More than Green Beans at the Masonic Table
by Midnight Freemason
Robert E. Jackson, PM
What are the biggest holidays of the modern era? I would say Thanksgiving, and Christmas. What main event is shared with both of those holidays? A big, bountiful, meal with all of your family. The Normal Rockwell picture! Think now about the big moments in life? Birthdays, Graduations, Weddings, Funeral…they all have a primary meal aspect to the occasion. It seems that nearly every special occasion in life accords a nice meal around your closest friends, and family. In times back, not very long ago, the family would sit down every night to dinner and discuss the events of the day. It was ritualistic occurrence nearly every night that strengthened the bonds of the family and taught many of us the manners we know today. I suspect there is a low likelihood of this ritual existing today, which makes those big gatherings that much more important.
Every month, ten months per year (minimum usually), there is a special event at each of our Lodges. Each time we gather, it is a special event, and as we've seen, each special event deserves a bountiful meal. It doesn't have to be a costly endeavor, or overly time consuming. Details like tablecloths, the arrangement of the tables, and the utensils used can spruce up even the most drab green beans. We shouldn't forget, however, that its not the quality of the food that makes the evening special, it's the quality of the company. In many cases, this is the only time we get to meet and talk with some of our Brothers, our family. Sometimes we catch up on family events and health, but sometimes we also have the opportunity to discuss more of the symbolism in our ritual. Well, what about the symbolism in the meal itself?
What are our wages? Corn, wine, and oil. Yes we learn they mean health, plenty, and peace, but at the basis of these artifacts, we have food, drink, and warmth…the bare necessities of human life. When we feed a Brother, we are providing them with energy, and life. Furthermore, our food, all that we ingest, connects us with the Earth in which the food was grown. It is energy from the sun and nutrients from the air and ground. We consume, produce our own energy, and return what is left back to the Earth to continue the cycle. As Masons, I feel our connection to Nature is like none other, and every meal provides us with an opportunity to recognize that connection.
As Masons, we are also taught to be charitable, caring for the weak, and the sick. We also need to consider this characteristic in the realm of food and drink. Gluttony not only damages our own bodies, but can deprive others of those requirements for survival. Certainly there are enough instances where the excess of drink has not only impaired health, but has ruined lives. As we sit back with a full belly, contemplate the virtue of temperance, and how critical it can be to the wellbeing of our communities.
But it's more than just filling the belly. Around the table, a bond is made. Conversations that might otherwise not have happened, flourish. In the Christian belief, the Last Supper is where Jesus announced to his disciples that one of them would betray him. Quite a heavy subject, and accusation. The bread was broken, and consumed, and from that point on Jesus would live within each of them, including Judas, who not only betrayed Jesus, but he betrayed himself. How would this story be different were it not gathered around the table (I still find it strange that they all sat on the same side of the table).
On a lighter note, restauranteurs are finding that when they allow their staff to eat together, the bonds within them strengthen and they create better friends. These are companies whose primary job is to provide a quality meal. They are now learning that it isn't just the meal, it is the interaction during the meal. People are finding that those bonds created around the table not only improve their own happiness, but also retention in the workplace. Have you ever left a job? It's not the job you miss, or that you have to say goodbye to. It's saying goodbye to the friends you've made in your career that hurts.
The importance of sitting at the table, and sharing that sacred space (and it really is a sacred space) can not be overstated. The energy from the Earth undergoes its own alchemical transformation, take the basic building blocks of life and creating material ready for your consumption. All of this enables us to work, play, and maintain health. In some cultures, simply sitting at the table is a noble act. Slaves would eat standing….continuing their work, no table at which to sit. Only the nobles, those worthy, were welcome at the table. My Brothers, we are all worthy, and should welcome the opportunity to sit at the table in Harmony with our Brothers in Freemasonry.