The Ritual – How many make a master Mason Lodge?



Is the duty of three, mandatory for opening a Master Mason Lodge? Didn’t it use to be five?

In the opening ceremonies, a Lodge is described as consisting of at least three, five, or seven Masons, depending on the Degree, after which the Master inquires as to who they are and what their duties are. In doing this, the Master may inquire as to a greater number than that specified for the Degree, but never a lesser number.

In the New York system that existed from the mid-nineteenth century until 2019, all meetings opened as Master Mason Lodges. Prior to that time, however, New York Lodges could open on any of the three Degrees, as they can today, and most often worked as Entered Apprentice Lodges. The best guess as to why the incongruous duty of five was required under the then-new “third Degree only” system is that it was meant to appease Masons who were used to hearing the duty of seven at most meetings and may have resisted the change. The present system reverts to the traditional number of duties required to be given for each Degree, although the Master can always call for the number of duties specified for a lower Degree. The history and politics of how and why we implemented the previous system is beyond the scope of this column, but if you’re interested in learning more you can invite me to give a talk in your Lodge!

Response provided by RW Samuel Lloyd Kinsey
Chairman, Custodians of the Work, Grand Lodge of New York

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