The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas recently held the Grand Master’s Table Lodge on an open air rooftop overlooking a view of downtown Dallas, Texas. The event was hosted by Metropolitan Lodge No. 146, Wor. Jerome D. Lacy presiding.
The Table Lodge is a tyled Entered Apprentice Masons Lodge. It harkens back to the Mother Grand Lodge of 1717 where one of the reasons for its formation was to hold the Annual Feast. Soon the Grand Master of that time directed there be installed into the ceremony the old, regular and peculiar toasts and health’s of Freemasons. Over time a Table Lodge became a prescribed ceremony with a ritual all its own.
Table Lodges in Colonial America were quite common as many Lodges actually met in taverns and a full course meal became part of “going to Lodge.” As the decades passed and a new century began, Table Lodges were continued as a way to promote fellowship, kinship and pride in Masonry.
“The Table Lodge had a most unusual pattern. Its entire meeting was conducted around the table, and the helpings of food and beverage were served in such a way they did not interfere with the other concerns of the Lodge. The arrangement of tables resembled a giant horse-shoe, with the worshipful Master in the East, at the center, and both Wardens in the West, at the opposite ends. The Lodge was opened with an invocation and closed with a song.”
“At first, there was an address, followed by many toasts and songs, but as time went by the lecture was omitted and the number of toasts and songs decreased. The final figure that was set for the toasts was seven, and in some Jurisdictions that number is still retained today.”
Under its skillful formula, the names of objects in the room were changed. The table was the Trestle Board, the cloth – the standard, the food – the materials, the glasses became cannons, the beverage – powder, the bottles – casks, the napkin a flag, forks were pickaxes, knives were swords, and spoons were trowels. To fill the glass was to “charge” it, and to drink it was to ‘fire’”.(1)
Today a Table Lodge has its own set of rituals, with its own particular opening and closing ritual as well as a seven course meal with seven toasts, one after each course.
The ritual of The Ceremony of the Seven Toasts is as follows:
Right hand to arms. (The right hand touches the glass).
Ready. (The glass is raised breast high, aim extended forward).
Aim. (The glass is brought to the lips).
Fire, Good Fire, Fire All. (All drink).
Present Arms. (The glass is brought to the second position in unison with the Worshipful Master, then the glass is brought to the left breast, then to the right breast, then again to the second position so that the movement makes a triangle. This triangle is made three times: then the glass is brought to the table in three moves – it is first carried a little to the left, then to the right and finally forcibly in unison to the table).
The Battery, three times three ( clapping 3X right over left, left over right, right over left). (Done)
ALL Vivat, Vivat, Vivat. (Right arm thrust upward with each Vivat).
Advance swords. (Knife is raised breast high, arms extended forward).
Poise swords. (Knife blade is elevated slightly, about 45°)
Salute with swords. (Knife handle is brought to within a few inches of the chin with the blade elevated about 45°)
Swords at rest. (Knife handles are carried in unison forcibly to the table – preferably in a flat position to prevent table damage).
The Battery, three times three. (Done)
ALL Vivat, Vivat, Vivat. (Right arm thrust upward with each Vivat).(2)
Wor. Jerome D. Lacy led us in all the toasts except the one to himself and other Worshipful Masters. The toasts were as follows: To the –
- President of the United States of America
- Most Worshipful Grand Master and the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge
- The Worshipful Master and all sitting Masters
- The Wardens and all sitting Wardens
- Past Masters
- Other Officers and visiting Brethren
- To all Masons where-so-ever spread over the face of the globe
A great meal was had by all. The Table Lodge closed with all Brethren forming the Mystic Chain (arms crossed in front and clasped to the Brother to your right and left) and singing the ancient song written by Scottish Poet Laureate Brother Robert Burns in 1788– Auld Lang Syne.
Should old acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind
Should all acquaintance be forgot
And auld lang syne
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne
(1) HISTORY OF THE “TABLE LODGE” – State College Masonic Lodge No. 700 F&AM – http://www.lodge700.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=46&Itemid=41
(2) How To Conduct A Table Lodge, Phoenixmasonry – http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/table_lodge_history_ritual.htm