The month of December contains a celebration of two historical figures who some consider being the Patron Saints of Freemasonry, Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist. We hear of them in one of our first pieces of ritual, the Lodge being dedicated to the “Holy Saints John at Jerusalem.” They also figure into the answer to the question, “whence came you?”. There is some Masonic tradition that links them to the “two perpendiculars, parallel lines” of one of our symbols. Beyond that though, there is not much mention of them in the Blue Lodge, and certainly no details as to why they seem to hold a place of honor.
Saint John the Baptist is generally described as a dedicated, upright man, who adhered to a strict moral code. This dedication to honor eventually led to his death, much like the legend we celebrate in our third degree. It may be that this similarity led to his being chosen as one of the Patron Saints of Masonry.
The first public Grand Lodge in England was founded on the feast day of Saint John the Baptist, June 24th, 1717. A question that arises in my mind is; did they choose the day for the foundation of the Lodge because of their regard for the Saint, or did they choose the Saint because the foundation occurred on his feast day? Regardless of how it happened, the Grand Lodge of England held feasts and festivals on June 24th for quite some time.
At some point in time, Saint John the Evangelist began to be Masonically acknowledged as well. I haven’t found any information as to exactly when or why. The feast day of Saint John the Evangelist is December 27th. Initially, both days were celebrated, both in England and the early American Lodges. Over time the celebrations all seemed to move to the end of the year, not necessarily December 27th, but usually earlier in December. I have found no reason for the change. It may be that Saint John the Evangelist was deemed more representative of Masonry. Or it may have been simply pragmatic, a matter of moving the holidays and celebrations to the end of the year.
The subject is certainly deserving of more time and space than I can allocate here. I hope that maybe this short discourse will spark one or more of my Brothers to investigate further.
I look forward to seeing you in Lodge.