The Order of Judas Maccabeus was established as a York Rite Body to fill a need in the York Rite, and to teach important lessons.
The York Rite
The York Rite presently consists of three Masonic bodies, independent but interrelated.
1. Chapters of Royal Arch Masonry, functioning under State Grand Chapters, with most Grand Chapters organized into a General Grand Chapter. Prerequisite for petitioning a Chapter is membership in good standing in a Blue Lodge.
2. Councils of Royal and Select Masters, functioning under State Grand Councils, with about 40 Grand Councils organized into a General Grand Council. A Petitioner must be in good standing in a Blue Lodge and Chapter.
3. Commanderies of Knights Templar, organized under State Grand Commanderies, but all under the Grand Encampment, Knights Templar of U.S.A. Petitioners must be members in good standing of Blue Lodge and Chapter.
Chapters of Royal Arch Masonry confer the following Degrees, called Capitular Degrees: Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master and Holy Royal Arch. Prerequisite for petitioning is membership in good standing in a Symbolic Lodge.
The Mark Master and Most Excellent Master Degrees, like Blue Lodge Masonry, relate to the building of the Temple of Solomon. The Mark Master Degree, based on the tradition that the work was inspected and the workmen received their wages on the evening of the sixth day, portrays a workman who presents a piece of work which is rejected by the overseers and is later found to be essential to the completion of the Temple.
The Most Excellent Master Degree narrates the completion and dedication of the Temple.
The Past Master Degree, in a ceremony called “passing the chair”, fulfills the requirement for receiving the Holy Royal Arch Degree.
The Royal Arch Degree is laid in the period following the Babylonian Exile, when the Israelites were granted permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. Three sojourners arrive to assist in removing the rubble and they make a number of important discoveries. It completes the lesson of the Third Degree with the recovery of the Lost Word.
Councils of Royal and Select Masters confer two degrees, with a third degree optional. They are called Cryptic Degrees, and include Royal Master, Select Master and Super Excellent Master, optional. The Royal Master and the Select Master Degrees relate to the Temple of Solomon, the Super Excellent Degree relates to the destruction of the Temple and the exile to Babylon.
The Royal Master Degree portrays H A shortly before his death, in a beautiful dissertation on the meaning of death which follows a useful life. Following the untimely death of HA, the rank and title of Royal Master is instituted.
The Select Master Degree portrays another episode connected with the Temple of Solomon. A secret vault is constructed in which copies of sacred articles are deposited.
The Super Excellent Master Degree, in a highly dramatic portrayal, describes the defeat of the Judeans by the Babylonian Army, and deportation of King Zedekiah and the Judeans to Babylon.
Commanderies of Knights Templar confer three Orders, called Chivalric Orders: Order of the Red Cross, Order of Malta and Order of the Temple.
The Order of the Red Cross is laid in the period portrayed in the Royal Arch Degree., It depicts Zerubbabel appearing before Darius, King of Persian, to secure his aid and support in the rebuilding of the Temple.
The Order of Knights of Malta is laid in the period of the Crusades, The candidate represents a Neophyte who seeks to be admitted as a Knight of Malta.
The Order of the Temple is also laid in the period of the Crusades. The candidate represents a Knight who desires to become a Knight Templar and serve humanity.
Order of Judas Maccabeus
The first two York Rite Bodies, Royal Arch and Royal and Select Master, like the Symbolic Lodge, are non-sectarian. The Commandery, Knights Templar, however, is distinctively Christian. It is also militaristic with uniforms, drills, inspections, etc. As a result, members of the Royal Arch who are not Christian, or who do not favor the militaristic atmosphere of the Commandery, progress no further in the York Rite than the Chapter or Chapter and Council.
The Order of Judas Maccabeus was establish for this purpose. It is non-sectarian and is not military, and is organized to be a parallel Body to the Commandery. It confers two degrees, the Order of David and the Order of Judas Maccabeus.
The Order of David teaches the lesson of unselfish love and devotion and uses as its framework the story of David and Jonathan as depicted in Scriptures in the Book of Samuel.
The Order of Judas Maccabeus teaches the lesson of fidelity and devotion to faith. It uses as its framework the revolt of the Jews (168 BCE) against the Syrian Monarch, Antiochus, who had prohibited the practice of the Jewish faith, as related in the Apocryphal books of the Maccabees.
Members are titled Valiant Princes. Local bodies are termed Assemblages, whose principal officers are: Commander, Chancellor, and Orator, who with Treasurer and Recorder are elected annually. Five or more Royal Arch Masons may form an Assemblage and receive a Charter and a supply of rituals. Any Royal Arch Mason may petition Genesee Valley Assemblage No. 1 to receive the Orders. Five or more Valiant Princes may apply for dispensation to organize an Assemblage, receive a charter and copies of the ritual.