The candidate could have joined any one of a number of valuable and worthwhile community organizations. What is it that separates Masonry from these other excellent organizations?
In a word: Ritual.
We Masons have, each one of us, walked the same hoodwinked path taken by each new candidate we receive. We have, some of us, heard the lessons of the First Degree dozens of times. And while it is certainly a cliché that I get a new insight just about every time I see the degree, that makes the statement no less true.
It’s not just the ritual we perform in the degree work, either. The ritual opening and closing of lodge reminds us of the lessons we have been taught, and contain lessons in themselves, if we have ears to hear. At opening and closing, we invoke the Blessings of Deity. We call to mind the duties and obligations of the principle officers of the lodge. And we remind ourselves to practice out of the Lodge the great moral lessons inculcated within it.
True, many times the officers recite their parts with the primary goal of getting to coffee and cookies in the shortest amount of time. But, that is true of many prayer times. The problem of not getting anything out of the ritual has less to do with the ritual than it does our state of mind.
Next time you are in lodge, really listen to the opening and closing and consider what new lesson or insight it may hold for you that evening.