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Article # 188
Corn, Wine and Oil

Author: W.Bro.R.Ramachandran P.G.Org.,P.A.R.G.M    Posted on: Wednesday, January 18, 2006
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Corn, Wine and Oil

Paper presented by W.Bro.R.Ramachandran  P.G.Org., P.A.R.G.M

 

[This paper has been presented in the Seminar on " Symbolism of the Second Degree". The learned author has written many articles and presented some papers in Masonic seminars. This article deals with the symbolism of Corn, Wine and Oil as wages. Please read on ...]

 

Corn, Wine and Oil had been inextricably woven into the fabric of Freemasonry and the lives of our Ancient Brethren. We are instructed during the explanation of the T.B that the E.As  received  a weekly allowance of Corn, Wine and Oil. The Emulation Ritual and the Scottish Ritual also mention so. However, it is seen, that the Ritual of the Irish Grand Lodge mentions that in response to the request of K.S, Hiram, King of Tyre, sent his skilled craftsmen to cut and carve the timber and also to prepare the stone for the intended building and in return for this kindness, K.S gave to King Hiram gifts of Corn, Wine and Oil and that to those more skilled, who brought the material to the required size and shape, partly in kind and partly in money and to the Master Craftsman or Overseer, wages were paid entirely in money. Most of the rituals of the Grand Lodges in U.S.A mention that the F.Cs received Corn, Wine and Oil as wages. The following passage from the Ritual of the Grand Lodge of Nevada is quoted here as an example.

“On the evening of the sixth day their work was inspected and all who had proved themselves worthy, by strict fidelity to their duties, were invested with certain mystic signs, grips and words, to enable them to gain admission into the Middle Chamber of  King Solomon’s Temple. On the same day and hour, King Solomon, accompanied by his confidential officers, consisting of his Secretary, Senior and Junior Wardens, repaired to the Middle Chamber to meet them. His Secretary, he placed near his person, the Senior Warden at the inner and the Junior Warden at the outer door, giving them strict instructions to suffer none to enter except such as were in possession of certain mystic signs, grips and words, previously established, so that when any did enter, he, knowing that they must have been faithful workmen or they could not have gained admission, had nothing to do, but order their names recorded as such and pay them their wages, which they received in corn, wine and oil, emblematical of nourishment, refreshment and joy and after solemnly admonishing them of the reverence due to the Great and Sacred name of Deity, suffered them to depart in peace until the time should arrive to commence the following week’s work”.

All the rituals are in agreement on the fact that none below the rank of a F.C is permitted to ascend the winding staircase and enter the middle chamber. Therefore, there can be little doubt that only F.Cs could have entered the Middle Chamber and received Corn, Wine and Oil. In fact, many illuminating articles on Corn, Wine and Oil as the Wages of a F.C have been authored by the American Masonic Scholars.

Bro.Mackey in his Revised Encyclopedia, points out that Corn, Wine and Oil are the Masonic Elements of Consecration. Their use has been well documented and there are numerous references in the Scripture, about Corn, Wine and Oil being the wealth of the Nations as well as commodities for trade in those days. Let us for brevity notice here a few of the references in the Scripture.

2 Chronicles 31:5 mentions, ‘And as soon as the commandment was published, the children of Israel gave in abundance the first fruits of corn, new wine and oil and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of all things’
In Deuteronomy 28:51, we find this warning, “. . .  and shall eat the fruit of your livestock, and the fruit of your ground, until you are destroyed; that also shall not leave you grain, new wine, or oil, the increase of your livestock, or the young of your flock, until they have caused you to perish”

Let us now consider each of Corn, Wine and Oil in detail

Corn:-

The corn of the Bible is not the corn we now know. In many, if not the majority of the uses of the word, a more understandable translation would be simply "grain". The principal grains of the Old Testament days were barley and wheat, and "corn" represents not only both of these, but all the grains, which the Jews cultivated then. Our modern corn, cultivated and cross bred was, of course, unknown to the ancients and was introduced in Europe only after the discovery of the America. It is therefore safe to conclude, that corn referred to in the Old Testament was only such grain as was then raised.  Corn was always regarded as an element of national wealth. It formed part of the tribute brought to Hezekiah on the restoration of the priesthood. Bread was one of the signs of welcome and goodwill to Abraham.

  Corn as an element is being extensively used in Masonic Ceremonies. It is presented in a Cornucopia, gold plated and handed over to the M.W.Grand Master, with the observation that Corn is presented as the sacred emblem of plenty (especially in Foundation Stone laying ceremony). In some jurisdictions, Corn is presented with the observation, "In the dedication of Masonic Halls, it has been of immemorial custom to pour corn upon the Lodge in token of the divine goodness exhibited in the liberal provision made for all our wants, spiritual and temporal.

I, therefore. Present to you this vessel of corn, to be employed by you according to use and wont."     M.W.Grand Master in Foundation Stone Laying, Consecration, Dedication of the Temple ceremonies, then scatters corn observing that he scatters corn…..the symbol of plenty and abundance and may The All Bounteous Creator of the Universe shower down His Choicest blessings on the members of the community and all who shall assemble in this building to the Glory of the Most High,, until time shall be no more.

  Wine:-

Wine, in a metaphorical sense, represents the essence of goodness. Jerusalem, Israel, the Messiah, the righteous are all compared to wine. The wicked are likened unto vinegar and the good man who turns to wickedness is compared to sour wine. An abundance of wine was regarded as an indication of prosperity. Jacob blessed Judah that " he washed his garments in wine and his clothes in the blood of grapes." We find in the ninth chapter of Judges that, when the trees went forth to anoint a King, they said unto the vine, " Come thou, and reign over us;" whereupon " the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the  trees ? A writer in the "Jewish Encyclopedia" says that as wine "cheereth God", no religious ceremony should be performed with other beverages

In the Dedication Ceremony the Wine is presented to the M.W. Grand Master “as the Sacred emblem of Joy and Cheerfulness.” M.W.Grand Master pours wine saying “ I pour Wine on this Stone, the emblem of Joy and Cheerfulness and may He Whose Name is Love, grant that we may be all of one heart and mind and may we ever dwell together in Peace and Unity”. In some jurisdictions, presentation to M.W.Grand Master is made with the observation that “Wine, the symbol of strength and gladness, having according to ancient custom been used by our brethren in the dedication and consecration of their Lodges, I present to you this vessel of Wine, to be used on the present occasion according to established Masonic form", and the sprinkling some of the wine is done exclaiming, " In the name of the Holy Saint John, I do solemnly dedicate this Lodge to Virtue. Wine is poured in Foundation Stone Laying, Dedication of Temple and Consecration Ceremonies with the observation that “ I pour wine…, the emblem of joy and Cheerfulness and may He, Whose Name is Love, grant that we may be all of one heart and mind and may we ever dwell together in Peace and Unity”.

It should also be remembered at this stage that Noah, a hallowed Patriarch  in Freemasonry was the first, who made wine and it is a matter for contemplation, whether that was the reason for the use of wine in Freemasonry both in and out of the Lodge.

Oil :-

Oil, particularly Olive Oil was one of the most important and perhaps the most characteristic of the products of Palestine in those days.  Bible refers to it in nearly 200 places and as it is expressly mentioned in Exodus and Leviticus, according to the more correct rendering of the Revised Version of the Scriptures. Oil was largely used in the preparation of different kinds of food and was employed in the lighting of houses and places of worship. Oil occupied a very prominent place in the ceremonial of anointing of kings and priests and Holy places. One common and significant use of Oil in those days was to anoint holy places, altars, vessels used in the temple. Reference can be made to Jacob anointing the stone later called Bethel. We still use Oil to anoint in certain Masonic ceremonies. In several jurisdictions vessel containing Oil is presented  to the Consecrating Officer, with the observation to use the Oil according to ancient custom, so that the vessel of oil, an emblem of that joy and peace, that would animate every bosom on the completion of every important undertaking. The Oil is then sprinkled exclaiming " In the name of the whole Fraternity, I do solemnly dedicate this Lodge to Universal Benevolence." Oil is sprinkled in our constitution observing “I pour Oil on this…the Emblem of Charity and may God give us grateful hearts and may we be ever ready cheerfully to relieve the wants of others”.

Symbolism:-

Some of the Masonic writers had expressed doubts about the payment of wages at the middle chamber on the ground that about 80,000 Craftsmen could not have ascended the winding staircase and entered the middle chamber, which was not spacious enough to hold them as well as the wages paid to them. Masonic rituals can not and should not be analysed for exactitudes. The Symbolism behind the payment of wages has to be understood ignoring such inexactitudes.

The Psalmist has declared Corn, Wine and Oil as the greatest blessings mankind enjoys. We find in the 104th Psalm that "Wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread, which strengtheneth man's heart."  Rev. Thaddeus Harris says: "Wherefore my brethren do you carry Corn Wine, and Oil, in your processions, but to remind you, that in the pilgrimage of human life, you are to impart a portion of your bread to feed the hungry, to send a cup of your wine to cheer the sorrowful and to pour the healing oil of your consolation into the wounds, which sickness hath made in the bodies or affliction rent in the hearts of your fellow-travellers."  As Freemasons, we are required to moralize upon the objects referred to in the Rituals. In that sense, Corn is an emblem of Plenty and let us be abundant in the measure of our brotherly love, ever ready to use what means God hath given us to assist a brother, who may claim our assistance. As Wine is an emblem of Cheerfulness, let us foster the spirit of joy and gladness so that, when sorrows throw their shadows upon life, we may be enabled to look forward to the brighter day, when the trials of our earthly pilgrimage shall be forgotten and sadness shall be unknown. We should also ever bear in mind that we have been called upon in the Address to the Brethren in the Installation Ceremony to unite in the Grand Design of being Happy and communicating Happiness. As a source of light, oil represents the physical and spiritual peace, we obtain by overcoming and the burning of the vices of life and as Oil is an emblem of Peace, may it be ours to extend the boundaries of her Empire, so that strife and discord may be banished forever from the mind of man. Emerson proclaims that “ nothing can bring you peace, but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace, but the triumph of principles."  Ruskin affirms that, "People, are always expecting to get peace in heaven, but you know whatever peace they get there will be ready made. Whatever making of peace they can be sought for, must be on the earth here." The whole teaching of the Craft is the promotion of peace on earth, goodwill to men, and it is the personal duty of everyone of us to advance the cause of the universal brotherhood of man and to bring about Peace on Earth.

Brethren, we have been told that the Hope of Reward sweetens Labour, but it will be sweeter, if that reward is faithfully used to relieve the necessities and to smoothen the afflictions of our neighbours and brethren in distress. Let us always remember that Ritual, while instructing us on the active principles of Universal beneficence and charity, enjoins to seek the solace of our own distress, by extending relief and consolation to our fellow creatures in the hour of their affliction.

The "corn, wine, and oil are respectively emblematical of nourishment, refreshment and joy and teach us this important lesson... that we should be ever-ready to nourish the needy, refresh the destitute, and pour the oil of joy in the hearts of the afflicted."

But symbolically, for all our labours here, the greatest reward that we can aspire for is to receive from the hands of the Great Architect of the Universe, a recognition, that we had marked well and a place in that Great Temple eternal in Heaven. Let us toil to be worthy of that Greatest of all wages and Rewards.

The author is an upcoming Masonic Scholar and some of his articles have been posted in this website. He is one of the P.Ms of Lodge Sri Brahadeeswara (No.150)We are thankful to him for permitting us to post this article.


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