Just like dinner before lodge is provided by the Junior Warden to feed our physical need, Masonic Education is here to feed a different type of need. Some may call this an esoteric, psychological, or even a spiritual need. If any prospect, candidate, or brother has anything they’d like for me to research or speak about, please let me know after lodge and I’ll surely to shed light where I can.
Tonight’s Masonic education will be about the physical and symbolic place of the altar in a lodge room.
Quite some time ago I was pulled aside during a tour of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and met a concerned whisper, “I thought Freemasonry wasn’t a religion? Why is there an alter?”. Bro Joseph Fort Newton could answer this question perfectly.
The altar is not simply a piece of furniture intended to support the Volume of Sacred Law, Square and Compasses. Nor is its position in the lodge accidental, either.
Both are profoundly significant and starts with Man. The wonder and awe of his worship tells us more than any other fact about him. By some deep necessity of his nature, he is a seeker after God. In moments of sadness or longing, in hours of tragedy or terror, he lays aside his tools and looks out over the far horizon, seeking an opportunity for the soul to be alone, to communicate with mysteries greater than itself, and to find healing for the vicissitudes of life.
But no one ever goes to the Masonic Altar alone. It is an altar of fellowship, as if to teach us that no man can learn the truth for another, and no man can learn it alone. Masonry brings men together in mutual respect, sympathy, and goodwill, that we may learn in love the truth that is hidden by indifference and lost by hate.
The position of the altar in the lodge is a symbol of what Masonry believes the altar should be in life: a center of union and fellowship and not a cause of division, as is now so often the case. It does not seek the uniformity of opinion, but rather fraternity of spirit, leaving each one free to fashion his own philosophy of ultimate truth.
Masonry seeks to unite men, not divide them. It is, first of all, an altar of faith- the deep, eternal faith which underlies all creeds and overarches all sects; faith in God, in the moral law, and in the life everlasting. Faith in God is the cornerstone and the keystone of Freemasonry.
The altar is a freedom of faith. Beyond the fact of the reality it does not go, allowing every man to think of God according to his experience of life and his vision of truth. It does not define God, nor speak of how or what men shall think or believe.