The banquet of the Order of St. John of Winter

VW Fabien Roget PDDGM

According to custom, around December 21 of each year, the order of business includes the celebration of the feast of St. John the Evangelist, the one who bore witness to the Truth, the disciple of the Master who was chosen to transmit the Gospel of Love to men.
Therefore, at the end of the year, about 70 Brothers from the Temples in Baden-Baden, Lahr and elsewhere, including the Respectable Lodge “Badenia zum Fortschritt” (AFuAMvD), which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year, and all the Brothers of District 5, met with joy to carry out the Winter Order Banquet in German and French.
The banquet is one of the oldest Masonic traditions! To be convinced of this, let’s remember the place where our first Masonic Brothers met “Goose and Gridiron” and let’s reread Anderson’s Constitutions of 1773, which prescribe this privileged moment.

The banquet of the Order of St. John in winter reminds us that the light appears to the Apprentice, illuminates the Companion and illuminates the Master. Together, the Brothers have the duty to work to make visible the Stars within them, like the one that shines eternally and symbolically in the East and like those of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty that illuminate the work in the lodge.
In England, the United States and Europe, the Masonic banquet has acquired such importance over time that it has become the almost exclusive raison d’être of the Order itself.
Masonry, which has perpetuated the use of agape, has introduced symbolic forms in harmony with the changes of the Masonic rite. Today, the banquets in use in the masonry are subjected to rituals which vary according to the ranks and the rites.

The Order Banquet is an obligatory dress that is also called Table Lodge, Ritual Banquet, Ritual Agape, Solstitial Banquet, Table Work, or Ritual Meal of St. John of Winter.
The ritual used must make people aware of the Darkness and invite the Masons to build their lives to become Sons of Light and thus follow the steps of Saint John the Evangelist.
To seek without slackening and without truce, such is the destiny assumed by the Mason. Indeed, each one needs to find Wisdom to guide his steps because intolerance, vanity, interest, egoism and cowardice are so many traps and strong temptations which lie in wait for us in the darkness.
Nowadays, the banquets of order have evolved towards a more initiatory context centered on the sharing of food and the spirit of the ancient Agapes. We must therefore take care to bring to them all the serenity required in such circumstances, avoiding any slackening or abuse that would make them lose their initiatory meaning.
Here are the table manners common to many rites.
The principle of fraternity that governs the Masonic Order requires that banquets are held at the rank of apprentice, so that all Masons can be admitted. At the rank of apprentice, the banquet has only one table, arranged in horseshoe. The brothers are seated in the outer perimeter of the horseshoe. When the brothers are numerous and the size of the Temple makes it a law, the interior is filled.
The seats are distributed as in a lodge. The Worshipful occupies the outer middle of the table, at the two ends are placed the first and second Warden. The Worshipful conducts the work. The Warden’s and the master of ceremonies receive his orders and pass them on to the guests. The santés are commanded and ordered by the Worshipful, who may, however, delegate the command of arms in the santés to some of the officers, and even to simple apprentices.
The Three Great Lights are placed in front of the Worshipful Master preferably on a small table forming an altar, arranged as in an Apprentice Lodge, with the Volume of the Sacred Law open on the altar.
The officers wear the saltire of their office and neither apron nor gloves are worn.
Depending on the ritual used, a Masonic Candlestick with 3 branches is placed in front of the Worshipful Master, a Masonic Candlestick with 1 branch in front of the Senior Warden and a Masonic Candlestick with 1 branch in front of the Junior Warden.
On the table, the dishes, glasses, knives, etc., must be arranged in parallel lines. In some lodges, we put colored cords on the tablecloth to better observe the alignments.
The table utensils have symbolic names that vary with the degrees and rites. Here is the most generally adopted nomenclature:
The table is called Platform; the tablecloth, Veil; the napkin, Flag; the dish, Tray; the plate, Tile; the spoon, Trowel; the fork, Pickaxe; the knife, Glaive; the bottle or decanter, Barrel; the glass, Cannon; the lights, Stars; the flies, Claws; the chairs, Stalls;
Dishes in general, Materials; bread, Crude stone; wine, Strong powder, red or white; water, Weak powder; cider or beer, yellow powder; liquors, Fiery powder; salt, Sand; pepper, yellow cement or sand.
To eat is to chew; to drink is to shoot a cannon; to cut is to roughen.
There are seven regulatory health areas.
We begin with the health dedicated to the Rulers and Heads of State protectors of Freemasonry, which is followed by the following healths: that of the Grand Lodges, their Most Worshipful Grand Master and their Grand Dignitary Officers, that of the Worshipful of the lodge, that of the two Wardens, that of visitors, that of the officers of the lodge: we join those of new initiates or members, when there are any, and finally, that of all Masons spread over the surface of the globe. Between the sixth and seventh, we interpose all the health that we deem appropriate to add.
The number of seven, fixed for the Masonic toasts, has a symbolic reason. It recalls the seven libations that the Persian, Egyptian and Greek initiates made in honor of the seven planets whose names are used for the days of the week. The first libation was offered to the Sun, torch of the world, which symbolizes the head of the State. The second was offered to the Moon, star of the nights and mysteries, which has as its correspondent in the order the Grand Master. The third was dedicated to Mars, who also presided over councils and battles, and who represents the venerable. The fourth was that of Mercury (Anubis among the Egyptians), the personification of supervision. The fifth was offered to Jupiter, God of hospitality; it is dedicated to visitors. The sixth was that of Venus, goddess of generation; it is that of the new initiates, recently generated in the order. Finally, the seventh libation was offered to Saturn, god of time, image of the immensity and of all the masons.

The following is a list of the health care services available:

1° The Worshipful one orders to load the cannons (fill the glasses) and to align everything.
2° It warns that one will carry the health standing or sitting.
3° When everything is arranged, a blow of mallet makes all the brothers rise, who put the flag (the towel) on the left forearm; the Brothers Grand Officers of Grand Lodge put it on the shoulder; one holds the sword (the knife) of the left hand, and one is in order of the right hand.
4° The Worshipful one announces the health that one is going to draw.
5° He commands the exercise as follows: Right hand to arms! – Raise your arms! – Take aim! – Fire! (We drink in three beats; this is the first) – Good fire! (Second beat) – The brightest of all fires! (Third time) – The weapon at rest – Forward the weapons! – Let’s signal our weapons! – One, two, three! (Three times). At these words, all the brothers describe by three times, with the glass, a triangle or a square, whose base is on the chest and the top in front.
Then one puts back the weapons and at the command of: One, two, three! the glass is gradually lowered, and at the word three, it is placed on the table together, so that only one shot is heard. Then, one makes with the hands: the sign, the battery of acclamation and the Vivat.
The Worshipful one then suspends the work of table, and one resumes the occupations of the banquet. It is customary to put the workshop in recreation during the interval of the santés and to leave the brothers free to speak; but at the first blow of the gavel, all must be as silent as possible, take their place at the table and pay attention to what is going to be said or ordered.
It is customary to sing symbolic hymns at Masonic banquets. The most famous of these hymns is the Song of Union, which crowns the symbolic agape in England. A Chain of Union and a fraternal kiss close the ceremony.
Our love is that of the Brotherhood, pure love. The banquets of order are thus the moment of the sharing of the food, the body, the heart and the spirit. And this moment is always practiced with great pleasure!

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