When I hear the word “duty,” my first thoughts are of those that serve in the military or are first responders. These men and women lay everything on the line during their duty: they experience tragedy, see awful things, and can often be put in the line of fire themselves.
Their duty, however, comes to an end at some point. First responders reach the end of their shift, and they go home to their families, safe from the things which occurred during their shift. Soldiers finish up their tour of duty and, for those who do not go on to more tours, they hopefully return home.
Though they are paid for their duty and can receive honors, there is something more that drives a person to put their life on the line in the performance of that duty.
In Freemasonry, we learn that the symbols and allegories taught in our Blue Lodge are to convey to us our duty. A Freemason’s duty is one that should be a duty shared by all: the duty of improving himself, his family, his neighbor, and his society so that he may be a better man, and the world may be a better place because of his contributions.
To truly fulfill this duty, there must be something inside us that drives us to work on the completion of this duty, something more than recognition or reward. Unlike the previous examples, this duty is never-ending. The duty of improving one’s self, through a connection to his spiritual side and improving his relationship with God, is with us always. It is a never-ending quest of “perfection,” which may not be achieved in this lifetime.
Our first lesson on duty is that we should work without an expectation of reward. It is possible to achieve titles in Masonry, as well as earning esteem for tasks completed or knowledge obtained in ritual and education.
If a man’s desire to achieve these accomplishments is merely based on the rewards he earns, the status he achieves, or the offices he is elected or appointed to, then he is laboring for the wrong reasons. We should labor because the work is good; it is a worthwhile endeavor, and we can be proud of these accomplishments. We should never do so for notoriety.
Our motives must be for our own improvement and satisfaction of progress to that end, not to impress others or to improve our standing within the fraternity.
Learning from the Volume of Sacred Law, interpreting its lessons and God’s plan for us, and internalizing these lessons to form the basis of our inner conscience is an arduous task. Often times, it is much easier to do the wrong thing or take the easy road out of a situation.
Doing what is right is often a much more difficult path. Only by working towards perfecting our inner selves will we be able to overcome the temptation of taking the easy way out. We must always strive for the perfections shown to us by God. It is a journey we will never achieve in this lifetime.
Thus, there are no physical rewards on Earth for this labor. It is a case of being the journey, not the destination, which is important. Striving to achieve this is a worthy endeavor. Working towards perfecting the virtues both described in the Volume of Sacred Law and taught in our degrees improves our character, even if we do not quite achieve the results we are hoping for.
As we improve our character, we improve those around us, who can then collectively work for the betterment of our society. We should garner satisfaction in the fact that even if we fail in our goal, we do become better in the process as do those around us.
As mentioned above, there are those in our society who perform a duty. They go to work to achieve this duty. As noble as their duty is, it does eventually end. Our Masonic duty, however, stays with us for a lifetime. We are placed here to live a virtuous life, to extend these virtues to others who may follow it, and do good works for society as a whole.
Imagine the world we could live in if so many more of us followed the virtues outlined in our Craft Lodges: the four cardinal virtues of fortitude, prudence, temperance, and justice, and those 3 theological virtues which form the principal tenets of our organization: faith, hope, and charity.
The duty to live by these virtues is never-ending. We are to strive to always think and act in this regard. As we work to perfect the ashlars of our character according to these virtues, we continually chip away the imperfections, making steady, constant improvements to our character.
At last, in the twilight of our temporal existence, if we have performed our duty throughout, we may well finally receive our reward for that labor: the Divine Word, the Truth. Regardless of rank or honor held, we are to continually move forward in our self-improvement.
In our society, our job often defines who we are as a person. Those that do a good job are often regarded as a success, a leader in their field, a credit to their profession, etc. This labor, while necessary to support ourselves and our family, is not the ultimate labor we should strive to perfect.
Our professional labor defines us for the majority of our lifetime; our Masonic Duty may very well define us for eternity. To call this “Masonic Duty” is somewhat misleading, as it is not strictly limited to Masons. This Duty is for ALL mankind.
It is the improvement of our spiritual self; to know and love God, to be thankful for all that He has given us, to regret the wrongs we have done, and to strive always to lead a moral life of virtue. Imagine the people you touch if you practice this in your daily life.
Your family, coworkers, friends, and community, in general, will see your example. Many will follow it. Some may well meet or exceed your example. Many of their accomplishments may not have been possible had you not set the example with your own accomplishments.
The lessons taught in Blue Lodge truly have the potential to have a profound impact on ourselves and society, but only if each of us constantly ascends our own winding staircase of life. This is why our Masonic Duty is with us always-because the duty is never finished in this lifetime.
by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Mark St. John
Bro. Mark St. John was raised on April 12, 2018, in Urim Lodge #111 in Calhoun, Louisiana, and is currently serving as Senior Warden. He is also a member of Graham Surghnor Lodge #383 and serves as its Junior Deacon. He serves the Fourth District of Master Masons of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana as it’s Senior Deacon. Mark is a 32° Master of the Royal Secret of the Valley of Monroe, where he serves as the Knight Warden (Sr Warden) of the Valley’s Chapter of Knights of St. Andrew. He is also a Noble of the Barak Shrine Temple of Monroe, Louisiana.