the common gavel
From The Grand Lodge Of Texas
Within the Lodge room, we learn of three hammers, namely the common gavel, the
setting maul, and the gavel held by the Worshipful Master. Each has a special
purpose and application in our ceremonies and rituals. Each carries both an
operative and symbolic message.
The gavel held by the Worshipful Master is not a “common gavel”, but rather a
“mallet” used to preside at the meetings of the Lodge and allows him to conduct
its business with decorum and harmony. As the principal officer, the Worshipful
Master uses his gavel to represent his authority and position. Through it we are
taught to rise, sit, and finalize our business during the course of our labors.
The many gavels seen at the annual convocations of grand lodge range in size and
frequently are more “mauls” than gavels. Their size would better suit them for
“setting” large stones, than governing a meeting, but as symbolic of our Grand
Master’s power and office, they are considered “gavels”.
The “setting maul” carries great significance in our Third Degree and is a
symbol of death. In ancient times this maul was a heavy wooden hammer used to
“set” stones in the construction of buildings. Through its use, stones were
hammered into place to close tolerances and, if needed, small quantities of
cement used to unite them. In addition, mauls were used to drive chisels and
wedges into stones, breaking them for the builder’s use. The setting maul would
be a formidable weapon if used as such.
The “common gavel” is in fact a true gavel. Its shape has a “gable” on one end
and a flat surface on the other. As noted in the Entered Apprentice degree, its
purpose is to break off the rough parts of stone, found on the Rough Ashlar, and
preparing it to become a finished stone or Perfect Ashlar, which then can be
used in building a structure.
As an Entered Apprentice, we are reminded of our personal “rough and imperfect”
state and of the need to gain education, understanding, and control of our many
imperfections. It is through reflection and effort each Mason forms the
foundation and building of his personal temple. Becoming a better Mason comes
through divesting our minds and consciences of the vices, habits, desires, and
unnecessary wants so common in our youth. Each of these imperfections appears as
a rough point on our character and the common gavel calls us to pay due
attention to them and smooth them away, always preparing for the Spiritual
Temple in our future.
While a “common” implement of the Mason, the gavel is a constant reminder of our
need for self-improvement and watchfulness. Perfection in conduct, like that of
a perfectly flat surface or perfect stone, comes through work and constant
vigilance. Placed in our hands as Entered Apprentices, the gavel is a symbol of
that responsibility and opportunity to be better men and Masons.
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