I do it "off the cuff," but here's a short article I wrote about it for the Grand Lodge newsletter that contains what I talk about:
Corn, Wine, and Oil
In the last few years, my home lodge has established a tradition of having the Senior Warden present a newly passed Fellowcraft with small glass vials containing corn, wine, and oil. They obviously represent the wages that were paid to the workers at the building of King Solomon’s Temple. A short education session accompanies the presentation, explaining the importance of those items. The meaning accompanying these Masonic symbols have an important lesson for us.
Corn is a term for the hard kernel of cereal grains, not just the corn that we in the Midwestern United States think of, which would be maize corn. In the biblical holy land, it more likely would have been wheat or barley corn. We use maize corn, which is perfectly appropriate for Minnesota, as it is the principal cereal grain of the region. Corn was of value because it could be ground and made into bread, and it could also be stored for food long after the harvest, and some saved to be planted for the crop of the next year. It has long been a symbol of plenty, of the harvest and good fortune.
Wine had value because it was a way of using the fruit crops in a form that could be stored and would last, unlike the fruit itself, which would quickly spoil. Also, safe water was in short supply, so wine provided liquid refreshment in a form that was safe and could be stored. “New wine” was the fresh pressings of the grape, and was used for refreshment. When stored, it would ferment into the alcoholic wine that we think of today. This is also an important symbol to mark the transition of the Mason on his journey, because a principal lesson of the Entered Apprentice degree is that of subduing one’s passions, a part of the maturing process necessary to pass from the youth stage of the apprentice. The Fellowcraft Degree represents entry into adulthood, and when one uses wine in moderation it can lift the spirits of the user, as opposed to causing problems as when used in excess by one who doesn’t properly subdue his passions.
Oil would have been olive oil, pressed from the olive harvest. This oil had great value because of its many uses. Once again, it was putting an important crop into a form that could be stored for long-term use. It could obviously be used as an ingredient in recipes, as well as a medium for cooking food. It could be used as a fuel in lamps to provide light, and for heat to cook. It was mixed with other elements to make cosmetics, and put in the hair for grooming. It also has a mild antiseptic quality, so it was used on wounds to help prevent infection. It was so important that it was used in religious anointing ceremonies, as in the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard...
But more, the new Fellowcrafts are instructed to view these vials of corn, wine, and oil as reminders of Masonic values. The corn should remind us of our duty to relieve the needy by providing for food for them. The wine teaches us that we should try to lift the spirits of the sorrowful and downcast. And oil reminds us to aid the afflicted and sick. So, we should all be mindful of the lessons of corn, wine, and oil, and provide what we can in the way of Masonic charity and relief to those less fortunate