The Gentle Art of meditation, when applied
to the ritual of Craft Masonry, never fails to reveal new beauties
and new meanings that otherwise would escape us, Many a passages,
otherwise obscure, is thereby made instantly clear, to be seen
as clothed with deepest significance. Hidden truths stand revealed.
The relationship of this passage or that to some other passage
apparent, and, as a result, there enters into our Masonic experience a new and richer comprehension of the work. We are made to see how every detail of the work is imbedded in the history, the symbolism, and the law of the Craft.
With this in mind, let us meditate for a little while upon the Senior Warden and his office, considering his part in the Lodge work, especially as specified by the ritual and the law. And when I speak of the law, I mean our Masonic law, as written into the Grand Lodge Constitutions.
First comes the Senior Warden's duty in the Lodge, as specified in the opening ceremony. Here he recites the reason for being in the West. But, like the ticking of the clock, of which we are seldom conscious, the deeper meaning is apt to escape us became we hear it so often. Let us analyze his statement, then, that we may the better understand and his duty.
Take the very first question which the Worshipful Master asks of the Senior Warden during the opening of Lodge, and then recall his duty as he states it.
Observe that the Grand Lodge Monitor is precise upon the first point. It says, "Care is taken that none be present but members and Brethren who are properly vouched for, followed by the precaution that the avenues be securely guard, and the Tiler informed of his duty, and also the qualifications necessary for those who seek to pass."
This means that here is the very place where
caution begins. A definite responsibility is laid upon the shoulders
of the Senior Warden. Having referred the matter to the proper
Officer, the Senior Warden reports and - he should know whereof
he speaks! He is responsible for the presence of cowans or eavesdroppers,
should any be present, and this ceremony, performed wider his
supervision, permits of no laxity whatever in the carrying out of his duty.
In this regard alone the Senior Warden owes
to his Lodge his supreme effort for the utmost faithfulness in
the performance of his duty. The Worshipful Master, if he takes
his work seriously, is a busy man, and it is natural enough that
the important task of purging the
Lodge be delegated to the watchful care of the Senior Warden, who, informed upon the point committed to his care, assures the Worshipful Master that all present are Master Masons.
This duty should never be regarded by the Senior Warden as a perfunctory thing; never should it be assumed summed that all present are Master Masons; rather should it be assumed that it is possible that cowans may be present He must perform his duty with rigorous attention to every detail. At his installation he hears the admonition, "Look well to the West" and here is an opportunity to display a praiseworthy zeal for the welfare of his Lodge.
An old, hoary-headed Past Master once told me of a Senior Warden whom he had known in days gone by. Never did the Brethren take anything for granted. His Lodge was thoroughly purged, even to the extent of seeing that all present were in good standing. At times the Brethren thought him too sever, but ultimately they came to see the wisdom of his exactitude. Needless to say no one ever sat in his Lodge. And the Lodge was a better Lodge, this old Past Master told me, for the true Masonic zeal of his Senior Warden.
We now come to the second point having to do with his duty as the Senior Warden states it. First, he assists the Worshipful Master; and second, he seeks the promotion of harmony, which is the support of all institutions, "especially this of ours."
Here lies one of the Senior Warden's most important if not the most important. For we can accomplish nothing without harmony. Too often have we seen the devastating effect of lack of harmony in a Lodge. The very purpose for which Masonry exist is good will among men. Banish harmony and nothing is left but the dry, empty shell, the discarded husk from which nothing can grow. In our strong Lodges, harmony may be found; in our useful Lodges those that are a potent force; in their communities, it is always found. Lodges are weak, usually, either because they fail to develop their latent strength, or because Bro. This and Bro. That do not work well together, with each having his following.
How utterly ridiculous a Masonic Lodge must appear to the non-Mason who hears reports of turbulence in disagreements at our meetings. And, Bro. Senior Warden, I believe the very keynote of your station in the West is just at this point. Harmony is not to be had except as the Brethren of the Lodge, with the Senior Warden, practice forbearance, which includes the God-given traits of "patience" and "tact." I often wonder if the Almighty ever gave to mankind a more soothing influence than is summed up in those two words. The Lodge that functions with the smoothness of a well-oiled machine, each part lending itself to the complete and harmonious movement of the whole, is a happy Lodge.
And the Senior Warden assist the Worshipful Master. I think every Mason who considers at all the Senior Warden as such does so in the light of his qualifications for the East. If the Worshipful Master is absent from a communication the Senior Warden presides over the Lodge. Through what finer training-school for the East could one pass than service in the West? Here he may learn to assist without taking the lead. Here he may learn to act, and develop those qualities of mind which, in a broad sense, will make him most useful. At any time he may have to preside over the Lodge, wherefore he should be as well informed upon the ritual as the Master himself. And not the ritual alone! He should be as well a student of the Grand Lodge Constitutions. In this way he may save the Worshipful Master and the Lodge much embarrassment. It is a duty which every Master and the Senior and Junior Wardens owe to the Craft. If there is one great truth which, more than any other, I would like to drive home, it is this: No human institution, Freemasonry include, is greater than the quality of its leadership. The higher the standard of our leadership in the East the more useful, in terms of service to our fellowman will be our Lodges.
Another duty of the Senior Warden is to represent his Lodge in Grand Lodge should the Master not attend. It is almost inconceivable to imagine a Worshipful Master who fails to give his Lodge representation in the Grand Body. If circumstances should prevent his attendance he should see that a Warden or a proxy attends. In this connection Section 3 of the Constitutions says: "This Grand Lodge shall be composed of all its Grand Officers, the Past Grand Masters, Past Deputy Grand Masters, Past Grand Wardens, Past Grand Treasurers, Past Grand Secretaries, and one Representative from each Lodge (who shall be the Master, one of the Wardens in the order of seniority, or a Proxy duly elected by the Lodge)."
When the Senior Warden represents his Lodge at Grand Lodge he should give a report to the Lodge of the proceedings, just as the Master would have done. This report should be supplemented by reading to the Brethren from the Transactions when they are received, from which a liberal education in matters Masonic may be obtained. Too seldom is seen a bookcase containing bound volumes of the Grand Lodge Transactions, extending back for a number of years, where the Brethren may have access to them. This valuable book too frequently never finds its way into the Lodge-room, where by every right it belongs.
Thus does the ritual, as we contemplate it, emphasizes the work of the Senior Warden, giving it a we perhaps had not dreamed of. For upon this Officer rests a task of the utmost importance. And upon his conception of his duty to his Brethren depends much of it usefulness as a character-forming and character-building institution.
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