WHAT IS THE GRAND CHAPTER?
The Grand Holy Royal Arch Chapter of Pennsylvania is the governing body of the 100 Subordinate Royal Arch Chapters and 6 Mark Lodges within Pennsylvania.
Royal Arch Masonry in Pennsylvania can be traced back to December 3, 1767 by a set of Minutes of Royal Arch Lodge No. 3, "Ancients" which became known as Jerusalem Royal Arch Chapter No. 3. It also follows that by 1783 the Brethren of the Royal Arch Degree resolved upon a special night of meeting thus separating it from the Lodge.
This Chapter went on to "warrant" other Chapters and formed a Grand Holy Royal Arch Chapter. This "Grand Chapter" was unlawfully constituted in the eyes of the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. The Grand Lodge formed a Committee to investigate the forming of a Grand Chapter.
The Degree of Royal Arch Mason was conferred upon Past Masters of Symbolic Lodges, and as more Royal Arch Masons were created the need for more Chapters became evident. Therefore on November 23, 1795, the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, Free and Accepted Masons offered the following:
"And whereas, it is the prevailing wish of the Royal Arch Masons within this jurisdiction that a Royal Arch Grand Chapter should be opened, under the immediate sanction of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania; Be it further resolved, that all past and existing officers of the Grand Lodge having duly obtained the degree of Royal Arch, and all past and existing officers of Chapters of Royal Arch Masons, duly and regularly convened under the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, be considered as members of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter, and that all members of regular Chapters shall be admitted to their meetings, but not have any vote nor speak to any question, unless requested."
And on November 30, 1795 the Committee reported that had met with several brethren of the new Chapter and they had agreed to the recommendations. The Committee offered the additional recommendation: "Resolved, That there now exists a perfect harmony among the brethren in Pennsylvania, and that the several brethren who have been suspended be and are hereby restored, and that all matters and things done in the Grand Lodge, affecting the private and individual rights of the said brethren, be and are hereby done away and repealed."
Which resolution was unanimously adopted and thus the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Pennsylvania became the first such Grand Chapter to be initiated and founded by its Grand Lodge. It also remains the only one in the world.
In order to become a Member of a Chapter within the jurisdiction of the Grand Holy Royal Arch Chapter of Pennsylvania, you must be a Master Mason in a regularly constituted and duly warranted Lodge. Your Lodge does not have to be a Lodge in Pennsylvania, be it must be in a Lodge in fraternal communication with the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.
The four Mark Lodges under the jurisdiction of the Grand Chapter of Pennsylvania are "invitation only" bodies in which Membership is usually reserved for those who have served Capitular Masonry or York Rite Masonry in exemplary fashion.
MARK MASTER MASON- In point of time, this degree should follow that of Fellowcraft. Many Masonic students believe this degree is far older than any other Craft degree, and with considerable reason to support this belief.
It was customary for our operative ancestors to cut their "mark" or signature into each piece of stone they hewed for the building, so that their work might be identified. These marks may be seen today on the stones of many the old cathedrals of Europe. From this ancient custom grew the present day registration and use of "trademarks." We see them countless times each day, identifying the products of our modern industrial concerns, but few know the origin of this custom.
In the Mark Master Mason degree, the candidate selects his own personal mark which is recorded in the Book of Marks, to be his own Masonic signature for all time. In this degree he learns the significance and symbolic meaning of the Keystone, the Chisel and the Mallet. In it, he receives his symbolic wage for good work, true work, square work.
MOST EXCELLENT MASTER MASON- This degree is probably of more recent origin than the others in the Capitular series. It has been called the most spectacular in all of Freemasonry, and with good reason, for it is one of the most dramatic degrees conferred.
Chronologically, it should follow the degree of Master Mason. It has for its theme the completion and dedication of King Solomon's Temple, so long anticipated in the degrees of the Symbolic Lodge. It closely follows Biblical history, and completes the Temple legend upon which Ancient Craft Masonry is built.
ROYAL ARCH MASON- The Royal Arch degree is the "Pilgrim's Progress" of Freemasonry. Here we find the actual completion of the degree of Master Mason and the recovery of that which was lost. After the captivity of the Jews ended, many of them returned to Jerusalem and began the task of rebuilding the city and Temple. While this was going on and the rubbish of the first Temple was being cleared away, interesting and valuable discoveries were made which formed the backbone of this most important degree. The Royal Arch degree is unmatched in pageantry and is the keystone of Ancient Craft Masonry without which the complete understanding of all that has preceded it is impossible. It is a "must" for the brother who would complete that which he has begun.