By Companion Scott A. Schwartzberg, Guest Author
Submission to the General Grand Council Education Committee
Companion Scott A. Schwartzberg
As humans, we like to commemorate when something happened, so we invented calendars to keep track of time. We have days of the week, but every seven days, we start back at the beginning. We have months, but after twelve, we have to start over again. When it comes to years, we have devised a method where we can simply count back to remember when something occurred. There are several measures that are used, and they are based on when something important occurred.
The most common method used is BC/AD. This is based on the birth of Jesus, an important occasion in the western world. Before his birth, years are denoted as BC (or Before Christ). After his birth, we used AD (or Anno Domini, Latin for “in the year of our Lord”). As not everyone believes that Jesus was the Messiah, we also have BCE/CE. This uses the same numerical record of the years, but refers to the time “Before the Common Era” and “Common Era.” For example, it is now 2020 AD or 2020 CE. When talking about most events that have occurred in the last few centuries, the specific terminology is not used, only stating the year number itself.
Other dating systems use different benchmarks, depending on when a significant event took place. In the Hebrew calendar, the current year is 5780 AM (Anno Mundi, Latin for “in the year of the World”), using the assumption that this is the 5780th year since the Earth was created, which corresponds to Saturday, October 6th, 3761 BCE.
The Islamic calendar is based on the date of Muhammad’s Hegira, when he and his followers moved from Mecca to Medina, establishing the first Muslim community, on Tuesday, July 16th, 622. Years are considered either BH (Before the Hegira) or AH (Anno Hegirae, Latin for “in the year of the Hegira”). Using this calendar, it is currently the year 1441 AH.
Various Masonic bodies also use significant years to calculate the current date. The ordinary, or Vulgar, era is not used when dating official documents.
In the Craft, or Symbolic Lodge, which this is, we suppose that the creation of the world took place 4000 years before the Common Era, and refer to years as Anno Lucis, meaning “in the year of Light.” This year is calculated by adding 4000 years to the current date. The current year is 6020 AL. If you look at the Cornerstone of my Lodge building, it has the dates 2000 AD and 6000 AL. If you look at the Charter of my Lodge, it has the dates 1917 AD and 5917 AL. During our meetings, when the minutes are read, the date of the Communication is given in both AD and AL.
The Scottish Rite uses the Hebrew System of Anno Mundi, using the date of creation as being 3760 BCE, giving today’s date as 5780 AM. For most of the year, the Scottish Rite and Hebrew year will use the same date, but as the Hebrew calendar is based on lunar months, and the Scottish Rite uses the Gregorian Calendar dates, the new year is celebrated at different times. From about September through December, the Hebrew calendar will have a year later than the Scottish Rite system.
The different York Rite bodies have their own dating systems, based on significant years.
The Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, or Capitular Masonry, dates their founding to the time of the construction of the second Temple, 530 BCE, by the king Zerubbabel. The current year of the Chapter is given as 2550 AI, Anno Inventionis, Latin for “in the year of Discovery.”
The Council of Royal and Select Masters, or Cryptic Masonry, uses the time of the completion of the Temple of Solomon, given as 1000 years before the Common Era, and denotes time as being Anno Depositionis, in the year of the Deposit. The current Cryptic year is 3020 AD (a different usage of the AD).
The Commandery of Masonic Knights Templar uses the year the Knights Templar were founded, 1118 AD, and is calculated from that year, referred to as Anno Ordinis, in the year of the Order. The current year used by the Commandery is 902 AO).
Other Orders have still other dating systems in use.