The Mason and His Lodge
Each man’s Masonic journey begins in a Lodge located near where he lives or works. He discusses Freemasonry with a friend who is a member of the Lodge and asks the Mason to recommend him for membership. It is here that the Lodge members must unanimously agree that the applicant is worthy of being considered a Brother. Finally, it is here that he takes his degrees, first becomes active in the Masonic family of organizations and truly learns “What It Means To Be A Mason.”
This chapter begins with a review of the symbolism attached to the term “Blue Lodge.” The prerequisite qualifications for membership are then followed with information on the duties and responsibilities associated with being a Mason, the opportunities to become and active member of the fraternity, and the organization and work of the Lodge. The importance of paying Lodge dues and balloting on new members are then reviewed. Finally, the chapter stresses the importance of protocol and temperance in maintaining respect and harmony within the Lodge.
Membership in a Symbolic or Blue Lodge
A Masonic or Symbolic Lodge is commonly referred to as a “Blue Lodge.” The origin of the name Blue Lodge is not known, however, there have been many possible explanations. Blue is generally regarded as the color of truth and fidelity. These are the basic teachings of our Craft. Blue is the color used to characterize friendship, which is a lasting bond established between Masons. Blue has also been used to trim Masonic aprons, collars and clothing. These symbolic and practical uses of the color blue may account for the name. In addition, some Masonic scholars have found symbolism in the blue arch of the heavens and have argued that for a Freemason, the virtues of friendship and benevolence should be as extensive as the heavens.
The Qualifications To Become a Mason
The qualifications necessary to become a Mason are moral and religious, mental and physical.
Moral and religious – A Mason is obligated to obey the moral law and he cannot be an atheist or an irreligious libertine. Every Mason shall cultivate brotherly love and the love of God, and be encouraged to frequent his place of worship.
Physical and mental – The physical qualifications for membership regard the applicant’s sex and age. A candidate must be a male of “mature and discreet age” (21 years of age in Maine), not an old man in his dotage or a young man under age. The candidate must also be physically capable of receiving the Masonic degrees, with appropriate accommodation being made by the Lodge if necessary. He must also be of good report and sound mind.
The Duties and Privileges of Lodge Membership
By petitioning for the three degrees, a man applies to become a member of a Lodge. When he is unanimously elected by the Lodge members, it is with the understanding that the petitioner will receive and prove his proficiency in each of the three degrees and become a member of that Lodge. The obligations of the degrees bind the new Mason to a moral and contractual relationship with the Lodge whereby he will perform certain duties and the Lodge will provide certain rights and privileges.
Three principal duties of a Mason are:
1. To maintain loyalty to the Fraternity, faithfulness to the Lodge officers and obedience to the Grand Lodge Constitutions and regulations. These are fundamental conditions of continuing membership.
2. To hold membership in a Lodge and it is his privilege to join more than one Lodge in this or certain other recognized Masonic jurisdictions. If he wishes, a Mason may transfer his membership from his first Lodge.
3. To attend the “communications” or meetings of his Lodge to join in its deliberations, to have a voice in its decisions and to assist in discharging its responsibilities. Attendance is expected unless it presents a hardship on a Mason or his family; members should otherwise attend Lodge meetings.
A Mason is eligible to perform the duties of any officer – except those of the Master – in a Lodge of which he is a member. A Warden may perform Master’s work only in his own Lodge and he must serve at least one year as a Warden before being installed as Master. A past or presiding Master from any Lodge recognized by the Grand Lodge of Maine is authorized to perform Master’s duties. No Masonic officer is permitted to exercise arbitrary or unreasonable authority.
The Grand Lodge and its constituent Lodges provide a variety of member services, which include many opportunities for personal education, entertainment and fellowship. Each Master Mason has the privilege of equally enjoying membership benefits with all Brethren.
Communication is very important to the Fraternity. Every Mason is also urged to advise the Master or Secretary of any Brother, his wife or his widow, who is indisposed or sick at home or in the hospital, so that the Lodge can provide Masonic relief.
It is of the utmost importance that the Master or Secretary be kept up-to- date on changes of address so the Lodge notice can continue to be mailed to each member and so that each member can continue to be involved in Lodge activities.
Lodge members should advise the Worshipful Master confidentially of information which should bar a candidate from membership or which would indicate that a Brother had proved himself unworthy to continue as a Mason.
Lodge officers should give the Master several days notice if they cannot attend a meeting. Even if the absence is an emergency, the Master should be contacted as soon as possible so that he can make arrangements to fill the empty station. It is the personal responsibility of the officer who will be absent to make sure the Master knows when circumstances will not permit the officer’s attendance. It is an imposition to have the Master looking for a fill-in a few minutes prior to opening the Lodge because he was not aware that an officer would be absent.
A Mason has the right to visit other Lodges in this or any other Masonic Jurisdiction recognized by the Grand Lodge of Maine. The Master of the host Lodge may admit the visitor after he has been properly avouched for or examined, if no member of the Lodge objects to his attendance.
A sick or distressed Mason has the right to ask for relief. Requests for Masonic relief will be duly considered, but membership does not guarantee assistance. Freemasonry supports its members in many ways, but it is neither an insurance society nor an organized charity for its members.
If a Mason moves away from the proximity of his Lodge, he has the right to apply for affiliation with another Lodge providing he is in good standing in the first Lodge. His petition for membership in the second Lodge will be considered by its members.
As new Masons attend meetings, they become more familiar with the ritual, but this does not make them proficient ritualists. All prompting is the responsibility of the designated prompter so that officers receive the correct words. Incorrect words or assistance given by several Brethren can further confuse officers and disrupt the harmony of Lodge meetings.
Acting according to the provisions of the Grand Lodge Constitutions, the Worshipful Master may issue a summons to a Mason to attend a communication of the Lodge for some special purpose or to discharge some required Masonic duty. It is the member’s duty to obey the summons unless circumstances render it impossible for him to do so.
If a Mason becomes subject to Masonic discipline, he has the right to have a hearing, appear in his own defense, submit evidence under legally controlled conditions, be tried by his peers, and, if found guilty, make an appeal to Grand Lodge.
Finally, each Brother has learned means of recognition by which to prove his Masonic credentials to another Master Mason and to enable him to establish fraternal relations with men who otherwise might have remained strangers “at a perpetual distance.” One of the greatest privileges of membership is to know that wherever a Mason may go, he will find Brothers, often strangers, who are ready to extend their hands in friendship and fellowship. Wearing Masonic jewelry and placing Masonic emblems on vehicles help to identify Brethren and thereby promote fraternal relations among strangers.
Serving Your Lodge
As active Lodge members, Masons will undoubtedly wish to serve their Brethren and communities. There are opportunities for each Brother to employ his particular skills in ways that would benefit his Lodge. Service may be as a Lodge officer or on an administrative committee. It may be on a service committee that contacts or transports members, investigates new candidates, performs community service projects or issues information releases to local newspapers. Contact Lodge officers and committee chairmen to learn about opportunities to become involved in Lodge affairs.
Serving as an officer or on a committee is both a duty and an honor. The best way to show interest in joining a committee or becoming a Lodge officer is to regularly attend Lodge meetings and events. Arrive early at the meetings, help the officers and enjoy Masonic fellowship after the meetings. A member’s enthusiasm and participation never goes unnoticed or unappreciated.
Lodge Organization and Officers
All Lodges in this jurisdiction are chartered by the Grand Lodge of Maine, including those originally chartered by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and all fall under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Maine. The Master is the presiding Lodge officer and has broad powers, far beyond those exercised by a president of a club. He is assisted by the Senior and Junior Wardens, who are empowered to fill in for the Master in his absence. The other officers are the Treasurer, Secretary, Chaplain, Marshal, Senior and Junior Deacons, Senior and Junior Stewards, Organist, Historian, Librarian, and Tyler. The Worshipful Master, Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary are always elected positions within a Lodge, while the remaining officers are either appointed by the Master or elected by the Lodge according to its own By-Laws.
The Worshipful Master represents the pillar of Wisdom. The emblem or jewel of his office is the Square, which is an instrument having at least one right angle and two or more straight edges. It is a symbol of morality and virtue, and admonishes the Master to preserve decorum among the Lodge members and ensure harmony within his Lodge.
The Worshipful Master is elected to a one-year term and is responsible for everything that takes place under his command, from the administration and management of the Lodge to the well-being of every Lodge member. He has many powers available to him in the execution of his duties. The road to becoming Master of a Lodge is long and represents many years of work and dedication; it provides many opportunities for personal growth and the development of lasting friendships.
Because he is the presiding officer of the Lodge, he is called “Worshipful.” This is an old English word meaning “worthy of respect.” In Masonry, therefore, this title of respect is given to the officer who rules and governs his Lodge. The Worshipful Master’s station is in the East of the Lodge because, in the world of nature, the sun rises in the East to diffuse light on the earth. In like manner, it is the province of the Master to be the source of Masonic knowledge for his Brethren as they approach the East in search of light.
The Senior Warden is second in command and assumes responsibility for the Lodge in the absence of the Master. His station in the West represents strength. His jewel is the Level, an instrument for proving horizontal lines and an emblem signifying the existence of equality among the members of the Lodge.
The Junior Warden is third in command and, in the absence of the Master, and Senior Warden, is the only other Lodge officer normally authorized to open a communication of his Lodge. His station in the South represents beauty, and his jewel is the Plumb, a tool used to measure perpendiculars and an emblem of moral rectitude, justice and truth.
The Treasurer controls and accounts for the money and other property of the Lodge. His jewel is the Crossed Keys, a symbol of trustworthiness.
The Secretary maintains the records of the Lodge and handles all correspondence. He receives money from the Brethren and transfers the receipts to the Treasurer. His jewel is the Crossed Quill Pens that represent writing, obviously an important aspect of his duties.
The Chaplain is responsible for conducting all devotional exercises of the Lodge and, in so doing, satisfies the spiritual needs of the Brethren. His jewel is either a Plain Circle or an Open Book of Scriptures within a Circle.
The Marshal is responsible for organizing the Lodge and conducting all processions in the Lodge. His jewel is the Baton or Staff.
The Senior Deacon assists the Master, carries his messages wherever directed, both inside and outside the Lodge, and introduces and accommodates visiting Brethren. He also receives and conducts all candidates within the Lodge. His jewel is the Sun within the Square and Compasses.
The Junior Deacon assists the Senior Deacon, prepares candidates for the degrees, carries messages as directed by the Master or Senior Warden and sees that the Lodge is properly tyled. His jewel is the Moon within the Square and Compasses. Both Deacons carry black rods in the performance of their duties, which are symbols of their deputed authority.
The Senior and Junior Stewards are responsible for preparing the regalia of the Lodge, assisting in the preparation of candidates, participating in processions and aiding the Junior Warden at the time of refreshment. They carry white rods in the performance of their duties, and their jewels are the Cornucopia, an emblem of plenty.
The Organist is responsible for the musical services of the Lodge. His jewel is the Lyre, a harp-like instrument used by the ancients to accompany singing or recitation. It is an emblem of harmony.
The Tyler is responsible for guarding the outside of the tyled door and for denying admittance to those people who are not authorized to enter the Lodge room. His jewel is the Sword.
The Historian is responsible for maintaining the history of the Lodge and submitting it to Grand Lodge periodically.
The Librarian is responsible for maintaining the Masonic Library and educational manuals of the Lodge.
All Masons should know and observe the rules of proper Masonic protocol, that formal code of etiquette long honored and practiced within our Fraternity. Protocol encompasses standards for the conduct of Lodge business and for maintaining a level of dignity and decorum that serves to promote harmony and respect within the Lodge. Rules of protocol represent standards for officer and member attire within the Lodge, the wearing of aprons and jewels, how officers and members are addressed during meetings, and how the Master is recognized when entering and leaving the Lodge.
Lodge Apparel – The Grand Lodge of Maine has never adopted a dress code, mindful of the admonition that we regard “the internal and not the external qualifications of a man.” In some Lodges the officers wear tuxedos and in others business suits or sport jackets. The Lodges where the officers wear tuxedos believe that such a custom makes officers stand out and by so doing accords them appropriate dignity and authority, and invites Brethren to look up to the officers for leadership and guidance. While we are all equals in Masonry, any organization must have leaders to preserve order, and line officers are a part of the Lodge’s hierarchy. If officers dress appropriately and perform their duties with distinction, then the Lodge will survive, as will Freemasonry. Members should appreciate the need for this distinction accorded Lodge officers.
The customary dress for a Mason attending a Lodge meeting or any Masonic function, in other than an official capacity, is either a dark business suit, or a sports jacket and slacks, with a dress shirt and tie. Always remember that Masonry is special and we should dress accordingly.
Members and guests often wonder why officers in many Lodges wear white dress gloves. In a Masonic Lodge, one officer may be a brick-layer by trade; a second, a mechanic; and a third, a lawyer. Simply looking at a man’s hands will usually tell if he is a laborer or a white collar worker. Unfortunately, there may be certain innate prejudices regarding career descriptions; a man of a certain vocation may not command as much respect as he would if he were engaged in a different line of work. Hence, the wearing of white gloves by all officers helps to eliminate prejudices and make all officers equal. In some jurisdictions, all Brethren wear white gloves.
Pocket Jewels – Many Masons have opportunities to wear a pocket jewel such as a Past Master’s jewel, the traveling jewels of the Master and Wardens, or medals given to Masons for their service to the Craft. Generally speaking, these jewels should be worn in Lodge but not outside the Lodge building when participating in parades, church services, funeral services and public banquets.
Pocket jewels are worn inside the Lodge as a means of member recognition within the Craft and, as such, are not for public display. If worn outside the Lodge, the jewels could be lost or stolen. Pocket jewels from another Masonic body are not appropriate in Blue Lodges.
Lapel Insignia – Many Masons wear a discrete Masonic lapel insignia, sometimes individually a particular Masonic affiliation. One is appropriate. Many think that more than one is excessive. Lapel insignia are never worn on tuxedo jackets.
Aprons – All Brothers must wear an apron when attending Lodge meetings, including installations. During meetings, the Lodge is at work and the apron is the symbol of a working Mason. In Maine and most other jurisdictions, the apron is worn outside the jacket, not underneath; otherwise, you could not distinguish a Master Mason from an Entered Apprentice.
If a Past Master is installed as a Lodge officer, he should wear the apron belonging to his station in Lodge, not his Past Master apron. However, the Past Master is still entitled to wear the pocket jewel that was presented to him when he retired as the presiding Worshipful Master.
White aprons are worn by all Masons participating in Masonic funeral services, except for Lodge Officers, who should wear the apron of their office.
Masonic Titles – It is important to know when to use titles and to whom they apply. Masonic titles are meant to be used only in Lodge and are not to be used in public settings.
When we became Masons, we became “Brothers,” and when we leave this mortal world, we will leave as Brothers. Any Brother serving as an officer may be introduced, addressed or referred as “Brother (name of station)”, if “Brother Senior Warden” or “Brother Marshal.” This holds true even if the Brother occupying a station is a Past Master. When a Brother serves as Master of his Lodge, he is introduced, addressed or referred to as “Worshipful Master” or “Worshipful Brother (last name).” If he does not take a station after his term as Master, he continues to be addressed as “Worshipful Brother (last name)”, i.e. “Worshipful Brother Jones,” not “Worshipful Charlie.”
If a Past Master is elected and installed as Junior or Senior Grand Warden, or Deputy Grand Master or is named by the Grand Master to be a District Deputy Grand Master or Grand Lecturer, he shall be introduced, addressed or referred to as Right Worshipful and shall keep this title for life. Similarly, a District Education Representative keeps the title “Very Worshipful” for life unless he attains a higher office. If a Past Grand Warden or Past Deputy Grand Master is installed as Grand Master, he is thereafter introduced, addressed or referred to as Most Worshipful Grand Master, Grand Master, or Brother (last name).
When an officer is directly addressed or referred to it is appropriate to use his title once in a conversation. Thereafter it is appropriate to address him by his office or his name, e.g. “Brother District Deputy” or “Brother Smith”.
Official Correspondence – On occasion, a Brother may write a letter to another Mason about some Masonic business. The preparation of this correspondence should follow proper Masonic protocol. The heading of the letter is to include the Brother’s proper Masonic title, i.e. Worshipful, Right Worshipful, Most Worshipful or Brother. Regardless of the title, the proper salutation is “Dear Brother (last name).” The letter should be closed with “Fraternally,” “Sincerely” or “Cordially and fraternally.”
Envelopes should never include Masonic titles. For example, if you are writing a letter to the Grand Master, the envelope would be addressed:
Mr. Hiram Abif Grand Lodge of Maine P.O. Box 15058 Portland, Maine 04112-5058 Letters to the Grand Master are to be addressed only to him and no copies are to be made or sent to other persons.
Other Lodge Etiquette – All Masons should stand when addressing the Master and should not speak in Lodge until permission is received from the Master who presides over the meeting. Unsolicited comments and side discussions may serve to disrupt the harmony of Lodge meetings.
During the opening and closing of the Lodge, the Master will say, “Signs, Brethren.” Give the due-guard and sign of the First Degree and each succeeding degree through that on which the Lodge is open followed by the Grand Hailing sign. The Master and each Warden will then rap the implement of his office; once for each degree.
The Master uses his gavel during meetings to give instruction to one or more of the Brethren and to gain the attention of his officers. A Master raps the gavel once to seat the Lodge, or preparatory to giving instruction to a particular Lodge officer. All named officers stand when the Master raps twice and all Masons stand on three raps of the gavel.
When entering or leaving an opened Lodge, unless the Lodge is at refreshment, Brethren should always go to the rear of altar and give the appropnate due-guard. If a Brother entering a Lodge is not certain of the degree on which the Lodge is open, he should observe the placement of the Square and Compasses before giving the due-guard and sign. Brethren should neither enter nor leave a Lodge while it is being opened or closed, during degree work, or while the Lodge is balloting on candidates.
The Chaplain closes each prayer by saying “Amen,” a Hebrew word meaning “surely” or “certainly” and indicating his approval of the contents of the prayer. All Masons then respond with “So mote it be.” “Mote” is an old English word that means to “allow” or “permit.” It is addressed to the Supreme Being and requests that the prayer be answered.