Opening of the Lodge
The necessity of some preparatory ceremonies, of a more or less formal character, before proceeding to the despatch of the ordinary business of any association, has always been recognized. Decorum and the dignity of the meeting alike suggest, even in popular assemblies called only for a temporary purpose, that a presiding officer shall, with some formality, be inducted into the chair, and he then, to use the ordinary phrase "opens" the meeting with the appointment of his necessary assistants and with the announcement, in an address to the audience, explanatory of the objects that have called them together.
If secular associations have found it expedient, by the adoption of some preparatory forms, to avoid the appearance of an unseaming abruptness in proceeding to business it may well be supposed that religious e Societies have been still more observant of the custom, and that, as their pursuits are more elevated, the ceremonies of their preparation for the object of their meeting should be still more impressive.
In the Ancient Mysteries, those sacred rites which have furnished so many models for Masonic symbolism, the opening ceremonies were of the most solemn character- The Sacred Herald commenced the ceremonies of opening the greater initiations by the solemn formula of "Depart hence, ye profane!" to which was added a proclamation which forbade the use of any language which might be deemed of un favorable augury to the approaching rites. In like manner a Lodge of Freemasons is opened with the employment of certain ceremonies in which, that attention may be given to their symbolic as well as practical importance, every member present is expected to take a part. These ceremonies, which slightly differ in each of the Degrees but differ so slightly as not to affect their general character--may be considered, in reference to the several purposes they are to effect, to be dinged into eight successive steps or parts. 1. The Master having signified his intention to proceed to the labors of the Lodge, every Brother is expected to assume his necessary Masonic clothing and, if an officer, the insignia of his office, and silently and decorously to repair to his appropriate station.
2. The next step in the ceremony is, with the usual precautions, to ascertain the right of each one to be present. It is scarcely necessary to say that. in the performance of this duty, the officers who are charged with it should allow no one to remain who is not either well known to themselves or properly vouched for by some discreet and experienced Brother.
3. Attention is next directed to the external avenues of the Lodge, and the officers within and without who are entrusted with the performance of this important duty, are expected to execute it with care and fidelity.
4. By a wise provision, it is no sooner intimated to the Master that he may safely proceed, than he directs his attention to an inquiry into the knowledge possessed by his officers of the duties that they will be respectively called upon to perform.
5. Satisfied upon this point, the Master then Announces, by formal proclamation, his intention to proceed to business; and, mindful of the peaceful character of our Institution, he strictly forbids all immoral or un-masonic conduct whereby the harmony of the Lodge may be impeded, under no less a penalty than the by-laws may impose or a majority of the Brethren present may see fit to indict. Nor, after this, is any Brother permitted to leave the Lodge during Lodge hours, that is, from the time of opening to that of closing, without having first obtained the Worshipful Master's permission.
6. Certain mystic rites, which can here be only alluded to, are then employed, by which each Brother present signifies his concurrence in the ceremonies which have been performed, and his knowledge of the Degree in which the Lodge is about to be opened.
7. It is a lesson which every Freemason is taught, as one of the earliest points of his initiation, that he should commence no important undertaking without first invoking the blessing of Deity. Hence the next step in the progress of the opening ceremonies is to address a prayer to the Supreme Architect of the Universe. This prayer. although offered by the Master, is to be participated in by every Brother, and, at its conclusion, the audible response of "So mote it be" should be made by all present.
8. The Lodge is then declared, in the name of God and the Holy Saints John, to be opened in due form on the First, Second, or Third Degree of Freemasonry, so the case may be.
A Lodge is said to be opened in the name of God and the Holy Saints John, as a declaration of the sacred and religious purposes of the meeting, of profound reverence for that Divine Being whose name and attributes should be the constant themes of contemplation, and of respect for those ancient patrons whom the traditions of Freemasonry 80 intimately connect with the history of the Institution.
It is said to be opened in due boron, to intimate that all that is necessary, appropriate and usual in the ceremonies, all that the law requires or ancient usage renders indispensable, have been observed. Further, it is said to be opened on, and not in, a certain Degree, which latter expression is often incorrectly used, in reference rather to the speculative than to the legal character of the meeting, to indicate, not that the members are to be circumscribed in the limits of a particular Degree, but that they are met together to unite in contemplation on the symbolic teachings and divine lessons of that Degree. The manner of opening in each Degree slightly varies. In the English system, the Lodge is opened in the First Degree "in the name of T. G. A. O. T. U."; in the Second, "on the square, in the name of the Grand Geometrician of the Universe"; and in the Third, "on the center, in the name of the Most High." It is prescribed as a ritualistic regulation that the Master shall never open or close his Lodge without a lecture or part of a lecture. Hence, in each of the Degrees a portion of the lecture of that Degree is incorporated into the opening and closing ceremonies. There is in every Degree of Freemasonry, from the lowest to the highest, an opening ceremony peculiar to the Degree. This ceremony has always more or less reference to the symbolic lesson which it is the design of the Degree to teach, and hence the varieties of openings are as many as the Degrees themselves.
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