Opening and Closing Ritual
THE THREE FUNCTIONS OF CALLING THE MEETING TO ORDER
To begin, we must discuss the functions of the Opening and Closing Ritual. I, for the purpose of this article, will point to three main functions, but the astute student of the craft may consider more. However, it is my belief those extra functions, in all honesty, can be traced back to these main three.
The three functions of the Opening and Closing Ritual are Purging the Lodge, Aligning the Officers, and Invocation of Deity. These three functions are evidenced in the ritual itself but are alluded to, if not explicitly stated, in Henry Meacham’s book Our Stations and Places. This work covers a myriad of topics essential for review among both the novice and the veteran. I would go further to say, each of these three functions or actions I trace back to our duty to Deity, Our Brother (or our Neighbor), and ourselves.
To make this connection more vivid, I would like to reference the implied analogy of the lodge or temple and the self, specifically with reference to the constituent officers of the lodge representing component parts of the self. This example is poignantly essayed by McNulty in the Way of the Craftsman, required reading of the Robert Livingston Library course (I highly recommend all brothers take these reading courses). I will not belabor the intricacies of the analogy but suffice it to say the lodge and the self can be viewed as a macrocosm and microcosm of the same thing, the same living breathing entity. You are the lodge; the lodge is you.
So what then is the purge, and what is the Opening and Closing of Lodge? Given this lens, the purge is exactly that first pursuit in seeking to better oneself in freemasonry, Divesting oneself of the vices and superfluities of life. In the material and Macrocosm level of the lodge, we are removing the uninitiated and unworthy person from the lodge. On the individual or microcosm level, we are purging our hearts and minds of thoughts, the spiritual and intellectual constituents of the mind, and targeting for removal those unworthy and unqualified thoughts that do not belong in the self while at the lodge or abroad in the world.
Alignment is a little more obvious in this example. Harmonizing of the officers is analogous to harmonizing the several parts of the self. as the Master, Wardens, and Deacons align for the purpose of conducting the affairs of the lodge, so should the individual align their spirit, conscious, body, inward, and outward awareness to respectively conduct themselves accordingly. Importantly, however, this is not to suggest that these separate individuals are to be tools of the Master, and are to cease to be individuals, neither should the various parts of the self become slaves to the passions of one’s own soul. These several parts should work together in harmony and balance. Preparing to work in harmony is the second functional objective of the Opening and Closing Ritual and it is arguably the support of all institutions, especially this of ours.
Lastly, and I would argue most importantly, the overarching objective of the Opening and Closing Ceremony is the invocation of Deity. It is specifically in this invocation that speaks to me of our threefold duty. The Chaplain’s verbiage is particularly important, in his request of Deity which he asks permission or on behalf of the lodge. He asks that the lodge humbly reflect. Specifically, the object of the lodge’s reflection is the divine order and beauty which reign forever before the GAOTU’s throne. But what I consider most important in this discussion is the nature of reflection in an everyday practical sense on the individual and microcosm level of the lodge which I feel speaks to our threefold duty which we are all charged with upon becoming Masons.
In Ray Dalio’s short animation titled Principals, he discusses success in terms of striving toward goals. He also mentions that it is likely anyone/ everyone will experience problems, weaknesses, and mistakes in trying to achieve those goals. Pain, in his view, is the experience of problems, weaknesses, and mistakes. There is a practical need in his view to meditate or Reflect, on pain. He importantly distinguishes the act of feeling and re-experiencing pain, from Reflection. In his view reflection is the evaluation of how to deal with the real limitations of weakness and mistakes in overcoming problems. This is how we achieve success. He says explicitly that a natural response to pain is inflation of ego. and by reflection, we can dissolve the persistence ego, and face reality. ‘Why did this failure happen when faced with these problems, weaknesses, and mistakes?’ we should ask. Through honest and real reflection on what occurred, we will be equipped with the correct responses and overcome these obstacles as they occur in the future to achieve our goals. In doing so we will unlock not only our goals but tools to realistically deal with problems we are faced with and will more than likely be challenged with again. By knowing our limitations and finding solutions around them and eliminating the ego, success is possible.
Success – That Order and Beauty which Reign forever before His throne.
So, what is our goal? What is our purpose that we are setting out to achieve, purging out what is unworthy, aligning ourselves, physically and spiritually, and invoking the aid of deity via reflection upon his grace? We aim to make ourselves better men. To humble ourselves before the chief good, honoring his name, and imploring his aid, to do good to our brothers, acting upon the square and doing unto them as we would wish they should do on to us, and to ourselves, in never debasing ourselves or our professions by intemperance; zealous adherence to the principals which distinguish us from the common or profane man, these are the goals we are striving towards. May we humbly reflect upon our pains in their pursuit.
So mote it be.
Submitted by W.M. Galen Kaback
Advance Service Mizpah Lodge #586, Long Island City, NY