Why be a member of the York Rite?
The Masonic Orders of the Temple and Malta are founded upon the traditions of the Chivalric Orders of Knighthood of the middle ages, and the Rite has therefore acquired the title of Chivalric Masonry.
Order of Red Cross
Set in the period of the Royal Arch Mason degree, a grand council is convened at Jerusalem to deliberate upon the unhappy condition of the country and to devise means to secure the favor of King Darius and his consent to proceeding with the rebuilding of the city and temple. Zerrubbabel, represented by the candidate, offers to travel to the Persian court and remind the King of his former promise to aid the Jews in the work. He participates in a royal debate and when his turn comes, he proclaims THE ALMIGHTY FORCE OF TRUTH. King Darius is so impressed that he grants Zerrubbabel his wish. Zerubbabel reminds him of his vow. The King makes a decree accordingly, and to perpetuate it he creates the Order of the Red Cross, founded upon TRUTH, and confers it upon Zerrubbabel.
Here we bid farewell to all the degrees having to do with the building of King Solomon's Temple, its destruction, and the rebuilding of the city and temple, and we go forward to the period of the Crusades when the Orders of Knighthood were formed to recover the Holy Sepulcher and to protect the pilgrims who went to visit its sacred shrines. It is also at this point that the York Rite takes on a distinctly Christian character in which the candidate is recruited as a knightly soldier to wage war against the enemies of Christ.
Order of Malta
The members represent soldiers of the Cross, and the Order is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. The candidate humbly solicits to be admitted to the privilege of the Mediterranean Pass to enable him to safely undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulcher, and also to be enrolled as a Knight of Malta. The ceremonies of the Pass degree refer to the shipwreck of Saint Paul upon the island of Melita or Malta, and the viper that came out of the fire and clung to his hand, as related in the Acts of the Apostles. The Order of Malta describes the history of the original order of Hospitaliers who were famed for the construction and maintenance of hospitals for the poor.
Order of the Temple
In one of the grandest and most impressive ceremonies in all of Masonry, the true capstone of the YORK RITE, the candidate represents a knight of the period that succeeded the Crusades, who has made a vow to visit the Holy Sepulcher, and who seeks admission into the ranks of the Templars, the better to fulfill that vow. As a trial of his worthiness there is enjoined upon him seven years of preparation, beginning with an unarmed pilgrimage in the direction of the Holy Shrine. After having served six years of this preparation, he is commanded to devote the remaining year of preparation to penance, as a trial of faith and humility. Beautiful lessons of the death and ascension of our Savior are inculcated, and the candidate is at last received into full fellowship in a most solemn manner.
The ancient Order of the Temple was suppressed and its members dispersed, and the warlike spirit of the Order has passed away. But there remains a spirit of refined and moral Chivalry which prompts the members to be ever ready to defend the weak, the innocent, the hapless and the oppressed, and at last to be greeted as Brethren and received into the "widely extended arms of the blessed Emanuel".