York Rite Royal Arch Chapter

Past High Priest Apron

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The Breastplate of the Twelve Tribes of Israel

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The Triple Tau

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This beautiful gold embroidered Past High Priest Apron was presented to Most Excellent Companion Alexander B. Daniels by Mount Vernon Royal Arch Chapter on January 16, 1964.  It bears the Triple Tau on the apron flap and the Breastplate of the Twelve Tribes of Israel on the apron face.

The Tau Cross, or Cross of Saint Anthony, is a cross in the form of a Greek T.  The Triple Tau is a figure formed by three of these crosses meeting in a point, and therefore resembling a letter T resting on the traverse bar of an H. This emblem, placed in the center of a Triangle and Circle--both emblems of the Diety--constitutes the jewel of the Royal Arch as practiced in England, where it is so highly esteemed as to be called the "emblem of all emblems," and "the grand emblem of Royal Arch Masonry."  The Prophet Ezekiel speaks of the tau or tau cross as the Mark distinguishing those who were to be saved, on account of their sorrow for their sins, from those who, as idolaters, were to be slain.  It was a mark or sign of favorable distinction; and with this allusion we may, therefore, suppose the triple tau to be used in the Royal Arch Degree as a mark designating and separating those who know and worship the true name of God from those who are ignorant of that august mystery.

The Breastplate represents the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  The High Priest was at the head not only of ecclesiastical but of civil affairs, presiding in the Sanhedrim and judging the people.  He superintended the Temple, directing the mode of worship, and preserving the building from profanation.   He was inducted into his office by anointment and sacrifices, and was invested with a peculiar dress.  This dress, as the Rabbis describe it, consisted of eight parts, namely, the breastplate, the ephod, with its curious girdle, the broidered coat, the robe of the ephod, the miter, and the girdle.  The vestments of a High Priest of a Royal Arch Chapter are intended to represent -- though the representation is imperfect -- the gorgeous apparel of the Jewish Pontiff.  To these the Masonic ritualists have ascribed a symbolic signification.  The miter teaches the High Priest the dignity of his office; the breastplate, his responsibility to the laws and ordinances of the Institution, and that the honor and interest of the Chapter should always be near his heart; and the robe, the different graces and virtues which are symbolized by the various colors of which it is composed.

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This is what a Past High Priest probably looked like in King Solomon's time.




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