Worthy of Being Worn
THE MASONIC APRON HAS AN ENDURING VALUE WITHIN OUR FRATERNAL CULTURE
By Patrick C. Craddock
Below is the article from the December/January 2016 issue of California Freemason. Read the full issue here.
The apron is the initial gift of Freemasonry to the candidate: The new Entered Apprentice is informed that it is the unique badge of a Mason, and that he must wear it at each tiled meeting. He is instructed to wear it as an emblem of innocence and honor, pure and unspotted before the world. These are simple instructions; however, they leave a lot to ponder. The initiate may not truly grasp the depth of the apron’s symbolic nature when he first receives it. As he advances, he will gain further instruction on wearing this apron as a Fellow Craft and Master Mason. The apron should remain the focal point of his self-examination and reflection, year after year, as he grows and matures in life and in Masonry.
An Ever-Present Reminder
The symbolic meaning of the apron is described to the initiate in very colorful language: It is “to be worn with pleasure to yourself and honor to the fraternity” without “stain of dishonorable word or deed upon its fair white surface,” and “to remind him of purity of mind and morals.”
He is told: “Let its pure and spotless surface be to you an ever-present reminder of purity of life and rectitude of conduct, a neverending argument for nobler deeds, for higher thoughts, for greater achievements.” A thoughtful brother will ponder what it means to dress with dignity and honor. He will reflect on his actions and will think of the apron as a reminder, and a standard, for his actions and deeds.
Many brothers, after growing within the craft, will find themselves wearing a different apron – one reflecting the responsibility of office. This apron may reflect a station in the lodge, or be festooned with a district or grand rank. Its original pure white surface may be obscured by elaborately embroidered bullion and gilt work. But although a brother may find himself wearing this beautifully embellished apron, most important still is the presence of the apron itself, regardless of its size, shape, or decoration. No matter how beautiful an apron may be, its appearance has no real connection with its Masonic significance.
The viewpoint of a reflective Mason is that the apron itself contains enough real and ancient symbolism; enough sanctity in its age; and enough mystery in its descent to make any assumed higher meaning unnecessary. One only need examine historic images of our earliest brethren to accept that the current standardized apron is a wholly modern design – a stylized interpretation of what to operative masons was a utilitarian garment. Although various grand jurisdictions are at odds on what is deemed “correct” when it comes to the shape and size of an apron, in the end that is far less important than what the apron teaches us.
A Mirror, A Beacon
It is often said that dress is the first impression of identity that one person conveys to another. For this same reason, the apron should be considered every time one enters the lodge. How many Masons have worn a borrowed apron pulled from a drawer or box in the lodge for a stated meeting? Perhaps this apron is tattered or has coffee stains on it. Likely it is in disrepair, since it has been discarded.
Some Masons may wear it without so much as a second thought, but it is unlikely that they can do so with pleasure to themselves and honor to the fraternity. Yet, it is not the lodge’s responsibility to provide a pristine apron, just as it is not the lodge’s responsibility to furnish suitable clothing for brothers in attendance.
The apron is the “badge of a Mason,” and the one piece of regalia in which brothers should take the most pride. It is, after all, the most identifiable way to express their commitment to Masonry. Donning an apron of exceptional quality and beauty brings meaning to lodge meetings.
An apron should be purchased by each Mason for his own use, so that he may develop a personal and intimate relationship with it. It may be heavily decorated (for aprons of rank or station) or a plain lambskin of elegant proportion, but it should never be made of cheap material or shoddily constructed. Brothers should wear this apron each time they attend lodge, with the pride that comes from the diligence they have demonstrated in attaining such a great privilege.
The apron is a mirror, reflecting how we, as Masons, conduct our daily lives. But it is more than that: It is a beacon that expresses our commitment to the craft. Regardless of size, shape, or ornamentation, this apron should always be an inspiration for nobler deeds, higher thoughts, and greater achievements.