Who are the Holy Saints John?
I would like to share with you an intriguing subject that delves into the enigmatic realm of Freemasonry—the connection to the revered “Holy Saints John.” Freemasonry holds within its rituals a fascinating mystery surrounding these saints.
In the ceremonial lecture of the Entered Apprentice degree, candidates are informed that Masonic lodges pay homage to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, who are regarded as the patron saints of Freemasonry. This tradition continues to be honored by Masons around the globe, with their feast days becoming important milestones on the Masonic calendar. St. John the Baptist’s feast day falls on June 24, during the warmth of summer, while St. John the Evangelist’s feast day is celebrated on December 27, amidst the winter season.
To unravel the origins of this connection, we must embark on a historical journey through the annals of time. During the medieval era in England and Scotland, numerous societies and guilds dedicated themselves to specific saints. These groups held a profound reverence for their patron saint, believing that the saint would provide them with special protection and favor. Hence, it is not surprising that Freemasonry, rooted in that historical context, would adopt a patron saint. It is important to note, however, that Freemasonry is not a religious institution and has always welcomed members of diverse faiths.
The two saints associated with Freemasonry are John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. John the Baptist, known as the “forerunner” of Jesus, and John the Evangelist, the apostle who authored the Gospel of John, have been recognized as the patron saints of Freemasonry. The precise circumstances and timing of this association remain shrouded in mystery.
While Freemasonry embraces individuals from various religious backgrounds, its inception took place in a predominantly Christian environment. Consequently, Christian symbols and iconography, including the connection to the two Saint Johns, permeate the realm of Freemasonry.
From a Masonic standpoint, the pairing of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist embodies a harmonious duality. John the Baptist epitomizes passionate zeal, while John the Evangelist embodies knowledge and faith. Together, they represent a well-balanced path towards enlightenment. Furthermore, their feast days, aligned with the solstices, symbolically underscore the contrasting aspects of these two figures and pay homage to Freemason’s zeal for geometry and astrology.
Masonic scholars speculate that the association between the saints and Freemasonry may have originated from the practice of new Masons taking their oaths on a Bible opened to the first chapter of the Gospel of John. This connection between the “Mason Word,” a significant secret bestowed upon newly initiated Masons, and the opening verse of the Gospel of St. John—”In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”—establishes a symbolic link.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, Freemasons were occasionally referred to as “St. John’s Masons.” This terminology likely stems from the importance attached to the Gospel of St. John and the symbolic connection between the “Mason Word” and the “Word” mentioned in the gospel’s opening verse. The reference to St. John the Baptist as the secondary patron saint of Freemasonry likely emerged later, although the precise origins of this tradition remain uncertain.
On June 24, 1717, a momentous event unfolded—the establishment of the first official Grand Lodge of Freemasons in London, England, known as the Premier Grand Lodge of England. This historic day, commemorated as the Feast of Saint John’s Day, holds profound significance within Freemasonry. It serves as a time of renewal, fortification of fraternal bonds, and celebration of the ancient traditions of Masonry. The Festival of St. John serves as a bridge connecting Freemasons to their rich history, linking the past with the present and future.
The bond between Freemasonry and the “Holy Saints John” remains an enthralling mystery. While the exact origins and rationale for this connection elude us, the presence of Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist as patron saints reflects the historical context of Christianity and the profound symbolism they embody within the Masonic tradition. The harmonious duality they represent, alongside their feast days aligned with the solstices, imbues Freemasonry with layers of meaning and wisdom.
As we explore the intriguing mysteries and time-honored traditions of Freemasonry, let us remember the enduring legacy of the “Holy Saints John.” Their influence and symbolism continue to resonate within the Masonic fraternity, serving as a reminder of the pursuit of knowledge, the significance of passion and faith, and the timeless connection among Freemasons throughout the ages.