Friday, March 14, 2008

The Middle Chamber

Last night I was passed to the degree of Fellow Craft. There were many more Brothers in attendance than last month (when the meeting happened to fall on Valentine's Day), and this time there was a collation after Lodge was closed.
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
(Psalm 133:1)
Having interacted with some of the Brethren over the last month the whole experience was a bit more relaxed and familiar, and the collation was my first real opportunity to experience a part of the fellowship of which I had hitherto seen only glimpses. It will take some time to get to know everyone, but during the hour or so I chatted with various brothers, I discovered common areas of interest and/or personal history with just about everyone I spoke to.

Earlier this week I received a copy of the handbook given to all new Entered Apprentices by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, and I have found it to be a helpful volume that touches on broad aspects of the degrees as well as more pragmatic matters of etiquette and specifics about the organization and vision of the Grand Lodge. As I was reading through today I was particularly struck by a very simple and seemingly obvious statement that sums up in just four words a huge part of my decision to become a Mason:
"Masonic philosophy is practical."
I feel that Freemasonry's nondenominational approach to faith (unfortunate exceptions notwithstanding) is just as important as the requirement of belief in a supreme being - while much symbolism and language of the degrees is drawn from Judeo-Christian sources, the overarching understanding that all of the teachings are symbolic serves to detach the lessons they contain from literal interpretation. When the name of God is invoked in Lodge, it is a symbol... a symbol for whatever supreme being is at the core of your faith. It is up to you to prescribe what that invocation means for you, while at the same time acknowledging that it may mean something slightly different, yet no less valid, to every other Brother in the room.

So far, I feel that I have chosen very well - I don't get the impression that these are the sorts of things you ponder after joining the Lions or Kiwanis.

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