The Royal Arch is the continuation of Craft Freemasonry. Its members, called Companions, meet in Chapters under the jurisdiction of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of the State of Missouri, and they in turn under the voluntary jurisdiction of the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, International, thus constituting the largest Masonic body in the world.The Chapter confers four degrees (Capitular Degrees), giving a complete story of Masonic symbolism, in the following order:
This is the first of the four degrees in the Chapter, and in it, the candidate is still symbolically laboring on an unfinished temple, he is taught the nobility of labor and that in the erection of his moral and spiritual temple he must determine and prepare the materials of which that temple is to be constructed and to have due care in so doing the work which he shall present, bearing his mark, shall be such as to designate him as one worthy of admission to “that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
Originally the Royal Arch Degree could not be conferred upon a brother who had not previously presided over a lodge. Eventually it was conferred upon all candidates for the Royal Arch Degree. It teaches that he who would rule others must first learn to rule himself.
MOST EXCELLENT MASTER
This Degree recites the events surrounding the completion and dedication of King Solomon’s Temple. Here the Mason sees for the first time completed the construction of the Temple on which he has symbolically labored in all previous degrees. Symbolically it represents the building of life and character and the reward which comes to him who faithfully performs his task.
Except the Master Mason Degree, no Masonic Degree is more important in its historical and symbolic significance than this. In some form it appears in every Rite, but only here does its history, its symbolism, its lessons show so vividly its connection with the Master Mason Degree and the fact that it is, indeed, the final chapter of that essential degree of Freemasonry. It brings to light that for which the Mason has searched. Its lessons are the essence of Masonic truth. Its ceremonies for the most part are founded upon the return of the Israelites from captivity to rebuild a destroyed temple, and the discoveries there made.All Masonry is a search for a higher or nobler way of life. It is a search, for something that has been described as perfection.
The WORD symbolizes that perfection, for the Biblical reference to the Word, is that it “was God” and to attain or discover THE WORD was to attain perfection. THE WORD has therefore been symbolized in Ancient Craft Masonry. At one place it is lost. But in the ROYAL ARCH degree and only there is the LOST WORD found. It is therefore said that only those who have attained the ROYAL ARCH degree have completed their Masonic work.