There was tension in the Lodge that night. A proposal to change the By-Laws explained the much higher than normal attendance. A Past Master of more than twenty years, who few of the current officers had ever seen, rose. He represented an unknown quantity; both factions – pro and con - were tense. With measured politeness the elderly Past Master requested the Worshipful Master’s permission to speak. What a deep, golden voice! A voice that commanded respect and full attention. Even though this was the only time I ever heard this man speak, the rich tones are still full in my memory.
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”
This wise Mason, after a long absence from his Lodge, had once more served the principles of Masonry well. The outcome of the vote was set into its proper perspective. Harmony, unity, brotherhood prevailed. Psalm 133 is the first of many quotations from the Holy Bible which the new Mason hears. The recitation of this scripture lesson accompanies each candidate as he begins his Masonic journey. For the vast majority of Masons, only the first words of this Psalm are memorable. There is little written to help the Mason increase his understanding of this short psalm.
This psalm is identified with David, King of Israel and father of King Solomon. The opening verse brings the theme of the psalm to the front. While it is natural for us to
attribute “brethren” to signify the universal bond of like-thinking men, some scholars take a more limited view. This discussion is based on the psalmist’s praise of this ideal description of the family. The family is very important to the writers of the Old Testament and it provides many guidelines for the proper regulation of family affairs. It has also been suggested that the psalm was penned for the instruction of David’s “many sons by many wives.”
It is common for us to consider the biblical passages on two or more levels. Writings can be viewed from the concentric circles of the individual, family, tribe (or nation) and world. While it is “good and pleasant” for biological brothers to “dwell together in unity” this does not eliminate additional meanings.
After a long period of independent tribal activities, Israel was undergoing a redevelopment of its national spirit. Likewise today we recognize the satisfaction which is felt when people are bound by unity of spirit and purpose.
The remainder of the psalm paints two word pictures which describe this Brotherly Love. First is the anointing oil which is poured on the head. The fragrance of the strongly perfumed oil would fill the air as the oil slowly drips down from the head to the long beard. Aaron’s beard was not to be cut (Leviticus 21:5) so that it reached the collar (skirt) of his robes. In a manner similar to the burning of incense, the fragrance of the oil spreads out and fills a room with its perfume. In just a way, the spirit of brotherhood permeates a group of people.
One of the pleasures of Masonic membership is the privilege of visitation. Without regard for region, formality, size or ritualistic proficiency, the “fragrance” of unity of the local Brethren is unmistakable. The most vivid examples of this indescribable, yet inescapable, spirit of unity are from Lodges whose acts of charity and friendship demonstrate their adherence to the highest principles of our Order.
Mount Hermon is the highest mountain in Israel and was apparently famous for its heavy dew. This dew and the dew on the mountains of Zion were critical sources of water. The nightly deposits of dew were essential. In a like manner, without unity, brothers become mere acquaintances and purpose becomes a pipe dream.
The analogy of the dew can be extended further. Dew, rain and rivers all are sources of water. The water of the river can be controlled by man. Armies seek control of rivers. They provide obstacles which provide strength to the defence, and their valleys are often the major areas of commerce and production. With the proper selection of a river site, fortunes have been made, battles won, and destinies altered. The river water represents wisdom.
Rain is a fickle resource. The twin excesses of drought and flood have produced the greatest natural disasters in human history. Rain plays important roles in the global cycles of water and energy which are so enormous that they defy complete appreciation. Rain defines the fertile valley and the “dust bowl.” The rainfall fills the rivers, providing us with fresh water and a cooling relief from the hot summer winds. The clouds, we have discovered, play an important role in the climate of the earth. The tremendous energy of the hurricane is stored in the warmth of the water caught up in its furious clouds. The most forbidding terrain on earth, deserts are created when
rainfall is absent. The rain water represents strength. A preschooler recognizes the special nature of the morning dew. Poets’ imaginations have been captured by the wonder which the dew bestows upon the morning. Compared with the rivers and rain, the dew seems to be on more of a human scale; touchable, within reach, if not within understanding. Dew is local. The rain falls from high above and the river has its source miles upstream. The dew which greets you as you step across the front lawn is a small scale phenomenon. The dew represents beauty.
The psalm closes with the blessing of God on those who live in the spirit of unity. When we read of the supreme blessing of “life forever more” which is commanded for those who dwell in Brotherly Love, we are reminded that the God of the Old Testament is a God of Love. Many writers have questioned if Freemasonry will continue to thrive. The twentieth century has brought us many changes. Inventions and innovations have quickened the pace of life and place our most honoured principles in jeopardy. Psalm 133 gives us an assurance that the bands of our fraternal Brotherhood, being second only to those of blood, are pleasing to our heavenly Father who guided His poet to write “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
Article was sourced from The Philalethes – February 1990 – by Wayne Sirmon.
Reproduced by kind Permission of SRA No 76 Monthly Magazine