The Public Ceremonies of the Freemasons
Most of the ceremonies of the Masons go on inside the confines of the lodge, but you may have seen two special Masonic events in public. These public ceremonies are symbolic of beginning and ending:
Cornerstone ceremonies: Because of their heritage as builders of cathedrals and other public structures, the Freemasons have historically performed a special ceremony at the laying of cornerstones for new buildings, upon request.
In modern times, these events are barely noticed by the public, but in previous centuries, the laying of a cornerstone for a new building was a very big, festive celebration. In the case of a courthouse, city hall, or other major government building, parades were often held, speeches were given, and the Freemasons would symbolically lay the cornerstone.
In the Masonic cornerstone ceremony, the stone is checked, using ancient tools, to be certain it’s square, plumb (straight), and level because a building constructed on a poor foundation isn’t strong. Next, the cornerstone is consecrated with corn (or grain), wine, and oil — all of which are Masonic symbols of prosperity, health, and peace. Finally, the stone is symbolically tapped in place with a gavel.
Funeral services: The first way many people come into contact with Freemasonry these days is at the funeral of a friend or relative who was a Freemason. Masons perform a solemn memorial service for their members, when the family requests it.
The words of the ceremony provide a brief glimpse into the beliefs of the fraternity; it’s a moving and deeply meaningful service. Many men have sought membership in a lodge after seeing the funeral service performed for a loved one.