So Mote It Be!
Written by Ron Merk Education Officer: Vancouver & Quadra #3 Victoria, BC Canada
No Lodge is ever opened or closed with out using "So Mote It Be!" and no Mason would embark on any great or important undertaking with out invoking the aid of the Deity. That request for aid would be concluded with "So Mote It Be!".
It's easy to define "So Mote It Be", much harder to tell you why Masons prefer it.
I suppose it could be as simple as tradition. "Amen, So Mote It Be" is the final phrase in our oldest known written document. (Regius Poem circa 1300s) Certainly tradition is important and for this reason alone the phrase deserves usage in our Lodges .... but the phrase is given more reverence and use than mere tradition dictates. There seems to be a much deeper meaning and force driving its use by the Brethren.
In simple terms "So Mote It Be!" can be described as the Masonic version of Amen! We use it in that sense to close prayer within the Lodge. In order to appreciate the significance of "So Mote It Be!", I found it necessary to more fully understand Amen.
Amen can be literally interpreted to mean "so be it". The Ancient Hebrews ended their prayer with a affirmative exclamation of " So Be It! So Be It! So May It Be!" Literally translated in our not so distance Anglo-Saxon past this phrase would have been delivered as "Amen! Amen! So Mote It Be!" We've further shortened it depending on who you're with as either "Amen" or "So Mote It Be".
To me, Amen seems to have become a word that suggests a passive acceptance of God's will. "Mote" on the other hand comes from the Anglo-Saxon verb "motan" meaning will or may. My belief is that the use of an action verb is significant in the understanding of why Masons prefer "So Mote It Be!" Using "So Mote It Be!" delivers an active assent of man to God's purpose. It is not meant to be a dumb resignation or blind submission, but rather a wise reconciliation to the will of the G.A.O.T.U. Masons using it are continuing the original intent of express a dynamic acceptance of this relationship with God. Is it any wonder we opt for it's use in our Lodges.
References - The Freemason At Work - Harry Carr (Rev.1992)
Short Talks On Masonry - Joseph Fort Newman (1928)