Wise Master

Beware the Ides of March!

William Shakespeare

Such an ominous threat from history’s most famous bard, and one that leads us, ultimately, to this month’s theme: Loyalty.

But first, a little background.

In the time of Julius Caesar, the Romans did not mark their calendars the same way we do today. Instead, they counted back from three fixed points of the month: the Nones (early in the month), the Ides (mid-month), and the Kalends (1st of the following month). In the earliest calendar, the Ides of March would have been the first full moon of the new year.

This was, traditionally, a holy time for the Romans, with many religious observances. But it would, of course, become infamous for something completely different.

On the Ides of March in the year 44 BC, Caesar made his way to the Theatre of Pompey to attend the Senate as he had done many times before. Soothsayers had predicted bad things for the Emperor before the end of this fateful day, and his wife was troubled by nightmares of his death the evening prior. She’d begged him not to go.

On his way he passed a seer who had predicted his downfall and derisively commented, “The Ides of March are come”, implying that the prophecy had not been fulfilled, to which the seer replied “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.” And so it was, that day, that a group of Roman Senators, led by Marcus Brutus, exacted the assassination of their Emperor.

It is from this infamous act of treachery that we are left with Julius Caesar’s (supposed) last words: “Et tu, Brute?” (“And you, Brutus?”)

Which, incidentally, may be the source of the English word brutal. Although I have absolutely no data to back this up.

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Much can be said about the reasons for this bold betrayal, but it really came down to this: The Senate believed that Caesar had become too powerful. And in his undoing, we have one of history’s greatest examples of treason and betrayal; which is the mirror we can hold up to discuss loyalty.

One of the foundations of freemasonry is loyalty. Loyalty to our brothers, loyalty to duty, loyalty to our Venerable and Worshipful Masters who lead and guide their respective houses.

Loyalty is often unglamorous, or worse, inconvenient. It requires sacrifice. It often requires the setting aside of one’s own ambitions for the benefit of friendship, love, or the greater good. Loyalty is quiet and unassuming; it requires humility.

I would encourage all brothers to contemplate loyalty in the days and weeks to come. Consider to whom you owe loyalty. Consider why you owe this loyalty to them. Recognize the sacrifices that you’re making and the benefits that will be recognized from its efforts.

Until next month, my brothers, I (tongue planted firmly in cheek) bid you a hearty, “Et tu, brother?”