Origin of word charity
Most Masonic Degrees have a
legend or story associated with them. And with many degrees beyond Ancient Craft
Masonry, the Degree of St. Lawrence the Martyr is intended to extend the basic
teaching about charity by adding a new dimension. In the first degree of
Masonry, a candidate is taught the meaning of charity in a powerful way and
personal way. He learns that no matter how destitute he may find himself, he
will never lack as long as Masons remain alive to help him. And in a similar
manner , he is now bound to extend the same help to any other Mason in need. The
Degree of St. Lawrence the Martyr takes this one step further by telling us what
charity really means.
A deacon at Rome by the name of Lawrence, was arrested, in the year 258. And
according to a legend - the legend that became the Masonic Degree of St.
Lawrence the Martyr - the Emperor ordered Lawrence to produce the treasures of
the church. Although there were some wealthy Christians, the vast majority were
poor. What was the source of this great charity? It was sacrificial giving on
the part of all members, rich and poor, who gave and asked for nothing in
return. Lawrence knew this but the Emperor did not.
The Emperor gave Lawrence 3 days to produce the treasures of the church. Three
days later he did. Filling the streets of Rome with thousands and thousand of
poor people who came out to demonstrate how many were helping one another
through this primitive system of charity. The Emperor angered at being mocked,
ordered Lawrence to be roasted alive. In subsequent centuries he became St.
Lawrence, had churches named after him, and even a Masonic Degree using his
story to teach a lesson in charity. The lesson is that true treasures are people
not things. True charitable giving is giving without expecting anything in
return. Thus we do not enrich ourselves by giving, we enrich others. We become
the treasure, not because we have great wealth, but because we understand that
giving to others makes us rich. The treasures were not the wealthy who gave to
the poor, but the poor who shared what they had with others. It is the principle
of caring. It is no surprise that the word charity comes from the Latin word for
caring - caritas. Therefore, our Masonic trilogy can be translated as Faith,
Hope, and Caring, because that is what charity is all about.