The Ceremony of Opening and Closing a Lodge.
IN all regular assemblies of men who are convened for wise and useful purposes, the commencement and conclusion of business are accompanied with some form. In every country of the
world the practice prevails, and is deemed essential. From the most remote periods of antiquity it may be traced, and the refined improvements of modern times have not totally abolished it.
Ceremonies, when simply considered, it is true, are little more than visionary delusions, but their effects are sometimes important. When they impress awe and reverence on the mind, and engage the attention, by external attraction, to solemn rites, they are interesting objects. These purposes are effected by judicious ceremonies, when regularly conducted and properly arranged. On this ground they have received the sanction of the wisest men in all ages, and, consequently, could not escape the notice of Masons.To begin well is the most likely means to end well; and it is judiciously remarked, that, when order and method are neglected at the beginning, they will be seldom found to take place at the end.
The ceremony of opening and closing a Lodge with solemnity and decorum is, therefore, universally admitted among Masons; and though the mode in some Lodges may vary, and in every degree must vary, still an uniformity in the general practice prevails in every Lodge; and the variation (if any) is solely occasioned by a want of method, which a little application might easily remove.
To conduct this ceremony with propriety ought to be the peculiar study of every Mason, especially of those who have the honor to rule in our assem-
blies. To persons who are thus dignified, every eye is naturally directed for propriety of conduct and behavior; and from them other brethren who are less informed will naturally expect to derive an example worthy of imitation.
From a share in this ceremony no Mason can be exempted. It is a general concern in which all must assist. This is the first request of the master, and the prelude to all business. No sooner has it been signified, than every officer repairs to his station, and the brethren rank according to their degrees. The intent of the meeting becomes the sole object of attention, and the mind is insensibly drawn from those indiscriminate subjects of conversation which are apt to intrude on our less serious moments.
This effect accomplished, our care is directed to the external avenues of the Lodge; and the proper officers, whose province it is to discharge that duty, execute their trust with fidelity, and by certain mystic forms, of no recent date, intimate that we may safely proceed. To detect impostors among ourselves, an adherence to order in the character of Masons ensues, and the Lodge is either opened or closed in solemn form.
At opening the Lodge, two purposes are wisely effected: the master is reminded of the dignity of his character, and the brethren of the homage and veneration due from them in their sundry stations. These are not the only advantages resulting from a
due observance of this ceremony; a reverential awe for the Deity is inculcated, and the eye fixed on that object from whose radiant beams light only can be derived. Here we are taught to adore the God of heaven, and to supplicate his protection on our wellmeant endeavors. The master assumes his government in due form, and under him his wardens, who accept their trust, after the customary salutations. The brethren, then, with one accord, unite in duty and respect, and the ceremony concludes.
At closing the Lodge, a similar form takes place. Here the less important duties of Masonry are not passed over unobserved. The necessary degree of subordination in the government of a Lodge is peculiarly marked, while the proper tribute of gratitude is offered up to the beneficent Author of life, and his blessing invoked and extended to the whole Fraternity. Each brother faithfully locks up the treasure he has acquired, in his own secret repository, and, pleased with his reward, retires to enjoy and disseminate among the private circle of his brethren the fruits of his labor and industry in the Lodge.
These are faint outlines of a ceremony which universally prevails among Masons in every country, and distinguishes all their meetings. It is arranged as a general section in every degree, and takes the lead in all our illustrations.
A CHARGE,Used at Opening a Lodge.
BEHOLD! how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments:
As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
A PRAYER,Used at Closing the Lodge.
MAY the blessing of Heaven rest upon us, and all regular Masons! may brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtuse cement us! Amen.