Ben Hur Life Association
Court Degree Initiation Ritual
early 20th century
* Indicates raps of the Chief’s gavel.
* Calls the meeting to order or seats the members if standing. ** Calls the officers to their feet. *** Calls the members to their feet. Whenever any officer is addressed by the Chief he will rise and salute, or if already standing, will salute.
Chief, *: This Court of Ben Hur will now convene, Officers, take your stations. If there are any present who are not Sons or Daughters of Hur, they will retire to the Outer Court. Captain, see that the Keepers of the Gates are at their posts and in possession of the passwords.
If any officers are absent, the Chief will fill the vacancies by appointment. The Captain retires, takes the pass-words from the Keepers of the Outer and Inner Gates, returns to the Altar, and reports as follows: Most Worthy Chief, the Keepers of the Gates are at their posts and in possession of the pass-words.
The Captain returns to his station.
Chief: Scribe, are you satisfied that all present are entitled to remain?
Members not in good standing must be required to retire. The Scribe should inspect the receipts of visiting members or require that they be vouched for before the Court convenes.
Scribe: Most Worthy Chief, all present are qualified to sit in this Court.
Chief: Let us arise and be led in prayer by our Teacher.
Teacher: Our Father, give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere; give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind; spare us to our friends; soften to us our enemies; bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavors; if it may not, give us the strength to encounter that which is to come, that we may be brave in peril, constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath, and in all changes of fortune and down to the gates of death, loyal and loving to one another. Amen.
Members should join Teacher in saying: Amen.
Judge: The Peace of God be with you.
Past Chief: Peace and good-will to thee and thine.
Chief: The Peace of Jehovah be with you.
Tribute to the Bible and the Flag
Chief *: The ancient Sons and Daughters of Hur were not only prayerful, but they were also patriotic. In truth, it is just one short step from prayer to patriotism. We modern Sons and Daughters of Hur should likewise be both prayerful and patriotic. Guide, you will prepare our Altar by placing thereon the Holy Bible opened at the second Chapter of Matthew. Captain, you will plant the Flag of our Country in its accustomed place.
Captain and Guide repair to the Altar and both salute the Chief. The Captain then retires to the Outer Court for the Flag while the Guide opens the Bible revently, and stands in a dignified position before the Altar until after he has delivered his tribute.
Chief: Guide, tell us the story of the Holy Bible.
Guide: Most Worthy Chief, the Bible is God’s greatest gift to man. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path; without it we would be in utter darkness; by it we are brought into glorious light; through it we enjoy the sublime assurance that the immortality of the soul is as certain as the mortality of the body; and it is especially dear to us as members of the Ben Hur Life Association because it tells the story of the Christ upon which our Society has its foundation.
The Guide returns to his station. Then the pianist starts to play march, “The Red, White and Blue” being recommended. Immediately at the first note, all members are called to their feet (***), standing at attention, hands at side, head and body erect. When the Captain has entered, the members immediately execute civilian salute to the flag by placing the right hand over the heart. The Captain, carrying the Flag in front of him at an angle of 45 degrees, with his left hand resting against his body and the right grasping the flag staff some eighteen inches above the left hand, marches directly forward and places the Flag in the standard at the right of the Chief’s station. When this is done the members become at ease and the Captain steps back two paces to deliver his tribute. During its delivery the effect can be heightened by turning an electric fan upon the Flag, thereby causing it to flutter vigorously. The effect can be made still more impressive by turning a spot light upon the fluttering Flag.
Chief: Captain, tell us the story of our country’s Flag.
Captain: Most Worthy Chief, I salute the American Flag, Captain salutes flag by bringing right hand to forehead just above the right eye and dropping it to side the most beautiful combination of national colors ever unfurled in God’s golden sunshine. It is rich in story and tradition of victory and achievement. It guarantees protection, opportunity, justice, and equality to every-one in this fair land of ours. It has been sanctified and glorified by the blood and sacrifices of six generations of Americans. Its folds of white and scarlet, its azure field of silver stars, the red, the white, the blue; sun kissed and wind tossed; has become the symbol of our pure hopes and highest aspirations. It is your flag and my flag and we love, honor, and revere it as “Old Glory” the unconquered standard of the brave, the valiant pion of the oppressed, the treasured banner of the the emblem of liberty, the hope of the world.
Chief and Members (in unison): May we ever have but
“One flag, one land,
One heart, one hand,
One nation evermore.”
Chief: We will now join in singing our Opening Ode.
All sing “America the Beautiful”.
Chief: I now hail you as Sons and Daughters of Hur and declare … Court, No. … Ben Hur Life Association, open and ready for business.
Captain, inform the Keepers of the Gates. *.
Court Degree Initiation
The language of the initiatory ritual is intended to apply to a class of candidates. If there is but one candidate all plural forms should of course be changed to the singular.
Some Courts make a practice of having candidates stand on the opposite side of the Altar from the officer who is addressing them. This is not only permissible but also very effective, especially when a large class is being initiated in a small Court room.
If the Court has costumes or robes, the Chief calls a member to take his station. The officers then retire to the property room.
After the team has robed, the officers return and assume their respective stations.
Chief: The Scribe and Guide will retire to the Outer Court where the Scribe will ascertain the names of the candidates in waiting, propound the necessary questions and report at the Altar of this Court, while the Guide will prepare the candidates for initiation.
These officers will approach the Altar from their stations, salute the Chief and retire to the Outer Court.
IMPORTANT: In order that the Court may not be kept waiting the Deputy should have the candidates all lined up and a list of their names prepared BEFORE the scribe and Guide arrive in the Outer Court. Then the scribe can put the required questions to the candidates in a body and return to the Altar without unnecessary delay. At the same time the candidates will be ready for immediate entrance to the Court room under escort of the Guide.
Questions to Candidates
Scribe: Before being admitted to this Court or Ben Hur you must give satisfactory answers to the following questions:
1. Do you believe in a Supreme Being?
2. Are you addicted to the use of intoxicating liquors?
3. Are you willing to take upon yourself an obligation to abide by the Laws, Rules, and Regulations of this Order and not to reveal any of the secret work, or private business in an unlawful manner, which obligation, I assure you, will in no wise conflict with your duty to your family, your country, or your God?
The answers all being satisfactory, the Scribe says: I will report your answers to our Chief. Brother Guide, see that the candidates are properly instructed and presented, if permission is given for advancement.
After the Scribe has returned to the Court, the Guide arranges the candidates in single file, and instructs them to follow him.
Scribe returns to the Altar and salutes the Chief : Most Worthy Chief, I have propounded the necessary questions and find the following candidates worthy and well qualified for advancement in this Order: … Scribe reads names of candidates.
Chief: Resume your station. Captain, receive the candidates and attend them through the ceremonies of this Degree.
The Captain throws open the Inner Gate, and in a loud voice says: Welcome, strangers, to this Court.
Initiatory song or march.
The Chief calls the members to their feet (***). The Guide marches the candidates once around the room, followed by the Captain, and halts them in front of the Judges station, commanding: Candidates, left face! After the march and song, the Chief seats the members *. The Guide should wait until song is finished and members are seated before introducing candidates to Judge.
Guide: Honorable Judge, I present these candidates for instruction.
Judge: We welcome you as candidates for membership in Ben Hur. Before you can receive any of the benefits of the Order, it will be necessary for you to take upon yourselves a solemn obligation to keep forever sacred the secrets of this Degree. Guide, place the candidates at the Altar of this Court for obligation.
The Guide will then command: About face! Forward march! Halt!
Candidates are halted in front of the Altar facing the Chief.
Guide: Most Worthy Chief, by direction of our Honorable Judge, I present these candidates at the Altar of this Court for obligation.
Chief, calling members to their feet ***: Officers, gather around the Altar in due form, while our Teacher administers the obligation.
The Teacher approaches the Altar facing the candidates.
Teacher: You stand at the Altar of this Court to take upon yourselves a solemn obligation, which will forever bind you to the Ben Hur Life Association. You have been assured that there is nothing in this obligation that will in any manner conflict with your religious, civil, or political duties. With this assurance, is it your desire that I confer this obligation upon you? Candidates answer in the affirmative. Raise your right hand, place your left hand over your heart, and repeat after me the following Obligation:
In the presence of our common Father and of the assembled members of Ben Hur, I voluntarily and solemnly promise that I will never reveal any of the signs or passwords, grip or secret work of Ben Hur to any person not entitled to receive the same and I will abide by, and conform to, all the Laws, Rules, and Regulations of Ben Hur.
I promise to be upright in my conduct, temperate in my habits, honest in my dealings, true to my fellow-members and loyal to Ben Hur.
To the strict observance of all these promises, I pledge my sacred word of honor. Amen.
Officers in concert: Amen, Amen.
Chief: The peace of Jehovah be with you.
Past Chief: Peace and good will to thee and thine.
Judge: What you give may you find again, and when found, be it many times multiplied to you and yours.
Chief returns to station.
Teacher: Let me impress you with the language of Ben-Hur when pleading for the life of his mother and sister:
“God is just, he will give you mercy for mercy.”
The Chief seats members ***. The Teacher then addresses the candidates as follows: This Order is founded upon the book “Ben-Hur: a Tale of the Christ”. The teachings of the Nazarene are its corner-stone. His short ministry of three years on earth has been aptly described: “He went about doing good.” As modern Sons and Daughters of Hur, we are bound together for the purpose of aiding each other in the great work of Benevolence and Fraternity.
We commend to you a study of the Bible and of the book Ben-Hur. You should catch the spirit and emulate the example of the grand men and women who, from the Manger to the Cross, knew the World’s Redeemer.
The author of the book Ben-Hur received his inspiration from the first two verses of the second chapter of Matthew.
Teacher reads from the Bible on the Altar.
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
Saying, ‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews’? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”
We are told that in the fullness of time the Spirit appeared to the three wise men, Balthasar, the wise Egyptian, Melchior, the wise Hindoo, and Gaspar, the wise Greek, and said unto each of them: “The redemption cometh. With two others from Far quarters of the earth, thou shalt see Him that is promised, and be a witness for Him, and a testimony in His behalf. Put all thy trust in the Spirit, which shall guide thee.”
Obedient to this command, each of the three mounted a great white camel and followed the guiding star until it stopped above the lowly manger in Bethlehem, where lay the infant Redeemer of the World.
Wise Men Scene
The following lines by the Three Wise Men are optional. If used there must be a stage setting showing a desert and camel. As the curtain rises Balthasar is standing by the camel.
Balthasar: We are far from home, O racer with the swiftest winds. We are far from home, but God is with us.
Let us be patient. They will come. He that led me is leading them. I will make ready. (Scans desert intently) Lo! in the East a dark speck on the face of the desert. God only is great!
Melchior enters from left, slowly approaches center, giving Roman salutation sign, right hand raised above bead, palm outward. Balthasar returns the salute in the same manner.
Balthasar: And to thee, O brother of the true faith, to thee peace and welcome.
Melchior: God only is great.
Balthasar: And blessed are they that serve Him. But let us wait, for see the other comes yonder.
Enter Gaspar from right. Melchior steps forward and all three give salutation sign as above.
Gaspar: Peace to you, O my brother.
Melchior: God’s will be done.
Balthasar: The Spirit brought me first, wherefore I know myself chosen to be the servant of my brethren. Let us be seated.
All, in unison: Father of all, God, what we have here is of Thee. Take our thanks, and bless us, that we may continue to do Thy will.
Balthasar: To a wayfarer in a strange land nothing is so sweet as to hear his name on the tongue of a friend. It is time we knew each other. Let him who came last be the first to speak.
Gaspar: I am from the far West, the land of Greece. I am Gaspar, son of Cleanthes, the Athenian. Believing in God the invisible yet supreme, I also believed it possible so to yearn for Him with all my soul that he would take compassion and give answer. A dream: a revelation commanded me to arise and go meet two others from the uttermost parts, of the earth, and seek Him that is promised, and be a witness for Him.
Balthasar: O, Gaspar, thy faith has conquered! Blessed art thou!
Melchior: You may know me, brethren, by the name of Melchior. I am a Hindoo by birth. In answer to my prayers a voice of infinite sweetness said to me, “Thy love hath conquered.” The spirit hath guided me to meet thee. What glory is ours, O brethren!
Balthasar: I am Balthasar, the Egyptian. I was born at Alexandria, a prince and a priest. I have devoted my life to preaching: one God, a righteous one, and a reward in Heaven. The revelation that commanded thee, O Gaspar, commanded me also. The Spirit that guided thee, O Melchior, guided me. We seek Him who will redeem the race, and he must come in person.
Melchior who is seated on right points to the sky and all spring to their feet crying: the Star! the Star!
Teacher: The wise men worshipped the newly born Babe and thus ended their mission, while angels sang the glad tidings of “Peace on earth, good will to men.”
Members, choir or quartet, sing ‘Holy! Holy! Holy!” After the singing the Teacher continues: Then the world learned a new lesson. Heaven may be won, not by the sword, not by human wisdom, but by Faith, Love, Righteousness, and Devotion. Faith in God, Love of family and fellowman, Righteousness in our daily life, and Devotion to home: all portrayed by the book Ben Hur; are the basic elements of the Christian religion and the cardinal principles of our beloved Order.
Guide, present the candidates to the Honorable Judge for advancement.
Teacher returns to station. Guide commands: About face! Forward march!
Candidates are marched and halted in front of and facing the Judge’s station.
Guide: Honorable Judge, our Teacher has directed that the candidates be presented to you for further advancement.
Judge: You were informed by our Teacher that Heaven is to be won by Faith, Love, Righteousness, and Devotion. These cardinal principles find their counterpart in the motto of our Order, which is Truth, Benevolence, and Honor. Truth is eternal. Its highest expression is a well grounded faith in God and humanity. Benevolence is the golden arch that supports the burdens of mankind. Honor manifests itself in fidelity, integrity, and good works.
These principles of Truth, Benevolence, and Honor, direct and dominate the life and actions of every true Son and Daughter of Hur, and I trust that they will be fully exemplified in your future life and conduct.
Guide, seat the gentlemen.
The Guide conducts gentlemen candidates to seats, then returns to his position.
Ceremony for Ladies
Judge, addressing lady candidates : Ladies, in your future progress you will become acquainted with the history of Ben Hur’s mother and sister.
Guide, conduct the candidates to the Outer Court. There, with the assistance of lady escorts, prepare them for the remaining ceremonies of this Degree.
The Guide commands: Right face. Forward march! and retires with the lady candidates to the Outer Court accompanied by Lady Escorts. The Captain, or Master of Ceremonies, prepares the cell or prison scene. At the proper time the Guide gives an alarm at the Inner Gate. Gentlemen candidates, if any, remain seated in the Court.
Keeper of Inner Gate, on hearing alarm: Who comes there?
Guide: The Guide of this Court with escorts in charge of candidates who desire to become members of the House of Hur.
Keeper of Inner Gate: Honorable Judge, there knocks for admission the Guide of this Court with escorts in charge of candidates who desire to become members of the House of Hur.
Judge: Admit them.
Keeper of Inner Gate, throwing open Inner Gate: Welcome to this Court.
As the Guide enters, the lights are all turned very low, and, the first verse of the song “There’s a Wideness” is sung, or a solemn march is played. Chief raps Court to feet. ***
The Guide marches the candidates around the room and halts them before the prison scene where the Mother of Hur and Tirzah stand behind the wall of the cell, if Court has one: if not, in front of Teacher’s station. Chief seats Court. (*).
Guide: O Mother of Ben-Hur and Tirzah! Out of the breadth of thy graciousness and the depth of thy love, wilt thou not instruct and admonish these candidates?
Mother of Ben-Hur: My friends, the House of Hur comes from a princely ancestry. It goes back to the first captivity, back to the flight from Egypt, back to the building of the first temple. It is descended in a direct line from Hur, who was the companion of Joshua and the husband of Miriam, the sister of Moses.
The father of our son, Ben-Hur, was Ithamar of the House of Hur, and a prince of Jerusalem. He was justly proud of his ancestral line.
Tirzah and I were imprisoned for eight long years in a loathsome cell in the Tower of Antonia; Ben-Hur was sent to the galleys for life and our property was confiscated. All this was done by our enemy, Messala, who acted without authority and without due process under the Roman law.
Even the memory of that seeming eternity of grief, sorrow and suffering spent in a living tomb was more than equalled by the realization that leprosy, that most dreaded disease, had fastened its merciless grip upon us. We became outcasts and wanderers on the face of the earth.
Imagine our surprise and unbounded joy, when there came pouring into our hopeless lives a glorious flood of light.
The lights are turned on full as the cell opens. The Mother then continues: We sought and found the Nazarene. A great throng was gathered round Him. As soon as they saw us, many of them cried: “The lepers! The lepers! Stone them, the accursed of God! Kill them!” We heeded not their cries, but pressed forward and implored, both kneel. O Master! Master! Thou seest our needs. Thou canst make us clean, Have mercy on us, mercy!” Both arise. He heard our plea and asked, “Believest thou that I am able to do this?” We answered, “Thou art He of whom the prophets spake. Thou art the Messiah.” “Woman”, He said, “great is thy faith. Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”
In the twinkling of an eye our leprosy was gone. We became new beings. “The Shin or Righteousness arose, with healing in his wings.”
My friends, may your faith in God and your intention to do good he quickened into steadfastness by this recital of our miraculous healing. Under no circumstances, whether of pain, of grief, or of disappointment, can it ever be true that there is not something to he done, as well as something to he endured.
As the Mother of the House of Hur, I welcome you into the fellowship of this grand Order. The fundamental purpose of Ben Hur is to do good in every sense of that word. Devote your time, your ability, and your lives to the accomplishment of that purpose, ever remembering that
“The love of God is broader
Than the measure of man’s mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.”
Guide, seat the ladies and present the gentlemen at the station of onr Worthy Past Chief for further instruction.
Guide seats ladies in chairs provided by the Master of Ceremonies. presents the gentlemen at the Past Chief’s station and says: Worthy Past Chief, I present these candidates for further instruction.
Past Chief, rising and addressing the men: Gentlemen, we are informed that Ben-Hur was falsely accused of attempting to assassinate the Roman procurator. For this, he was condemned to the galleys for life, and, as a galley slave, labored at the oars for three years. Before you can become a Son of Hur, it will be necessary for you to go to the galleys and prove your courage and endurance by hard labor at the oars. The Captain and Guide will conduct you to the Outer Court and prepare you for the supreme test.
Guide commands: Right face! Forward march! and retires with candidates to Outer Court.
After the gentleman candidates have retired accompanied by Ben-Hur, the Master of Ceremonies prepares the room for the next scene, removing the Altar, and placing the galley and oar in position, and the chain on the floor, when all is in readiness he informs the Chief. The officer representing Ben-Hur is prepared by placing the galley garb, the “No. 60” cape, about his neck. Grasping the chain, he is led in by the Guide.
Keeper of Inner Gate: Who comes there?
Guide: The Guide in charge of galley slaves who have been condemned to the oars for life.
Keeper of Inner Gate: Honorable Judge, there comes the Guide of this Court in charge of galley slaves, who have been condemned to the oars for life.
Judge: Admit them.
When the candidates have passed the Inner Gate the Captain stops them, and in a loud voice demands: Halt! Who is this?
Guide: An assassin, who attempted to kill our noble Gratus. He has been sentenced to the galleys for life and is on his way there now.
Captain: On with him to the galleys!
The Guide leads Ben-Hur slowly around the room to the galley while the Captain conducts the candidates to seats prepared for them. The Captain starts to return to his own station when he is halted by Arrius who points to Ben-Hur and says: Captain! Knowest thou the man on yonder bench?
Captain: On number sixty?
Captain: As thou knowest, the ship is but a month from the maker’s hand, and the men are as new to me as the ship.
Arrius: He is a Jew.
Captain: The noble Arrius is shrewd.
Arrius: He is very young.
Captain: But our best rower; I have seen his oar bend almost to breaking.
Arrius: Of what disposition is he?
Captain: He is obedient; further I know not. Once he made request of me.
Arrius: For what?
Captain: He wished me to change him alternately from the right to the left.
Arrius: Did he give a reason?
Captain: He had observed that the men who are confined to one side become mis-shapen. He also said that some day of storm or battle there might be sudden need to change him, and he might then be unserviceable.
Arrius: The idea is new. What else hast thou observed of him?
Captain: He is cleanly above his companions.
Arrius: In that he is Roman. Have you nothing of his history?
Captain: Not a word.
Arrius: As his time is now up, send him to me. Let him come alone.
Captain approaches Ben-Hur and says: The noble Arrius, commander of this galley and of the Roman fleet, would have thee come to him on deck.
The Captain returns to his station and Ben-Hur, or No. 60. slowly rises from seat in the galley, steps out, and takes his position in the center of room, and addressing Arrius, says: The Captain calls thee noble Arrius, and said it was thy will that I should seek thee here. I have come.
Arrius: The Captain tells me thou art his best rower.
Ben-Hur: The Captain is very kind.
Arrius: Hast thou seen much service?
Ben-Hur: About three years.
Arrius: At the oars?
Ben-Hur: I cannot recall a day of rest from them.
Arrius: The labor is hard; few men bear it a year without breaking.
Ben-Hur: The noble Arrius forgets that the spirit hath itch to do with endurance. By its help the weak sometimes thrive when the strong perish.
Arrius: From thy speech thou art a Jew.
Ben-Hur: My ancestors further back than the first Roman were Hebrews.
Arrius: The stubborn pride of thy race is not lost in thee.
Ben-Hur: Pride is never so loud as when in chains.
Ben-Hur extends hands toward Arch. If wrist chains are used; if not, turns and point to chains on floor.
Arrius: What cause hast thou for pride?
Ben-Hur: That I am a Jew.
Arrius: I have not been to Jerusalem, but I have heard of its princes. I knew one of them. He was a merchant and sailed the seas. He was fit to have been a king. Of what degree art thou?
Ben-Hur: I must answer thee from the bench of a galley. I am of the degree of slaves. My father was a prince of Jerusalem, and as a merchant, he sailed the seas. He was known and honored in the guest-chamber of the great Augustus.
Arrius: His name?
Ben-Hur: Ithamar, of the House of Hur.
Arrius, surprised and with emotion: A son of Hur! Thou? What brought thee here?
Ben-Hur: I was accused of attempting to assassinate Valerius Gratus, the procurator.
Arrius, in a loud voice: Thou! Thou that assassin! All Rome rang with the story. After a pause, slowly: I thought the family of Hur blotted from the earth.
Ben-Hur, with intense emotion: Mother; Mother! and my little Tirzah! Where are they! O tribune, noble tribune, if thou knowest anything of them, tell me all thou knowest. Tell me if they are living; if living,
where are they? and in what condition? Oh, I pray thee, tell me! Approaching close to Arrius and dropping on one knee. Arrius turns slowly away in meditation.
The horrible day is three years gone, three years, O tribune, and every hour a whole lifetime of misery; a lifetime in a bottomless pit with death; and no relief but in labor; and in all that time not a word from anyone, not a whisper. Arrius again faces Ben-Hur who arises from knees and steps back a few paces.
Oh, if in being forgotten we could only forget! If only I could hide from that scene; my sister torn from me, my mother’s last look! I have felt the plague’s breath, and the shock of ships in battle; I have heard the tempest lashing the sea and laughed, though others prayed; death would have been a riddance. Bend the oar; yes, in the strain of mighty effort trying to escape the haunting of what that day occurred. Turning to Arrius, pleadingly: Think what little will help me. Tell me they are dead, if no more, for happy they can not be while I am lost. I have heard them call me in the night! I have seen them on the water walking.
Oh, never anything so true as my mother’s love! and Tirzah; her breath was as the breath of white lilies. She was the youngest branch of the palm: so fresh, so tender, so graceful, so beautiful! She made my day all morning. She came and went in music. And mine was the hand that laid them low! I, …
Arrius with surprise and in a loud voice: Dost thou admit thy guilt?
Ben-Hur, impressively: Thou hast heard of the God of my fathers, of the infinite Jehovah. By His truth and almightiness, and by the love with which He hath followed Israel from the beginning, I swear I am innocent! O noble Roman! give me a little faith, and into my darkness, deeper darkening every day, send a light!
Arrius: Didst thou not have a trial?
Arrius: No trial: no witnesses? Who passed judgment upon thee?
Ben-Hur: They bound me with cords, and dragged me to a vault in the tower. I saw no one. No one spoke to me. The soldiers dragged me to the seaside. I have been a galley slave ever since. This I was told was by order of Messala, who was a bitter enemy of our house.
Arrius: What couldst thou have proven?
Ben-Hur: I was a boy, too young to be a conspirator. Gratus was a stranger to me. If I had meant to kill him, that was not the time or the place. He was riding in the midst of a legion, and it was broad day. I could not have escaped. I was of a class most friendly to Rome. My father had been distinguished for his services to the Emperor. We had a great estate to lose. Ruin was certain to myself, my mother, my sister. I had no cause for malice, while every consideration, property, family, life, conscience, the law; to a Son of Israel as the breath of his nostrils would have stayed my hand though the foul intent had been ever so strong. I was not mad. Death was preferable to shame, and, believe me, I pray, it is so yet.
Arrius: Was no mercy shown thee? No kindness?
Ben-Hur: There was one act of kindness, O noble Arrius, which I shall always remember. I was dragged to the galley afoot, bareheaded, my hands bound behind me, a thong fixed to my wrists. I dropped in the dust foot-sore and faint. As I lay, scarcely conscious, a kindly hand was laid upon my shoulder; looking up I saw a face I shall never forget. It was the face of a boy about my own age, shaded by locks of yellowish bright chestnut hair; a face lighted by dark blue eyes, so soft, so appealing, so full of love and holy purpose, that they had in them all the power of command and will. In his hand was a pitcher of water, which he put to my lips and I drank long and deep. Not a word was said, but the memory of his kindness has been the only ray of light in my long night of sorrow.
Arrius: Who was with thee when the blow was struck?
Ben-Hur: I was on the house-top: my father’s house. Tirzah was with me, at my side, the soul of gentleness.
Together we leaned over the parapet to see the legion pass. A tile gave way under my hand, and fell upon Gratus. I thought I had killed him. Ah, what horror I felt!
Arrius: Where was thy mother?
Ben-Hur: In her chamber below.
Arrius: What became of her?
Ben-Hur: I do not know. I saw them drag her away; that is all I know. Out of the house they drove every living thing, even the dumb cattle, and they sealed the gates. The purpose was that she should not return. I, too, ask for her. Oh, for one word! She, at least, was innocent. I can forgive, but I pray thy pardon, noble tribune. A slave like me should not talk of forgiveness or revenge. I am bound to an oar for life.
Arrius: It is enough, go back to thy place.
Ben-Hur turns away slowly, then looks back and says: If thou dost think of me again, O tribune, let it not be lost in thy mind that I prayed thee only for word of my people: mother, sister.
Ben-Hur returns to the galley, takes up the oar, and begins to row, after which Arrius commands: Guide, you will conduct these galley slaves to the Outer Court and await my command.
The Guide retires to the Outer Court with gentlemen candidates who have been previously selected to take this portion of the work, and they are sent beyond the Outer Gate; so as not to be within hearing, except one, who is left in the Outer Court, and he is prepared by placing No. 60’s cape over his shoulders, After the candidates retire from the room, Ben-Hur vacates his seat in the galley, and takes one of the chairs formerly occupied by the candidates. He retains his oar until ordered to give it to the candidate, When the alarm is given at the Inner Gate, Arrius commands the Captain. who is seated at his station: Captain, it is my will that No. 60 be placed at the oar.
The Captain immediately proceeds to the Inner Gate, which he throws open and in a loud voice says: It is the willof our noble Arrius that No. 60 be placed at the oar.
The Guide grasps the candidates left arm, firmly and rapidly marches him to, and places him in the galley, from the side farthest from the center of the room, assisted by the Captain on opposite side of galley. The Captain loosely binds the candidate’s legs with the chains, and while in the set, Arrius commands: Captain, remove the chains from No. 60.
The Captain obeys, throws chains on the floor, after which Arrius turns to Ben-Hur or the last candidate, and commands: Give him the oar!
Ben-Hur, or the candidate who has just represented No. 60, marches from his seat to the galley and hands the candidate seated in the galley, the oar. The Captain must see that the oar is properly and firmly grasped by the candidate, and in a low voice instructs him how to row, viz: To sit upright, leaning back slightly, oar resting on right knee, grasped by right hand, the left hand giving the rowing motion.
Arrius, addressing the candidate: You now occupy the position of Ben-Hur, the galley slave. We are told that hour after hour, for days, weeks and months, he labored at the oar, keeping stroke with the beating on the sounding-board. As he rowed so must you row.
One day in battle as Ben-Hur was rowing, the vessel received a great shock, the oar was suddenly dashed from his hands, and the rowers from their benches, and for the first time the beating of the gavel was lost in the uproar and the galley went to pieces,
Here the collapse comes. The Captain aud Guide quickly assist the candidate to his feet, and Arrius says: Take up your oar, take a seat on my right, and hand the oar to the next slave.
As soon as possible the Master of Ceremonies, with such assistance as he may desire, prepares the galley for the neat candidate and the Captain resumes his station. The Guide removes the No. 60 cape from the shoulder. of the last candidate, retires to Outer Court, calls for next candidate and places the No. 60 cape upon him and gives alarm at Inner Gate. When everything is in readiness and alarm is given, Arrius commands: Captain, it is my will that No. 60 be placed at the oar.
After which the work is gone through with each candidate as before. When all have been initiated Arrius commands: Guide, conduct the candidates to our Worthy Past Chief for further exemplification.
The Guide and Captain present all the candidates, both men and women, at the station of the Past Chief, when the Guide says: Worthy Past Chief, by command of our noble Arrius, I present these candidates for further exemplification.
Past Chief: The ceremonies you have just witnessed are taken from the book Ben-Hur, upon which our Order is founded. During the battle in which the galley was rammed and went to pieces, Ben-Hur, the slave, saved Arrius, the commander of the Roman fleet, from a watery grave. For this heroic deed Arrius adopted Ben-Hur as his son and heir.
At the death of the noble Arrius Ben-Hur returned to Israel in search of his mother and sister. He found that old Simonides, the trusted servant of the House of Hur, was still alive and, despite torture and temptation, had been faithful to his trust. The great estate of the House of Hur, which had multiplied in value under the loving and sagacious care of Simonides, was restored to Ben-Hur.
He learned that Messala was to drive in the annual chariot race and resolved to enter the race that he might meet and defeat the one who was responsible for the misfortunes of the House of Hur, Upon the advice of old Simonides, he visited Ilderim, a rich and powerful sheik, and arranged to drive his swift Arabian steeds in the coming race. He prepared for the race by a period of arduous training. When the great test came he proved his mastery, humiliated his enemy, Messala, and drove to a triumphant victory.
With the plaudits of the multitude still ringing in his ears, Ben-Hur pursued the search for his mother and sister in the Valley of the Jordan. There he met our Saviour who was then nearing the close of his ministry here on earth. In the humble Nazarene, Ben-Hur at once recognized the gentle youth who had given him a pitcher of water, when, years before, he was being dragged to the galleys for life. Ben-Hur believed in the Christ and it was through his becoming one of the faithful and devoted followers of our Saviour that he found his mother and sister. He found them cleansed of their leprosy by the miraculous healing power of our Saviour, and Ben-Hur, Mother and Tirzah, reunited at last, blessed with good health and great fortune, restored the house of Hur to its former glory.
Ben-Hur, with love heightened and faith deepened, continued to follow the lowly Nazarene even unto the Cross where, helpless and heartbroken, he beheld the World’s Redeemer crucified. The cross was the gallows of that day, a thing loathed and despised. But the Christian religion, founded upon the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, has lifted that cross, each. century a little higher than the century before, until today it is the world’s most beautiful symbol of love, mercy and justice.
Brothers and sisters, our Order, Ben Hur, exemplifies the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Here and now we adopt you as Sons and Daughters of Hur. May you ever be as faithful to the cause of Truth, Benevolence, and Honor as was Ben Hur in the days of old.
Guide, present these candidates at the Altar for final instruction.
Guide conducts candidates to the Altar and commands: Candidates. Halt! Right face!
Guide: Most Worthy Chief, by command of our Worthy Past Chief, I present these candidates for final instruction.
Chief: In all regular Court rooms of Ben Hur are found the two things held nearest and dearest to the hearts of
all members, the Holy Bible and the Flag of our country. The ancient Sons and Daughters of Hur were not only prayerful, but they were also patriotic. In truth, it is just one short step from prayer to patriotism. We modern Sons and Daughters of Hur should likewise be both prayerful and patriotic.
Guide, tell us the story of the Holy Bible.
Guide steps forward two paces and salutes Chief.
Guide: Most Worthy Chief, the Bible is God’s greatest gift to man. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto
our path; without it we would be in utter darkness; by it we are brought into glorious light; through it we enjoy the sublime assurance that the immortality of the soul is as certain as the mortality of the body; and it is especially dear to us as members of the Ben Hur Life Association because it tells the story of the Christ upon which our Society has its foundation.
Guide steps back into line.
Chief: Captain, tell us the story of our country’s Flag.
Captain steps forward two paces and faces the Flag. The members are called to their feet (***) and stand at attention, hands at side, head and body erect. Captain salutes Chief.
Captain: Most Worthy Chief, I salute the American Flag, Captain salutes flag by bringing right hand to forehead just above the right eye and dropping it to side the most beautiful combination of national colors ever unfurled in God’s golden sunshine. It is rich in story and tradition of victory and achievement. It guarantees protection, opportunity, justice, and equality to everyone in this fair land of ours. It has been sanctified and glorified by the blood and sacrifices of six generations of Americans. Its folds of white and scarlet, its azure field of silver stars, the red, the white, the blue: sun kissed and wind tossed: has become the symbol of our purest hopes and highest aspirations. It is your flag and my flag, and we love, honor and revere it as “Old Glory”, the unconquered standard of the brave, the valiant champion of the oppressed, the treasured banner of the free, the emblem of liberty, the hope of the world.
Captain steps back into line.
Chief and Members in unison: May we ever have but
“One Flag, one land,
One heart, one hand,
One nation evermore.”
Chief seats members (*).
Chief: My friends, I welcome you now to the Ben Hur Life Association and will instruct you in the secret work. In all well regulated Court rooms there is an Inner and Outer Gate. Wishing to enter a Court of Ben Hur, you will announce your presence at the Outer Gate by a rap that will attract the attention of the Keeper of the Outer Gate; to whom you will give the pass-word, which is … If correctly given you will be admitted to the Outer Court where you will give the regular alarm, which is 3 raps followed by 2 raps. The Keeper of the Inner Gate will demand of you the pass for the Inner Gate, which is Ben Hur.
If correctly given, you will be permitted to enter the Court room, where you will advance to the Altar and give the salutation sign which is made in this manner: follow me. See Secret Work. Wishing to enter or leave the Court room you will advance to the Altar, salute the Chief, and upon recognition you will be at liberty to be seated or to retire.
The grip is made by grasping the hand firmly and with a slight turn to the … If the one to whom you give this grip is a member of Ben Hur he (or she) will quickly return the grip in the same manner, when you will say Son of Hur, the answer will be …
The voting signs are as follows: An affirmative vote is made by closing the right hand and raising the arm in imitation of Ben-Hur throwing the lash in the final struggle which crowned him victor in the chariot race. A negative vote is made by extending the left arm with clenched hand in imitation of Ben-Hur holding the reins on the fiery steeds of Sheik Ilderim.
The emblem of our Order is the seven pointed star surrounding a galley and bearing on its points, the initials of our four cardinal principles: Faith, Love, Righteousness and Devotion, and of our motto: Truth, Benevolence and Honor.
Brothers and sisters, we meet here upon absolute equality. Rank, wealth, and social distinction are forgotten, while purity of character and steadfastness of purpose are the only tests of our fellowship. Guard well your words, your actions, and your character. Let Truth, Benevolence, and Honor ever dominate and control your lives.
This completes our initiatory ceremonies. Captain and Guide, seat our new members.
Captain and Guide will perform this duty.
If degree team is robed and it is desired that they have robes removed before completing the meeting, then Chief will call the degree team to their feet (**).
Chief: Members of the degree team will now retire.
As he leaves his station Chief gives gavel to Keeper of Tribute, or some other member previously selected. When the team has retired, the member then in chair will announce recess; or if the degree team does not retire a1 this point. Chief will make the announcement. In either case, as follows: Sons and daughters of Hur, a recess is now declared in order that you may all become acquainted with our new brothers and sisters.
Chief: The business for which this Court convened has been transacted. As you again mingle with the outer world, I hope that Truth, Benevolence and Honor will find their most perfect exemplification in your relationship with your fellowmen and more especially with your fellow-members. Let us sing our Closing Ode. *
All sing, “God Be with You Till We Meet Again.”
Chief: Let us join with our Teacher as we invoke the Divine Blessing.
All join with the Teacher in the following:
Teacher: Let the words of our mouths, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
Chief: I now declare this Court of Ben Hur closed until the next regular (or special) meeting. *.
When the meeting is closed the Captain and Guide will care for the Flag and Bible and see that the Odes and Rituals are delivered to the Chief.
If desired the Chief may say just before declaring the meeting closed: Captain, retire the Flag. Guide, attend the altar.
In which event the members will stand at attention while the Flag, still unfurled, is carried by the Captain to the Outer Court.