors and tyler’s sword offer no impediment—to mourn the loss of a friend and brother.
WM: Death is a solemn visitor, and fills our hearts with sadness. We are taught that he is a messenger sent by God to summon our loved ones from the troubled cares of this world to a life of peace and rest. We know that he has been sent to legions and, in fact, all who have gone before, and that he will soon call upon us to stand in the great light of Truth. Yet he is unwelcome—because irrevocable is the reality of the scythe of time as it cuts the brittle thread of life and launches us into eternity. The present occasion thus presents to our view a striking instance of the uncertainty of life, and demonstrates the vanity of all human pursuits.
WM: As the last offices of respect and love paid to the dead are useless forms except as they are lessons to the living, we ought to derive instruction from them. What lessons might these be?
WM or SW: Clearly, we ought more seriously to consider our own approaching fate. We go from design to design, and from hope to hope, and lay out plans for the enjoyment of many years—and react with alarm at the approach of our own demise. We are, more often than not, visited at a time unexpected and inconvenient, when we thought ourselves at the meridian of our existence, bearing our honors thick upon us. We ought therefore to consider every solemnity of this kind as a summons to prepare for our own approaching dissolution, to live each day to the fullest, to fill our hearts with love, our minds with wisdom, and our hands with charity.
WM or JW: Our connection to humanity we ought never to disregard. By Masonry we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family; the high, the low, the rich, the poor, who, as created by one Almighty Parent and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support and protect each other. He who lies before us, wrapped in the comfort of his unbroken slumber, was our brother. Side by side we traveled life’s rugged pathway; with our friend we rejoiced when fortune smiled and sympathized when she frowned.
WM: Each lesson, however, must be understood for the truth it teaches. The lifeless form in the narrow house before us is alike insensible to our sorrows and our ceremonies. It matters not to our brother now whether two or three gather ’round to conduct the funeral rite, or whether hundreds assemble with measured tread and somber draping to lay his body into its final resting place. It is of little moment how or in what manner his obsequies are performed, whether only the wild winds chant his requiem, or whether it be accompanied by the song of thousands, for he has gone to fulfill the destiny of our race. His [body | ashes] will return to the earth from whence [it | they] came, and in the solitude of the grave his dust will mingle with its kindred dust. Nevertheless, the lessons of death are not lessons of sadness, grief or mourning. Death is a milestone, not a teacher. What, therefore, might we learn from the life lesson of our dear friend and brother?
Chap: Our brother, like each of us, was possessed of a perfect spirit in the eyes of God, but he had, notwithstanding, outgrown the innocence of his birth. He knew, better than any other, that the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune had discolored and tarnished the spotless innocence and perfection in which he was born. Were he here today to bear witness of his life, our brother would not shirk from the fullest honesty and candor, neether about his successes nor his failures.
The Master may here make a suitable oration about the deceased,
and then call upon the family or others.
The call may be general or specific, as the family desires.
If the family has appointed a Speaker for the Dead,
that person will be called last and introduced thus:
“Let one who knew our brother well speak with his voice.”
WM: While we drop a sympathetic tear over the grave of our deceased friend, let the broad mantle of a Mason’s charity induce us likewise to throw a veil over his foibles and frustrations, whatever they may have been, and let us not withhold from his memory the praise his virtues would have claimed. Suffer the apologies of human nature to plead in his behalf. Perfection has never been attained, and the wisest as well as the best of men have erred. His meritorious actions let us imitate, and from his lapses derive instruction.
Chap: May our faith be made manifest by a correct moral walk and deportment. May our hope be as bright as the glorious mysteries that will be revealed hereafter, and may our charity be as boundless as the wants of humanity. Let us imitate the good man in his virtues, his unfeigned piety to God, his inflexible fidelity to his trust—and may we accept that death is but the messenger sent by the Great Master, to lead us from this imperfect to that all-perfect, glorious and Celestial Lodge above.
WM: And having faithfully discharged the duties we owe to God, to our neighbor, and to ourselves, when at last we shall be summoned into the presence of the Almighty, may the trestle-board of our whole lives pass such inspection as will give unto each of us to “eat of the hidden manna,” and to receive the “white stone with a new name writ thereon” that will evidence our own place in the Paradise hereafter.
The Master takes up the apron.
WM: The lambskin or white leather apron is an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason. It is more ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle, more honorable than the Star and Garter. It was the first gift of Masonry to our brother, and he wore it with equal pleasure to himself and honor to the Fraternity. This emblem I now deposit with the body of our deceased brother, to be laid with [it | his ashes] beneath the silent clods of the valley as a token of that purity of life and rectitude of conduct which he so long sought to attain and which are essentially necessary for him to gain admission into the Celestial Lodge above—and where we have no doubt but that he will be welcomed with eager and open arms.
Continuing, the Master takes up the evergreen.
WM: This evergreen, which once marked the temporary resting place of the most distinguished and beloved of men, is an emblem of man’s faith in the immortality of the soul. By it we are reminded of our high and glorious destiny beyond the “world of shadows,” and that there dwells within our tabernacle of clay an imperishable, immortal spirit over which the grave has no dominion and death no power.
WM: The Craft here assembled will form a procession and pay their respects.
The Master and each brother in turn approaches the casket and places a sprig of acacia therein or thereon, or some other nearby and suitable place.
The Master places the sprig of acacia
WM: To conclude, let us support with dignity the character of our profession on every occasion, give mind to the nature of our solemn engagements, and petition the Divine Grace to enable us to pursue with painstaking diligence the sacred tenets of our Order. This our brother tried to do, and this we should do likewise.
The ceremony is paused while those present repair to the grave.
SECTION FIVE (BURIAL SERVICE ONLY—AT THE GRAVE)
Chap: As it has pleased the great Creator to remove our worthy brother now deceased from the cares and troubles of a transitory existence to a state of eternal duration, and thereby to weaken the chain by which we ourselves are linked one to another, may this example of the uncertainty of human life remind us of our approaching fate, and may we who survive him be more strongly cemented with the ties of union and friendship, and so regulate our conduct here, by the sacred dictates of truth and wisdom, as to enjoy, in the latter period of our own lives, that serene tranquility of mind which ever flows from a clear and unsullied conscience, void of offence.
WM: Forasmuch as it has pleased Almighty God, in his wise providence, to take out of the world the soul of our deceased brother, A_____ B_____ C_______, we commit his mortal remains to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Each brother in turn approaches the casket and places a sprig of acacia thereon.
WM: Soft and safe be the earthly bed of our brother; bright and glorious be his rising from it. Fragrant be the acacia sprig which shall flourish there. May the earliest buds of spring unfold their beauties over his resting place and, in the bright morning of the world’s resurrection, may his soul spring into newness of life and expand into immortal beauty in realms beyond the skies. Until then, dear friend and brother, farewell.
The coffin, casket or urn is lowered.
Chap: Unto the grave we have resigned the [body | ashes] of our loving friend and brother, there to remain until the general resurrection, in favorable expectation that his immortal soul will then partake of those joys which have been prepared for the righteous from the beginning of time, and we earnestly pray Almighty God, of his infinite goodness, at the grand tribunal of unbiased justice, to extend mercy towards him and all of us, and to crown our felicity with everlasting peace in the expanded realms of a boundless eternity. This we beg, for the honor of his holy name, to whom be glory, now and forever. Amen.
Resp: So mote it be.
WM: To our brother’s immediate family and friends who are most heart-stricken at the loss we have all sustained, we can but say that we deeply, sincerely, and most affectionately sympathize with you in your bereavement. Until we can see more clearly than with the eye of faith, and better understand the great simplicity that is the mystery of life, we will know heartache and loss, a tear of affection and regret. But throughout the ages, a faith in immortality has sent a steady light of hope, shedding its gentle radiance over Man, awakening him to broader views and clearer visions, grounding a sturdy faith, an eternal hope, a perfect confidence that makes the vicissitudes of life but stepping stones to higher things. It banishes the shadows of grief and we thus look forward to a reunion that is everlasting.
WM: As the beautiful butterfly bursts forth from its cocoon to soar aloft in the sunshine, so our brother’s spirit has shuffled off its mortal coil. The working tools of life have fallen from his grasp. Having mastered his craft, his work here is done, his Temple is complete, and he has gone to receive his wages from the Master Builder. Dawn has come and the sun is rising. Let us therefore be done with mourning and rejoice in our brother’s behalf.
Chap: And now may the comfort of our Heavenly Father be and abide with all who are bereaved, and give to each of them—and to each of us—courage and strength to meet and perform life’s appointed part, and may the blessings of Heaven rest upon us and all mankind, may brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue unite and cement us. Amen.
Resp: So mote it be.
WM: Now depart, all of you, into your several lives and futures, but with peace, harmony, and love for one another. The lodge is closed.
Preston, William—Illustrations of Masonry, 2d ed., 1775.
Various compilers and authors—Masonic Funeral Services of the Grand Lodges of Ohio, Iowa and North Dakota.
VanSlyck, Louis, compiler—Masonic Funeral Service of Franklin County Memorial Lodge.
Dryfoos, Gary—Masonic Funeral Service, http://web.mit.edu/dryfoo/Masons/Misc/funeral-IL.pdf (accessed October 8, 2014).
Shakespeare, William—various works.
*No copyright is claimed on material in the public domain or the works of others.