Recently, I asked the members of The Euphrates‘ mailing list to send me any subjects that they would like me to cover in my articles. I received a number of great ideas and am going to work my way through them over the next few months. This week, I’m going to cover a subject that really captured my attention. One Brother asked me to cover the subject of “how to use the lodge as a true sanctum sanctorum and treat it as such.”
In order to discuss this subject, we must first examine the term ‘sanctum sanctorum’ and what it means in Freemasonry. Sanctum sanctorum is a Latin term that may be literally translated translated as “Holy of Holies.” This term is used to describe the innermost chamber of King Solomon’s Temple.
It was here in this most sacred place that the Ark of the Covenant was placed during the dedication of the temple. Masons are taught in the third degree that when the lodge is opened in the Master Mason degree that it represents the sanctum sanctorum of King Solomon’s Temple.
I’m sure that any Freemason that takes a moment to consider this will realize that we do not treat the tyled lodge room as a sanctum sanctorum. It is true that there are certain regulations and protocol that we follow while in the lodge room. Most lodges make sure that general order is kept, that proper courtesies are given to officers, and that particular parts of the ritual are done correctly, but often the lodge room is simply a place to discuss business.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with discussing the business inside a tyled lodge. In fact, a little bit of research into the protocol of Freemasonry in its earliest days reveals that this is where business was intended to be conducted. Whether it is a discussion about paying the lodge’s bills, conducting a charitable event, or electing officers, it is perfectly acceptable to discuss business within the sanctum sanctorum of today’s Masonic lodges. However, it is the reverence with which the Brethren treat the forms for opening and closing the lodge and the pursuit of Masonic knowledge that can really make the lodge feel like a sanctuary.
The rituals that we use to open and close are lodge are more than just an elaborate form of parliamentary procedure. These ceremonies remind us of the very lessons and symbols that are taught in the degrees. Every time that we open or close a lodge we can be reminded of our obligations and the solemn duty that we must perform as Freemasons. I think that all Masons will agree that a degree conferral should be conducted with reverence and professionalism and the process of opening and closing a lodge should be treated no differently. In order to assist the Brethren in feeling the need to treat these rituals appropriately, a lodge can adopt a dress code that is representative of the desired atmosphere. The way that Masons conduct themselves in lodge can change almost instantaneously when they go from wearing blue jeans to wearing a suit.
Additionally, we can treat our lodges as a true sanctum sanctorum by conducting Masonic education. Every single lodge meeting should have some form of Masonic education as a part of the agenda. I personally believe that a lodge should start with requiring 15 minutes of education and adding time as the educational program improves. Unfortunately, most Masons have never seen true Masonic education. Masonic education is not reading from the Short Talk Bulletin. Masonic education is not giving a short biography of a famous Mason or telling an amusing anecdote. Masonic education is having a discussion about the symbolism of the degrees, explaining how to properly perform the ritual, learning about Masonic history, or even discussing the sciences or liberal arts. Some of the best examples of Masonic education that I have seen conducted are an explanation of the difference between the Antients and Moderns, a new program for educating kids in a local school, and a demonstration of how to properly conduct a candidate during a degree.
Using these simple suggestions can help any lodge to seem like a true sanctum sanctorum. If our Brethren feel like the lodge is a sanctuary to be treated with reverence, they will conduct themselves accordingly. A lodge that treats the tyled lodge room appropriately just might be surprised at the positive effect it can have on the organization.
I hope that these ideas can help you to improve your lodge and treat it as a sanctum sanctorum.