Royal Arch Masonry
The Order of the Royal Arch is a continuation of Craft Freemasonry and is considered to provide a completion of the process commenced in Craft Masonry.
Its members, called Companions, meet in Chapters which are constituent parts of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of New Zealand.
Chapters are ruled over by three Principals, who preside conjointly. Grand Chapter is ruled over by three Grand Principals.
In New Zealand the Royal Arch has three ceremonies:
- Advancement to the Degree of Mark Master Mason. This is the first stage of the journey of a Craft Mason in the Order. The ceremony introduces the Candidate to aspects of Craft Masonry which are not explained in the first three degrees.
- Acknowledgement as an Excellent Master, a preparatory stage to the third of the Royal Arch degrees in which the Candidate is learns more of the history and meaning of the allegories of Freemasonry.
- Exaltation to the Degree of the Holy Royal Arch. The completion of the process of becoming a Royal Arch Mason, the degree takes the Candidate from the incomplete knowledge of the Third Degree in Craft Masonry to an understanding of the meaning of Freemasonry.
Like Craft Freemasonry, the Royal Arch is open to men of all faiths who can profess a belief in a Supreme Being.
Based on stories from the Old Testament the three degrees take the Candidate from the time of the building of the Temple of King Solomon to the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem when the Jews were allowed to return from captivity in Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. In the In clearing the ground of the original temple for the foundations of the second temple, the Candidate makes a number of discoveries which emphasise the centrality of his Supreme Being to his life and existence and, without transgressing the bounds of religion, lead him to a consideration of the nature of his Supreme Being and his personal relationship with Him.
In New Zealand, the Royal Arch is considered to be the completion of "pure ancient Masonry". In the Craft the Candidate is presented with a series of eminently practical principles and tenets which if he practises them he may hope to live a life pleasing to his Supreme Being, however he worships him, and of service to his fellow man.
But man is not simply a practical being, he has an essential spiritual aspect to his nature. That spiritual aspect is introduced in the Third Degree, in which the Candidate is led to a contemplation of his inevitable destiny, and becomes the central message of the Royal Arch. In that sense, "pure ancient Masonry" can be seen as a journey of self-knowledge and discovery with the Royal Arch completing the practical lessons of the Craft by a contemplation of his spiritual nature: not replacing but reinforcing and supporting what he has learned from his religion.