I would like to discuss an interpretation of a passage from one of the lectures of the First Degree. This interpretation isn’t original-- others have written about it. In spirit, it will be very much like other ritual interpretations I have shared with you before. The interpretation will be very similar to the idea spelled out even more strongly in the Charges delivered in the rituals of some other Grand Jurisdictions that all of humanity has claim upon our kind offices and that we as individuals are to do good unto all. So, while the interpretation I am about to propose to you has been commonly known in many circles of Freemasonry, it seems that, in our sometimes tumultuous and divided times, it has not been as commonly remembered or practiced and bears repeating.
Therefore, I would like for us to consider this passage, “The form of a lodge is an oblong rectangle extending from east to west between north and south, from the earth to the heavens and from the surface to the center. It is said to be thus extensive to denote the universality of Masonry and that a Mason’s charity should be equally extensive.”
Let’s look at the first sentence. “The form of a lodge is an oblong rectangle extending from east to west between north and south, from the earth to the heavens and from the surface to the center.” If you think about what this sentence says you will find that the description of the form of a lodge describes the entire world as we know it. The lodge is our world and the world is our lodge. Its symbolism goes much deeper than that simple sentence but for our talk tonight that sentence is enough.
Now let’s look at the second sentence. “It is said to be thus extensive to denote the universality of Masonry and that a Mason’s charity should be equally extensive.” The first part of the sentence explains that the lodge, extensive as to be the entire world, describes the universality of Masonry. Universality—a word defined as the quality of involving or being shared by all people or things in the world or in a particular group or as the quality of being true in or appropriate for all situations. For us, as Masons, this means that we are universally-- that we are always and in every situation—Masons. There is not a place or time in the world where we are not. Everywhere we go, everywhere we are, all of the time; we are to act as Masons should. We don’t get to take a break. We don’t get to shut it off.
The second part of the sentence explains that a Mason’s charity should also be as extensive and universal as the entire world. His charity—that agape love for others that enables him to put another’s needs ahead of his own, that lets him see a being loved by God in everyone he meets, that lets him set aside the desires of his own ego—is to extend to everyone he meets in the world.
Is this a tall order? You bet it is. It is impossible for any of us to behave like this all of the time. However, it is not perfection that Freemasons will achieve in this life, but it is perfection that we should aspire to. I am going to try. How about you?
Brian L. Pettice, 33° is a Past Master of Anchor Lodge No. 980 and plural member of Olive Branch Lodge No. 38 in Danville, IL and an Honorary Member of a couple of others. He is also an active member of both the York and Scottish Rites. He cherishes the Brothers that have become Friends over the years and is thankful for the opportunities Freemasonry gives and has given him to examine and improve himself, to meet people he might not otherwise have had chance to meet, and to do things he might not otherwise have had a chance to do. He is employed as an electrician at the University of Illinois and lives near Alvin, IL with his wife Janet and their son Aidan. He looks forward to sharing the joy the fraternity brings him with others. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.