As one travels in the district and beyond as a Master Mason you begin to learn and understand more and more about the Craft. This learning really never ends as there is always something to learn that you did not know before.
Our DDGM at his official visits has invited Brothers present to ask questions. Inevitably someone will stand and ask a question. One such question, also inevitably, was about our ritual. Although the exact content of the questions and the answer are for a tiled lodge room, I can say it does revolve around a particular part in the ritual that deals with a Mason’s wages.
I have always found this subject somewhat fascinating as someone who is interested in history. How laborers were paid their wages throughout history is a pretty extensive and interesting subject.
First let’s tackle the word wage or wages itself:
Wage, of which wages is the collective plural, remotely descended from the Latin vas, having the meaning of pledge, security, pawn, or a promise to pay backed up by security.
After it entered into modem languages it had a peculiar history; it became “gage,” a pledge or pawn, appearing in our engage, disengage, etc., but having no relation with gage, one of our Working Tools; “wager” in the sense of a bet; in another context it became “wed,” the act of marrying, so called because of the pledges given; and “wage” in the sense of compensation for service given.
An “allowance” is a one-sided form of payment, depending on the will of the giver; a “stipend” is a fixed sum, usually nominal, and is supposed to be paid as per a permanent arrangement; a “salary” (from sal, or salt, the old pay given soldiers) is an amount fixed by contract, and estimated over a relatively long period of time, year or month; “wages” are paid to laborers over short periods of time, or at the completion of the required task.
In Speculative Masonry, the Master Mason symbolically receives “wages,” rather than salary, because they represent the rewards that come to him as rapidly as he does his work; and, as the etymology of the word suggests, they are certain, something one may bank on. – Masonic Dictionary Online
So, to be more specific what were the wages of a Mason? Well the Corn, Wine and Oil were historically forms of payment in antiquity as we are told in our ritual. Along with other commodities such as salt, wheat and other grains. So it begs the question how are these wages paid it the Specular or Accepted Freemason. Surely corn, wine and oil are not the only wages earned.
We often say Brotherhood, relief and truth when describing the Fraternity. However of the 3 Brotherhood and relief are tangible and can be part of the “wages” of Mason. Truth of course is subjective and a Freemason finds his due in his own way and his own time.
Freemasonry is not, “per se,” a relief organization. It does not exist merely for the purpose of dispensing charity. Nor has it great funds with which to work its gentle ministrations to the poor. Fees are modest; dues are often too small rather than too large. Yet, for the brother down and out, who has no coal for the fire, no food for his hungry child, whom sudden disaster threatens, the strong arm of the Fraternity stretches forth to push back the danger. The cold are warmed, the hungry fed, the naked clothed, the jobless given work, the discouraged heartened.
Master’s Wages, surely far greater than the effort put forth to earn them.
Relief is not limited to a brother’s own Lodge. In most Jurisdictions, there is a Masonic Home, in which, at long last, a brother’s weary body may rest, his tired feet cease their wandering. No Freemason who has visited any Masonic Home and there seen old brethren and their widows eased down the last long hill in peace and comfort; the children of Masons under friendly influences which insure safe launching of little ships on the sea of life; comes away thankful that there is such a haven for him, should he need it, even if he hopes never to ask for its aid.
Stranded in a strange place, no Freemason worries about getting aid. In all large centers is a Board of Masonic Relief to hear his story, investigate his credentials and start the machinery by which his Lodge may help him. In smaller places is almost invariably a Lodge with brethren glad to give a sympathetic hearing to his troubles. To the brother in difficulty in what to him is a “foreign country,” ability to prove himself a Freemason is Master’s Wages, indeed.
Freemasonry is strong in defense of the helpless. The Widow and the orphan need ask but once to receive bounty. All brethren hope to support their own, provide for their loved ones, but misfortune comes to the just and unjust alike. To be one of a worldwide brotherhood on which widow and child may call is of untold comfort, Master’s Wages more precious than the coin of gold.
Finally, is the right of Masonic burial. At home or abroad no Freemason, know to desire it, but is followed to his last home by sorrowing brethren who lay him away under the apron of the Craft and the Sprig of Acacia of immortal hope. This, too, is Wages of a Master.
“Pay the Craft their Wages, if any be due . . .”
To some the practical wages briefly mentioned above are the important payments for a Freemason’s work. To others, the more intangible but none the less beloved opportunities to give, rather than get, are the Master’s Wages which count them.
Great among these is the Craft’s opportunity for service. The world is full of chances to do for others, and no man need apply to a Masonic Lodge only because he wants a chance to “do unto others as he would others do unto him.” But Freemasonry offer peculiar opportunities to unusual talents which are not always easily found in the profane world.
There is always something to do in a Lodge. There are always committees to be served – and committee work is usually thankless work. He who cannot find his payment in his satisfaction of a task well done will receive no Master’s Wages for his labors on Lodge committees.
There are brethren to be taught. Learning all the “work” is a man’s task, not to be accomplished in a hurry. Yet it is worth the doing, and in instructing officers and candidates many a Mason has found a quiet joy which is Master’s Wages pressed down and running over. Service leads to the possibility of appointment or election to the line of officers. There is little to speak of the Master’s Wages this opportunity pays, because only those who have occupied the Oriental Chair know what they are. The outer evidence of the experience may be told, but the inner spiritual experience is untellable because the words have not been invented.
But Past Masters know! To them is issued a special coinage of Master’s Wages which only a Worshipful Master may earn. Ask any of them if they do not pay well for the labor.
If practical Master’s Wages are acquaintances in Lodge, the enjoyment of fellowship, merged into friendship, is the same payment in larger form. Difficult to describe, the sense of being one of a group, the solidarity of the circle which is the Lodge, provides a satisfaction and pleasure impossible to describe as it is clearly to be felt. It is interesting to meet many men of many walks of life; it is heart- warming continually to meet the same group, always with the same feeling of equality. High and low, rich and poor, merchant and money-changer, banker and broom-maker, doctor and ditch-digger all meet on the level, and find it happy – Master’s Wages, value untranslatable into money.
Thousands of brethren count their nearest and their dearest friends on the rolls of the Lodge they love and serve. The Mystic Tie makes for friendship It attracts man to man and often draws together “those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.” The teachings of brotherly love, relief and truth; of temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice; the inculcation of patriotism and love of country, are everyday experiences in a Masonic Lodge. When men speak freely those thoughts which, in the world without, they keep silent, friendships are formed.
Count gain for work well done in what coin seems most valuable; the dearest of the intangibles which come to any Master Mason are those Masonic friendships than which there “are” no greater Master’s Wages.– Source: Short Talk Bulletin – Feb. 1933