With great anticipation I write you this letter as I have much to report and exciting things to announce. First I would like to start out by thanking Ypsilanti Commandery No. 54, for working with us, and making this year’s joint inspection possible, and in my opinion a great success. In addition I would like to thank Sir Knight Paul Roggow, Eminent Grand Generalissimo, and Sir Knight Don Trumbull, Eminent Grand Senior Warden for serving as our inspecting officers for Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti respectively and all Sir Knights present who came to support us in our endeavors including our Right Eminent Grand Commander, Sir Knight Courtland Rule. I had a lot of fun this year, and am already looking forward to next year’s inspection.
This year we had the honor of knighting Sir Knight Michael Peirce into Ypsilanti Commandery No. 54 during our inspection and it is my belief that will serve his commandery well and his zeal and enthusiasm will be as asset to the order at large.
In addition to the usual festivities that come with inspection, Sir Knight Gary Leach, Eminent Commander of Ypsilanti Commandery, and I were shocked to each be presented with the Grand Commander’s Service Award by our Grand Commander during our inspection luncheon. I think I can speak for both Sir Knight Gary and I when I say that we are humbled to receive such an honor and will proudly wear the award on our uniforms as we continue to serve this illustrious order.
But just because our inspection has passed doesn’t mean you can put your sword away because we have candidates in waiting, and work is coming up soon, very soon. Detroit Commandery No. 1 has agreed to host the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, on Monday October 15th at 7pm, and the Order of Malta on Tuesday the 23rd, both at the Detroit Masonic Temple and both in full form. In addition it has been offered to put on a special knighting at the Detroit Masonic Temple specifically for our candidates at a future date using an Order Team that will be made up primarily of our members. We will have candidates at both the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross and Order of Malta dates set, and will have to plan for the Order of the Temple in the future, but as the date for the Red Cross conflicts with our stated conclave it has been decided between I, and our Thrice Illustrious Master & High Priest that we cancel our stated conclave for October and resume in November. In addition to this letter we will be sending out notices of this cancelation via e-mail and it will be posted on the web. Also take note that this month there is a Southeastern Battalion meeting on the 29th at 6:30pm in Samaria, and we’d love to see as many of our Sir Knights possible there.
It is my custom in these letters to include a piece of education, and in this one I will be answering a specific question, “What the heck do the shoulder boards mean?” One could easily write a book about commandery uniforming and I very well may address other aspects in the future but I’ve been asked this specific question a few times recently, and thought I might as well answer it.
The Commandery Uniform can be easily described as a military dress uniform. It has some features that are common amongst all military uniforms, some that are unique to it alone and others that by design specifically duplicate the features of other military uniforms. The shoulder boards or shoulder straps are among of those features. Their basic design comes from the US Army Dress Blue uniform, and they serve the same purpose, to signify rank. All dais officers within a Commandery wear shoulder boards as well as all officers of the Grand Commandery and Grand Encampment. The background of a constituent commandery’s shoulder board is green in color, and the insignia on it is the same as their jewel of office. The green represents as we have learned through our various travels through Masonry, the immortality of the soul, a most basic and fundamental belief that all Knights Templar must adhere to. In addition it can represent the green pastures of creation of which the LORD we trust will guide is through and allow us to safely lie upon, and as it is color of the first shoulder board any officer receives the honor of wearing it also represents new growth, as these men will be the future of the Commandery.
The Eminent Commander’s insignia is the Latin, or Passion Cross emanating rays of light. The cross itself, as one might expect represents the crucifixion of our Blessed Emanuel whose sacrifice allowed us the gift of eternal bliss with our Father in Heaven, but in addition, the rays of light remind us that humility, love and pure benevolence should always be found emanating from our belief in that great gift. While we may have been saved through faith, without works that faith is clearly dead. The further allusion of a cross placed on the shoulders of a Sir Knight is to that of Simon of Cyrene who was compelled to bear our Savior’s cross as well as the cross we must all bear so we can in time wear the crown.
After you serve your term as Eminent Commander and see your replacement is duly installed you have reached the status of Past Commander and wear a similar shoulder board to the one you wore while commander, except in this case the background is red which as we have been previously taught in our journeys through Masonry represents the fervency and zeal which a leader must espouse to assure success, and represents our acceptance of the precious blood of the Lamb of God, which was slain for our benefit. This shoulder board continues to be worn even if you cycle back through the line. Once you become a Past Commander you never go back to an officer’s green shoulder board. It also serves to represent a Past Commander’s connection with the Grand Commandery which also wears Red shoulder boards as a Past Commander is obligated to continually support his Grand Commandery long after his term as Eminent Commander is over.
The Generalissimo’s insignia is the Square surmounted by the Paschal Lamb, a representation of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for us. Masonic tradition tells us the Square is a symbol of leadership and a guide for our actions. The Paschal Lamb’s place upon it is to remind us that Christ is our eternal leader and it is by his teachings that we should square our actions.
The Captain General’s insignia is that of a level surmounted by a rooster. As with the square we are informed of its meaning by Masonic tradition but the rooster itself has three unique places in Christian symbolism. He marks time as to give order to man, crowing in the morning and at night, he has also served to announce transgressions such as in Peter’s denial of Christ but most notably he is a relentless fighter, always zealous and always to conquer or be conquered however the LORD may will. As so should the Captain General give order to the commandery, keep them mindful of their transgressions have zeal for his duties.
The Excellent Prelate’s insignia is called the Triple Triangle, and is considered to be a beautiful emblem of the LORD. It consists of three triangles, each with a Latin Cross resting inside. This is to represent the three aspects of deity, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, as well as the three figures of the Godhead, The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. In addition, the three triangles positioned as they are make a shape with 9 sides referencing the ninth hour in which Jesus Christ expired, the nine times he presented himself to the apostles after his resurrection, and the nine fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, truthfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Given the office of Prelate is often held by a Past Commander this set of shoulder boards is rarely seen, but on rare occasions folks like myself have the honor of wearing them for a time
Just as a Past Commander, and for the same symbolic reasons, members of the Grand Commandery wear shoulder boards with a red background, but instead of the Latin Cross, or a cross of their office, they wear the Cross Pattée, or Templar Cross, a long held symbol of royal power within Christendom. It serves as the cross of kings, bishops and many others in authority throughout the world and has often been considered a de facto official symbol of the Knights Templar in general. It is believed that this Cross was given to the Knights Templars by Pope Eugeniu, but that has been contentious point of debate. None the less its regal linage dates back centuries if not melena and has always been connected to authority.
Much as a sitting commander’s shoulder board transitions from green to red when he becomes a past commander, placing him alongside the ranks of the Grand Commandery, when a Grand Commander becomes a Past Grand Commander his shoulder board transitions from red to purple, placing him alongside the ranks of the Grand Encampment of the United States of America. Purple is worn by the top leaders within our institution because it represents royalty, authority, and leadership. This status is affirmed in Masonry and is found all throughout western civilization, very possibly dating back to the purple vestments worn by Aaron. In addition purple was the color of the robe placed on Jesus Christ during the Passion and represents to us the close personal relationship possible between the Son of Man and those who accept him into their hearts and purse it. In that way the colors of the shoulder boards are emblematic of the Christian experience, with green representing growing faith, red representing accepting the gift of Christ, and purple representing the close personal relationship found within.
The emblem worn by members of the Grand Encampment is the Cross of Lorraine. First used in Ancient Samaria, the Cross of Lorraine is has long been used as an ideogram for rulership. It is the historical heraldic arms of an arch bishop and the Patriarch of Jerusalem and is named for the Duke of Lorraine, Godfrey of Bouillon who knowing this history used it as his standard when he took the holy city. A humble man at heart, Godfrey was quick to bestow the holy symbol to a group of Sir Knights with the high aims of defending pilgrims traveling to the holy land, a group that would later become the Knights Templar. This cross carried through the ages served as the first recognition of our noble deeds and continues to be worn on the shoulders of Grand Encampment officers to this day.
The emblem worn by the Most Excellent Grand Master is the Cross of Salem. The Cross of Salem is a symbol both ancient and shrouded in mystery. Today it is most commonly associated with the Pope of the Catholic Church but this triple barred cross may date back well before the days of Popes. It’s three arms are said to represent The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, and as such it serves as a beautiful Trinitarian statement that though the Son was Crucified it was the will of The Father and The Holy Spirit. In addition it has been said such a symbol was once used to represent Salem, the Royal City of Melchizedek, and future place of Jerusalem, and even that it serves as a representation of the Tree of Life. Facts are rare when it comes to this symbol of our faith, and stories are conflicting, but what we know for certain is that this cross has been long used in conjunction with ultimate mortal leadership within Christendom and is a fitting emblem of the leader of all Knights Templar.
As a close relationship with Christ is the most we can hope for while still walking this earth, the color of the Grand Master’s shoulder board remains purple even as a Past Grand Master, but he forever carries the Cross of Salem with him as a testament to his dedication to and leadership within our glorious and magnanimous order.
Well Sir Knights, what started as a simple question went on for pages so I thank you for staying with me. Remember to join us at 7pm on Monday the 15th at the Detroit Masonic Temple for the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, and Tuesday the 23rd for the Order of Malta, as well as for the Southeastern Battalion meeting on the 29th at 6:30pm at Samaria. Also be sure to remember our Cub Scouts, Pack 405 in Ann Arbor and if you see them around selling popcorn show your support and buy some.
Deo duce, ferro comitante,
Brandon Mullins, Commander