Tuesday, August 22, 2006

IF MASONRY ISN'T A RELIGION, WHY DOES IT USE RITUAL?"


Many of us may think of religion when we think of ritual, but ritual is used in every aspect of life. It's so much a part of us that we just don't notice it. Ritual simply means that some things are done more or less the same way each time.

Almost all school assemblies, for example, start with the principal or some other official calling for the attention of the group. Then the group is led in the Pledge of Allegiance. A school choir or the entire group may sing the school song. That's a ritual.

Almost all business meetings of every sort call the group to order, have a reading of the minutes of the last meeting, deal with old business, then with new business. That's a ritual.

Most groups use Robert's Rules of Order to conduct a meeting. That's probably the best-known book of ritual in the world.

There are social rituals which tell us how to meet people (we shake hands), how to join a conversation (we wait for a pause, and then speak), how to buy tickets to a concert (we wait in line and don't push in ahead of those who were there first). There are literally hundreds of examples, and they are all rituals.

Masonry uses a ritual because it's an effective way to teach important ideas -- the values we've talked about earlier. And it reminds us where we are, just as the ritual of a business meeting reminds people where they are and what they are supposed to be doing.

Masonry's ritual is very rich because it is so old. It has developed over centuries to contain some beautiful language and ideas expressed in symbols. But there's nothing unusual in using ritual. All of us do it every day.

LONG ISLAND MASONS

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