Jack was a little apprehensive as he approached the restaurant on Tuesday. He was not sure what to expect and was worried because he wouldn’t know anyone. When he pulled into the parking lot he felt a little relieved because there was John standing at the entrance waiting on him.
As John and Jack shook hands John said, “Well Jack are you ready for some more Masonic education?”
“This gathering before Lodge is just as much a part of the Masonic experience as the degree work. You may not remember, but there was a recitation going on as you were conducted around the Lodge for the first time. It began, Behold! How good and pleasant it is for Brethren to dwell together in unity. This is to remind us that we should always find opportunity to gather with our Brothers. The more often we get together the better we know one another and it also becomes a time that we may share knowledge, offer aid and support to our Brothers and their families and most importantly; just enjoy each other’s company.”
They entered the dining room and the room was full of men talking, laughing and just generally having a good time. They had not been in the room very long when a Brother with a big smile began walking toward them. He went right by John and grabbed Jack’s hand.
“You must be Jack; I’m Carl Sanders Master of the Lodge. John called me and said you would be joining us, thanks so much John for bringing our newest Brother. Come with me Jack, I would like to introduce you to some of your Brothers.”
Carl proceeded to introduce Jack to as many as possible as John tagged along. The Master of Ceremonies stepped up front and asked the Brethren to take their seats. Carl, Jack and John found seats, the dinner preceded, as well as the lively conversations. Jack enjoyed the dinner immensely and wondered why his Lodge didn’t have one.
As Jack and John walked the two blocks to the Lodge building, John began to prepare Jack for the experience of the degree.
“Jack, the EA degree should be still fresh in your mind so as you watch try to remember what you were feeling and thinking during the degree. The lessons conveyed are only useful if you determine their meaning to you and your life. So many times Brothers just “watch” the degree and make no attempt to translate what they see into meaningful thought. The questions on the sheet I gave you last week are designed to help you to do just that.”
They were almost to the door of the Lodge as John continued. “When we get inside we will gather in the anteroom and put on our aprons and white gloves. We go into the Lodge in a procession; Brothers first led by the Stewards, followed by the officers. Once the procession begins no one is to speak. The Lodge room will be dimly lit and there will be soft music playing.”
“Why wasn’t this done at my Lodge?” Jack asked.
“All Lodges in our state use the same ritual to confer the degrees but the “atmosphere” a Lodge may wish to create is their choice. Our Lodge wants to convey to the Brothers that attending Lodge is a unique experience. To us, entering Lodge is symbolic. We are leaving everything else in our lives behind and entering a special place that allows a free exchange of thoughts and ideas without fear of petty arguments or bickering. We want our Lodge room to be a sanctuary of peace, harmony and accord. Entering in silence allows each Brother time to his own thoughts, to think about Masonry and its value and meaning to him.”
Jack thought about what John had just said. He had been to meetings at other organizations and they all started about the same. People wandered into the room, talked, laughed and usually the person in charge had to ask several times for people to settle down so the meeting could be started. Masonry is special so it makes sense that the manner in which a meeting is started should be special. Otherwise, Masonry would be like any other organization.
As Jack entered the Lodge room his first thought was that this did feel very special. The soft lights and the classical music just made you feel that something, maybe magical, was about to happen. Jack then thought about his father who died last year at the age of 48. He had been a Mason and although he really never discussed Masonry, Jack started to think maybe he didn’t have to.
Jack learned some great lessons from his father just by watching him, being around his father’s friends and his father allowing Jack to think and even fail on his own. Jack smiled as he thought about the time his father came home from work and Jack, at age 10, had taken the lawn mower apart. Rather than scold Jack he put down his briefcase, took off his tie and taught Jack how to put it back together. All the while asking Jack about what he had learned at school, what interested him the most or just laughing and having a good time. Anytime Jack did something he shouldn’t, his father would calmly talk to him about it rather than yelling at him. He was such a calm man, Jack wondered if being a Mason had something to do with that. He would ask John.
Jack and John reached their seats and the Master proceeded to open Lodge in a very solemn manner. Jack listened intently to the words and right from the beginning he heard something he wasn’t sure what it meant. When the Master asked the Senior Warden, “whence came you,” he replied, “from the Holy Saints John of Jerusalem.” Then Jack remembered seeing these phrases on the sheet John had given his last week. He would find out their meaning when they discussed them later.
As the degree began Jack continued to be awed at the silence in the room. Glancing around at the Brothers he noted how intently each seemed to be watching what was occurring. By the age of some of them he knew that a great number of them had seen this degree many, many times. Yet they each seemed to be watching as if this was their very first time. It was as if they were making sure they hadn’t missed something or maybe it was just to reaffirm what they already knew. John had said that Masons are always learning, evaluating and striving for improvement; that was sure being demonstrated here.
Jack continued to watch and listen intently as the degree progressed knowing that John would be asking him later what he had learned. John wished he could pull out his phone and make notes in his Masonry folder, but knew that would not be the thing to do. He knew he would have to rely on his memory so he decided once he reached home he would put his thoughts to paper while they were still fresh in his mind.
At the conclusion of the degree, after the Master had congratulated the new Brother, the Lodge Education Officer made a presentation to him while he was still at the altar. He first went through some procedural items such as the raps of the gavel and the ballot box. But then he summarized the lessons in the degree and then introduced him to his mentor. Jack thought about how grateful he was that John had volunteered to be his mentor.
“Wow”, exclaimed Jack, “I’m not sure what to say. I do know this; tonight had a whole different feel to it than when I received the EA degree in my Lodge.”
“Well, to begin with, I enjoyed the dinner before the meeting and the chance to meet many of my Brother Masons. The way your Lodge enters the Lodge room was something that was very special to me. I thought about my father and how he treated and raised me. I was thinking it was probably because he was Mason.”
“Jack, I can tell you most certainly it was. He not only practiced Masonry in the Lodge room but Masonry became who he was. Remember me telling you that my job as your mentor was to help you become Masonry?”
“Sure I do, but I’m still not entirely sure what that means.”
“Your father began helping you “become Masonry” way before you were old enough to petition Lodge. By the manner in which he conducted himself and how he raised you, he was demonstrating how Masons act. He displayed to you the love and devotion a Mason has for his family and by doing so prepared you to become a Mason. Even though he couldn’t be with you when you received your first degree, he was the one responsible for you being there.”
John could see that Jack’s eyes were welling up so he waited a few moments before he continued.
“Jack, when does your Lodge meet next?” Jack told him their stated meeting was in two weeks. His Uncle Ted had already told him that the meeting would be opened in the Entered Apprentice degree so he could participate.
“If it’s OK with you let’s meet there about 45 minutes before the meeting. Make sure you bring your EA ritual book. I want to get you started on learning the EA exam. Also, think about the questions I gave you at our last meeting and we’ll start a dialogue on those.”
When Jack got home he knew it would be a while before he settled down. The thoughts and discussion about his father were still on his mind as well as the rest of the evening. He grabbed his laptop and began to write about the whole experience that evening. When he finally looked at the clock he had been writing for over an hour. He realized he was exhausted but he felt good. He promised himself he would begin to write every day, not just about Masonry, but about what he was thinking. John told him that Masons should find time to reflect and think. Jack put a daily reminder on his phone so it would become a normal part of his day.
Next: Jack encounters some questions about Masonry.