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SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST
by
Noel M. Smith, P.G., O.P.C.

The Grand Lodge of Texas identifies two feast days. The first is June 24, Saint John the Baptist Day. The second is December 27, Saint John the Divine Day.. No Stated Meetings shall be held on these days. Called Meetings may be held on June 24 for the installation of officers, and on either of such days to confer degrees or conduct funerals. No other business shall be attended to on either of such days. Should a Stated Meeting fall on either of such days it shall be held on the next following day, which is not Sunday. This paper provides light on John the Baptist.

Why the name “John the Baptist?” It cannot be said with authority how the use of baptism first began. It is known that the worship of pagan gods involved ceremonial baths. Jews took a ritual bath to cleanse themselves of im-purities caused by a variety of defilements such as contact with a corpse, menstruation, childbirth, and noctur-nal emissions. In addition, brides took a ritual bath before the wedding, and men were required to be purified before taking part in religious services. The Essenes, a Jewish sect at Qumran near Jerusalem during the time of John, took pu-rifying baths every day. There was also a ritualistic baptism that formally initiated converts into the Jewish faith.

John was the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah was a Jewish priest. Elizabeth was the daughter of Aaron, who was also a priest. Accordingly, John had seen and practiced ritualistic bathing throughout his youth. It seems easy to understand why John adopted baptism as a means of initiating or otherwise cleansing Christian converts.

John baptized Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22). Here are the words recorded by Luke. “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as He was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in the bodily form of a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.

John was the forerunner of Jesus. In Isaiah we read, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.” Mark tells us that John the Baptist fulfilled the oracle of Malachi 3:1, “See I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.” Then in Luke 1: 11-23, we find the angle Gabriel appearing before Zechariah telling why he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son. Luke 1:76 describes the mission of John the Baptist with these words, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him.” Thus we have the words showing that God chose John the Baptist to announce the coming of Christ.

It is therefore clear why Freemasonry has chosen John the Baptist as one of its patron saints. First it teaches us to use the Holy Bible as our great light, adhering to its teachings. Second we learn that newly raised brethren gain much more when we direct their feet over the diverse pathways of the craft, sharing fully with them the wisdom and understanding that are ours. Our mission is to go forth and prepare our descendants for the present and the future. That is our legacy.

Noel M. Smith, 2000

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