What is the “Lodge of the holy St. John at Jerusalem?”
Many a Master has been puzzled to answer this simplest and most natural of questions. As there is not now and never was such a Lodge, there is certainly some reason for confusion.
Originally, Lodges were dedicated to King Solomon. Later–at least as early as 1598–Masonry connected its name with that of St. John the Evangelist. Dedications to the Saints John were made by other organizations as early as the third century, when the Church adopted the two pagan celebrations of summer and winter solstices and made them our St. John’s Day in Summer and St. John’s Day in Winter [often called the Feast of St. John to distinguish it from St. John’s Day in summer].
It was wholly natural for operative masons, having dedicated their Craft to the Holy Saints John, to begin to believe that both Johns were themselves Craftsmen. Craftsmen must have a Lodge…where should that Lodge be, but in Jerusalem? Hence, “The Lodge of the Holy Saints John of Jerusalem” came into imaginary existence.
No such Lodge ever existed in fact, and yet it is not a fiction–it is an ideal, and without such ideals our life could be dim and drab. The thought behind the question and answer, then, is that we come from an ideal or dream Lodge into this actual workaday world, where our ideals are to be tested.
Today, as we use the phrase as the starting point for a Masonic career, Masons mean only that their Craft is dedicated to these holy men, whose precepts and practices, ideas and virtues, teachings and examples, all Freemasons should try to follow.