Sir Godfrey Gregg ROMC, OHPM
Grand Commanding Officer
Warning: The following discusses non-ritual symbolic issues related to the third degree of in The Mystical Court.
The Sanctum Sanctorum: The Latin phrase sanctum sanctorum means literally “Holy of Holies.” It was originally applied in a religious context to the most sacred place within a sacred building (such as a temple). However, in common usage can also be applied to mean any reserved, private, or much-valued place. The term is used in other religions to refer to a most sacred religious shrine.
In The Mystical Court, this refers to the sanctuary within King Solomon’s Temple where the Ark of the Covenant, and it was said, the very presence of God resided. This was a very dread place, where only one priest per year could go, and then only after strict preparations.
The “Holy of Holies‘ or inner sanctuary was a curtained inner chamber. A perfect cube, the ‘Holy of Holies‘ measured thirty feet long, wide and high and was raised 10 ft. above the temple floor. A double door which spanned 10 ft. 8 in. led to this inner sanctuary; it was made of olive wood and gilded with gold, carved with figures of gourds, flowers, palm trees, and cherubim. These doors occupied 1/4 of the wall. The top of the doorway was formed into a pointed arch. The curtains or veils were of the finest silk cloth brightly coloured in hyacinth blue, purple and scarlet. The Phoenicians were famous for their coloured dyes, especially purple. They obtained the purple ink from a marine snail (murex) found on their coast. Other shades of ink were obtained from other species of marine snails common throughout the Mediterranean. The silk for the veils came from their trading with tribes to the East, possibly India. They were embroidered with figures of cherubim. The floor, four walls and ceiling were completely lined with pure gold. Herein was kept the Ark of the Covenant which sat in a recessed area just large enough to contain the Ark. Above the Ark, King Solomon had caused two cherubim of gigantic size to be made. They stood over 20 ft. high and were made of olive wood; both were of the same size and shape. They were placed side by side so that 2 of their outstretched wings touched each other in the middle of the room, and the other 2 wings touched the walls. The two winged creatures were covered with gold and faced the doorway to the ‘Holy of Holies’. Herein, also, were kept other tokens of the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt and their sojourn in the Sinai wilderness.
Into this windowless chapel, the High Priest, who had undergone many items of washing, was allowed to enter once a year on the Day of Atonement that he might make propitiation for the sins of the people. His garment had been sown with bells around the rim and a rope was tied about his waist. The people could hear the bells as he moved about in his prayers, and should he collapse or die, he could be pulled out of the sanctum sanctorum by priests who were allowed entry into the sanctuary.
As members of The Mystical Court, we are to perfect the ashlars which represent our spirit, divesting it of all the vices and superfluities of life, thereby fitting it for that spiritual building, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. That spiritual building is our symbolic King Solomon’s Temple, erected to God and dedicated to the Holy Saints John.
In the Apprentice Commanding Officer’s degree, we are taught to ascend to manhood, to the intellect, honing our minds on the perfections of God. We symbolically ascend Jacob’s ladder to the middle chamber, our heart, which was thought in ancient times to be the seat of the mind, and become mature men, skilled in the material world.
As Master Commanding Officers, we are taught that we meet in the Sanctum Sanctorum. Obviously, this is symbolic, as the sanctum sanctorum is the Holy of Holies, where dwelt the living spirit of God. It seems that the third degree is the degree of the perfection of the spirit, or more accurately, of raising the candidate the final step, from the focus on the mind to work on the perfection of the spirit. We are in this degree, finally ascending from the material, where we started, to the spiritual plane, that of the master Commanding Officer.
A court of Commanding Officers is said to be no less than three, which returns our attention to the number three. Why three Commanding Officers? To represent the first three, most excellent Grand Commanding Officers,
- Solomon, King of Israel,
- Hyram, King of Tyre, and
- Hiram Abiff,
the widow’s son, who represents Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, which are also representative of the three stages of a Commanding Officer.
In the master Commanding Officer, we have the three, Apprentice Commanding Officer, Ship, and Master Commanding Officer, Flesh, Intellect and Spirit, unified into one, and the temple complete. At that point, the Master Commanding Officer’s job is to perfect the temple by study, contemplation, and application of the lessons of The Mystical Court.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular members of The Mystical Court, may brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.