Most Illustrious Grand Master
On behalf of the 16 Maryland Councils and their approximately 1100 members, I welcome you to the website of the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of Maryland. If you are already a Select Master, you will find here dates and other information about the events going on in the Grand Council. If you are not a member, read on, and perhaps you will find something to pique your interest.
The Council is the third step in the York Rite, following the Lodge and the Chapter. The two main degrees give the backstory for the Royal Arch degree. Without knowing the events described in them, a Royal Arch Companion is left wondering how the wonderful discoveries that occur in that degree could possibly happen. Originally, these degrees were conferred in Chapters. Separate Councils were established in the 19th century, at least in most jurisdictions. In Virginia and West Virginia, all six degrees are still the responsibility of the Grand Chapter.
The Grand Council has control of four degrees. The Royal Master and the Select Master are conferred at regular Council meetings and are the two degrees mentioned above. One special aspect of the Royal Master degree is that it is probably the only one in Masonry where the candidate gets to talk to Hiram Abif. The final part of this interaction called the Soliloquy in Maryland (and going by other names in some other jurisdictions), is among the finest pieces of Masonic ritual.
The Super Excellent Master degree is an optional third degree. It tells the story of the destruction of King Solomon’s Temple and the sacking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, events mentioned only briefly in the Royal Arch degree. The version done in Maryland is something of a production. If each part were done by a different person, a cast of 60-75 people would be needed. For this reason, it is not done very often. In recent years our Brethren of the Scottish Rite have been generous in permitting us to use their Temple and equipment to put on this degree.
The final degree is the Thrice Illustrious Master degree. This is a “chair” degree, conferred by the Grand Council of Maryland. It is required before a Companion can be installed as Thrice Illustrious Master (presiding officer) of his Council. It tells the story of the transition of power from King David to his son Solomon. I personally consider it the best of the three York Rite chair degrees, because it specifically describes the qualities need to preside over a body. This degree goes by other names in other jurisdictions, most commonly the Order of the Silver Trowel.
The Council degrees, combined with those in the Chapter, round out and complete the story one begins in the Blue Lodge. For the Brother looking to get involved in the ritualistic or governing aspects of Masonry, the Council is a good place to start. The degrees are relatively short, and the duties of the presiding officer are no more burdensome than in the Chapter, and normally easier than they are in the Lodge. Please consider joining us.
Most Illustrious Grand Master