The approach of spring generates great excitement and anticipation every year. The land thaws, trees bud, and the chatter of birds resume as we emerge from our winter hibernation. It is fitting then that this invigorating time of year also marks one of Freemasonry’s most inspiring performances, the Feast of the Paschal Lamb. Often called the Ceremony of Remembrance and Renewal or the Mystic Banquet, this special day is an invitation to our Scottish Rite brethren of the Rose Croix to break bread together in tribute of our fraternal ties to one another and gather for a solemn commemoration our brethren who have passed to the Celestial Lodge. To fully appreciate the significance of this beautiful ceremony, let us examine the rituals from which this feast derives.
Feast of Passover
In Judaism, the Paschal lamb was the lamb slaughtered for the very first Passover. This feast each spring celebrates the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and their liberation from slavery. The story of this occasion tells that during the first Passover, the Israelites marked their doorposts with lamb’s blood so that Jehovah would pass over their homes and spare them.
For many generations in early Jewish history, this feast was observed with the sacrifice of a year-old lamb in the Temple of Jerusalem. Today, Jews signify this occasion with a lamb shank at a Seder, the Passover meal. This moving feast has endured thousands of years and is an annual reminder that freedom must always be struggled for, cherished, and never taken for granted. The blood of the lamb, still to this day, represents redemption.
To our Christian brethren, this is a time to observe one of the holiest occasions in the year, Easter, which celebrates the resurrection of Christ. This holiday is linked to Passover not just in its position on the calendar but also in much of its symbolism. The bible tells of the Passover meal during which Jesus Christ prepared his disciples for his death. It was at this meal that Jesus instituted the sacrament of The Last Supper.
St. Paul refers to Jesus and the Paschal lamb, drawing parallels between his sacrifice, which freed humanity from the bonds of sin, and the ritual of Passover through which the Israelites were spared.
The Feast of the Paschal Lamb
This Masonic ceremony is neither the Feast of the Passover nor the observance of Easter, rather a celebration of fraternalism.
The Feast of the Paschal Lamb does commemorate both of these holy days through some shared ritual and symbolism, such as the act of “breaking bread”, prayer, and a reaffirmation of our faith in the craft. The Feast of the Paschal Lamb traditionally was held on Christianity’s Maundy Thursday, but has been since deferred to alternative dates in deference to the rites of churches.
However, at the Scottish Rite, brethren of the Chapter of Rose Croix hold the Feast of the Paschal Lamb, or the Mystic Banquet, at this time of year as a memorial service. It is an opportunity to honor brethren who have passed and, most importantly, to strengthen and celebrate our brotherly ties. We assemble as Freemasons, bound in our shared values and solemn commitments to each other and our rite. The Feast of the Paschal Lamb reminds Scottish Rite Masons that the soul is immortal and the bonds of fraternal love cannot be severed by the passing of time.
Lastly, the ceremony and festivities that follow serve as a reminder to Brothers that our lives are to be dedicated to the Masonic principles of duty and service to elevate mankind. By honoring those who have lived a life of service as Masons, we are prompted to recall that this effort may be fraught with personal sacrifice, as described in the origins of Passover and Easter, and requires the dedication to principles and values Scottish Rite Masons espouse.
As the transition to Spring marks new beginnings, the tradition of the Feast of the Paschal Lamb brings renewed hope and confidence in man’s ability to be reborn.