by Jason E. Marshall
The masonic apron is first presented to the New Entered Apprentice following his obligation. The symbol of the apron is a powerful symbol that embodies the work that begins as an Entered Apprentice, and lasts until the apron is placed on each brother’s mortal remains. While the apron is present in all masonic degrees, it plays important foundational and symbolic roles in the work of an Entered Apprentice.
To begin, the Masonic apron is the universal badge of a Mason, which sets Masons apart from the world at large. The apron should be an ever-present reminder to each of us to live and act according to the ideals of our fraternity. It is important to remember that each of us represents the fraternity in our daily lives, and the bad acts of one member not only stain his personal apron, but they can stain the fraternity as a whole. For the Entered Apprentice it is especially important for them to temper their zeal for the fraternity, and not excitedly misrepresent the fraternity that they just entered into, and have yet to obtain the basic knowledge and proficiency’s required for full membership.
The Masonic apron is also a symbol of labor, and as the candidate is informed, ancient stonemasons wore aprons during their various labors. Although the phrase “laboring among us” could be construed to mean physical labor; since Masonry is designed to be an initiatic organization, the labor eluded to most likely means spiritual and intellectual labor. After all, the ancient mystery schools that were the precursors of modern Freemasonry required much more of their initiates than learning a relatively simple catechism. Therefore, the apron should remind us to earnestly endeavor to labor in the quarries of knowledge, and spiritual development, and to apply the fruits of our labor in our daily lives, to not only better ourselves, but the world around us.
The Masonic apron’s material is traditionally made of lambskin. The lamb has long been held as an emblem of purity and of sacrifice, which is why a spotless apron should represent a life well lived. Also, the lamb has long been associated with rebirth and resurrection, hence why Jesus Christ is often called the Lamb of God. In the biblical book of Revelation, St. John also associated the symbol of the lamb with purity and rebirth, “Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’.” (Revelation 13-14)
Finally, the Entered Apprentice is instructed to wear his apron with the triangular flap pointing up. One obvious reason for having the Entered Apprentice wear his apron in this peculiar fashion is to serve as a reminder to other members that the member is not a Master Mason, and to refrain from discussing higher degrees with him. However, the upward facing triangle has several possible symbolic meanings. First, the upward facing triangle has long been used as a symbol for Deity, and an upward triangle traditionally represents man’s yearning for gnosis. Also, an upward facing triangle is an ancient alchemical symbol for fire, which makes sense since this degree can be viewed as representing the alchemical process of calcination, which requires fire or heat.
In conclusion, the Entered Apprentice degree should be taken seriously, and not looked at merely as a stepping-stone to higher degrees and Masonic honors. The Entered Apprentice is the foundation of the Masonic system, and sets the stage for future Masonic work. In the end, the Entered Apprentice degree is about the candidates entrance into the fraternity, and hopefully the beginning of a spiritual journey which will last until the apron which he was presented at the end of the Entered Apprentice degree is laid to rest with his mortal body.
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