[Square & Compasses]    

Letter of the month: May 2006

Date: Tue, 9 May 2006 12:04:56 +0530
From: Rakesh Khanna Knp <rakeshkhanna@havells.com>
Reply-To: Rakesh Khanna Knp <rakeshkhanna@havells.com>
Subject: Masonry Question
To: masonry-ask@mit.edu

Dear Brethren,

Fraternal Greetings

I am very to know what Charity means for a Freemason.
What is the significance of Charity?
When it started?
And all what you can teach me on Charity.


Bro. Rakesh Khanna
Wor. Master
Lodge Ratan No. 175
Kanpur, UP, ( INDIA )

Message-ID: <20060509141031.cwj69qwvrzwg8o8c@webmail.mit.edu>
Date: Tue, 09 May 2006 14:10:31 -0400
From: A Page About Freemasonry <masonry-ask@MIT.EDU>
To: Rakesh Khanna Knp <rakeshkhanna@havells.com>
Subject: Re: Masonry Question

dear Bro. Khanna,

The word "charity" descends from the Latin word caritas originally meaning "esteem or affection". Charity is usually taken these days to simply mean "benevolence towards the poor" -- that is, a donation of money or goods to the needy, or "a charity" means an organization that collects money or goods and uses those to benefit their needy recipients.

But in Masonry it should be understood in an earlier context. The new Mason first encounters the word "Charity" in the well-known verse from Corinthians I, Chapter 13:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. [...] And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

In the earliest Latin translations of the Bible, translators needed a word for the Greek agape (aγáπη), meaning "spiritual love". But the usual choice amor was closer to the Greek eros which included connotations of romantic and carnal love, and which did not suit the intentions the translators. So they chose the word caritas to emphasize that agape meant selfless love, or loving kindness, compassion. (In Hebrew, those words are, respectively chesed and rachamim.) In later centuries, when the Latin bible was translated into English, caritas was rendered in some places as "love" and in others as "charity", and you can find both used today in various translations.

The author of that passage in Corinthians was not speaking of "charity" as simply donation to the poor, nor as romantic love, but as compassion, a concern for another that reaches from one soul to another and can change both. I can't tell you "when it started" because it may be that the origins of charity go back to the very dawn of humanity. It may have been one of the Divine sparks and fragments of Charity that kindled the beginnings of humankind. I don't think that's a question which accumulated evidence could ever answer.

If a Mason ever truly manages to connect the lessons he hears in lodge about Brotherly Love with his heart's instinct for true Charity/Caritas/Agape/Chesed, then he has learned one of the deepest secrets of Masonry, one that could never be printed in any "Masonic exposure".


-- Gary L. Dryfoos
A Page About Freemasonry
now at http://MasonryPage.org/

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