The Lambskin Apron

In Masonic symbolism the Lambskin Apron holds precedence. It is the initial gift of Freemasonry to a candidate, and at the end of life's pilgrimage it is reverently placed on his mortal remains and buried with his body in the grave.   Above all other symbols, the Lambskin Apron is the distinguishing badge of a Mason. It is celebrated in poetry and prose and has been the subject of much fanciful speculation.    Some Masonic writers have contended that initiation is analogous to birth, or our advent from prenatal darkness into the light of human fellowship, moral truth and spiritual faith.   Much ancient lore has been adduced in an effort to show that the Lambskin Apron typifies regeneration, or a new life, and this thought of resurrection may be the cause of its internment with the body of a deceased brother.   At least it will serve until a better reason is advanced for this peculiar custom in the Masonic burial service.   The association of the lamb with redemption and being born again is expressed by John, the Apocalyptic Seer, who had a vision on the Isle of Patmos, and beheld the purified and redeemed  "of all nations, and kindreds, and people and tongues,"  Of them it was said, "These are they which came out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

By many it has been regarded as a great religious symbol. In our present conception there are three parts of man, body, soul and spirit; what the body is to the soul, the soul is to the spirit, namely , a house or habitation, but in oriental thought there were seven parts of man, four earthly and three heavenly, four physical and three spiritual.   The four sides of the square symbolized the four physical and the three sides of the flap, or triangle, symbolized the three spiritual parts of man. the apex of the triangle or point of the flap stood for the seventh part of man which was called Atma and which means the eternal spark, the divine flame, the indestructible spirit of the living God in every human being.   In this aspect it means that God is not a looker on at the life of anyone; God is under every man, God is part of every man.

A badge is either good or bad by reason of that for which it stands. aside from mysticism, It is  believed,  there are five distinct things of which the Lambskin Apron is a badge.    Firstly,  in its use,  it is a badge of service.   In his  book on "Symbolical Masonry," Brother H. L. Haywood had an interesting chapter on "The Apron wherein the Builder builds," and says it "was so conspicuous a portion of the costume of the Operative Mason that it became associated with him in the public mind and thus gradually evolved into his badge." By it Speculative Freemasonry seeks to distinguish the builder and place upon the brow of labor the laurel wreath of dignity and honor.

Secondly, made of Lambskin, it is in its fabric,   a badge of sacrifice.   The Lamb in all ages has been not only an emblem of innocence, but also a symbol of sacrifice, and he who wears this Apron with understanding must be prepared for the time when hard things are to be done when trials are to be endured, and fortitude glorified.   Thirdly, in its color it is a badge of purity.   White is the clean color that reflects most light.

The third is the rite of investiture or purification; that is, the presentation of the Apron.   In a qualified way it bears the relationship to the lodge that baptism does to some churches.   It is the external symbol of an inner purification.   The Psalmist asked:  "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?"   and answering his own question said,  "He that hath clean hands and a pure heart."   The Apron when correctly understood is the pledge of a clean life.   The testimony that a candidate means to live pure, speak true, right wrong, and reverence conscience as king.   When we turn to the Ritual for its interpretation, we find the Apron to be an inheritance from the past, and so, in the fourth place, it is a badge of antiquity, "more ancient than the Golden Fleece and Roman Eagle." A ministerial brother once said that the Masonic Ritual was couched in stilted phrases and extravagant language, and as an illustration referred to the ritualistic speech used in the presentation of the Apron.   The most specific way of conveying thought and expressing truth is by comparison.  It is difficult to comprehend an idea unless we can correlate and compare it with something already known. The Order of the Golden Fleece here referred to was founded in the year 1492 by Philip, Duke of Burgundy.   The Roman Eagle became Rome's Ensign of imperial power about one century before the Christian era.   While the Apron has come down to us from the very sunrise of time. "Hebrew Prophets often wore Aprons."   They were used in the ancient mysteries of  India and Egypt. They were used by early Chinese secret societies.   By the Jewish religious sect called Essenes.    They were employed as emblems by the Incas of Peru.    The Aztecs of Mexico, and the prehistoric races of the American continent.

As a badge of antiquity the Apron exalts the greatness and glory of the past in its present contribution to human good and happiness.   The Apron is a badge of honor.   It is declared to be "More honorable than the Star and Garter." Here we have another comparison.   The Order of the Star was created by John II of France at the beginning of his reign in the middle of the 14th Century.  It was a royal plaything and at the time of its formation its founder was engaged in acts of despotism and destruction.    The Order of the Garter was formed by Edward III of England in 1349.   It was composed of the King and twenty-five Knights and originated in the false pride and fantastic pomp of Medieval manners.   Edward A. Freeman, an English historian, says: "The spirit of knighthood is above all things a class spirit.   The good knight is bound to endless courtesies toward men and women of a certain rank; he may treat all below that rank with any degree of scorn and cruelty." "Chivalry is in morals what feudalism is in law.  Each substitutes personal obligations devised in the interest of an exclusive class, for the more homely duties of an honest man and a good citizen."    Freemasonry is in striking contrast to such conceptions.   It stands for  dissipation of discord and dissension, for the promotion of peace, the pursuit of knowledge and practice of brotherhood.   For untrammeled conscience, equality of opportunity and the divine right of liberty in man, for devotion to duty, the building of character and rectitude of life and conduct.   Its symbolical supports are wisdom,   strength and beauty;  the principal rounds of its theological ladder of faith, hope, and charity.   Its primary tenets are brotherly love, relief and truth; its cardinal virtues are fortitude,  temperance,  prudence and justice.   Its temple is erected to the Master Builder,  its Great Light is the Word of Revelation and at its center is an Altar of high and holy purpose. Like the shadow of a rock in a weary land,  like a shining light in the window of a home,  is the spirit of Freemasonry.   Calling man from the circumference of life,  to find the Supreme Being,  at the very center of the soul of the individual.

When we consider the messages delivered by these Orders and the Lambskin Apron - one speaking the language of class distinction, special privilege and the divine right of kings; the other telling the story of exact justice, equality of opportunity, and the brotherhood of man - it is not a stilted phrase and an exaggeration of speech to say that the badge of a Mason is more honorable than the Star and Garter.    As a badge of honor,  the Lambskin Apron spells out   honesty of purpose, integrity,  uprightness of character, and soundness of moral principle.