(Secretary and Member: Naval Lodge No. 4, respectively)
Masonic history was made on July 6, 2017, when four candidates were initiated in what is believed to be the first Entered Apprentice degree performed in the U.S. Capitol building.
Naval Lodge No. 4 was given special access to a room just steps from the Capitol Rotunda – the symbolic heart of American democracy – to perform the ceremony.
Naval Lodge has a tradition of holding an annual meeting in the Capitol, both to honor the Masons who helped to found this country, and to help bring the Masonic values to the men and women who work in the building.
Of course, there has been a strong Masonic influence on the Capitol from its creation. It is well known that George Washington (with the help of early Masters of Federal, Potomac, and Alexandria-Washington Lodges) helped lay the cornerstone for the building in 1793, in a large Masonic ceremony. A silver plate was placed on the cornerstone, engraved to read that the dedication occurred “in the thirteenth year of American independence… and in the year of Masonry, 5793.”
The Capitol building has since been expanded many times, and each time there has been a Masonic cornerstone ceremony to mark each such occasion – a symbolic parallel to the growth and evolution of our great country. These ceremonies have been powerful symbols of the enduring influence Masonry has had in the United States.
In fact, the “Temple of Liberty,” as the Capitol has been called, attempts to teach our American values through its very architecture. The two houses of Congress meet at opposite ends of the building, but all on the same level – symbolizing the importance of individuality and equality. Throughout the building there are decorative “fasces” – the ancient Roman symbol of the power of the magistrate, consisting of bundles of rods bound together, symbolizing the strength of a people united in purpose and the need to work together toward common good. And in the center of the building is the Rotunda, where the Senate and the House come together, symbolizing that we all must come together to find points of agreement in order to improve our community. Lastly, on top stands the dome – reaching for the heavens, symbolizing the need to strive for a better world.
In the early years of the republic, there were occasional meetings of Masons in the Capitol, including at least one unsuccessful effort to form a national Grand Lodge. In more recent years, there have been a number of lodges that have held meetings in the various congressional office buildings near the Capitol, and ceremonies and processions in the Capitol itself.
Naval Lodge even uses a part of the Capitol in its Lodge room. Their marble altar was made from scraps leftover from the expansion of the Capitol in 1858 by members of Lebanon Lodge, who then gifted it to Naval in 1870. Thus, this piece of the Capitol serves as the literal foundation for the Great Lights of Masonry in the lodge room, just as, in many ways, the Great Lights helped form the foundation for the Capitol building.
And now four new Brethren have been given a new foundation on which to improve themselves after being initiated in and amongst some of the most important and uniquely American symbolism in this country.