A technical term in Freemasonry which signifies the temporary suspension of labor in a Lodge without passing through the formal ceremony of closing. The full form of the expression is to call from labor to refreshment, and it took its rise from the former custom of dividing the time spent in the Lodge between the work of Freemasonry and the moderate enjoyment of the banquet. The banquet formed in the eighteenth century an indispensable part of the arrangements of a Lodge Communication. "At a certain hour of the evening," says Brother Oliver, "with certain ceremonies, the Lodge was called from labor to refreshment, when the Brethren enjoyed themselves with decent merriment." That custom no longer exists; and although in England almost always, and in the United States occasionally, the labors of the Lodge are concluded with a banquet; yet the Lodge is formally closed before the Brethren proceed to the table of refreshment.
Calling off in American Lodges is now only used, in a certain ceremony of the Third Degree, when it is desired to have another meeting at a short interval, and the Master desires to avoid the tediousness of dosing and opening the Lodge.
Thus, if the business of the Lodge at its regular meeting has so accumulated that it cannot be transacted in one evening, it has become the custom to call off until a subsequent evening, when the Lodge, instead of being opened with the usual ceremony, is simply "called on," and the latter meeting is considered as only a continuation of the former.
This custom is very generally adopted in Grand Lodges at their Annual Communications, which are opened at the beginning of the session, called off from day to day, and finally closed at its end. We do not know that any objection has ever been advanced against this usage in Grand Lodges, because it seems necessary as a substitute for the adjournment, which is resorted to in other legislative bodies, but which is not admitted in Freemasonry. But much discussion has taken place in reference to the practice of calling off in Lodges, some authorities sustaining and others condemning it. Thus, many years ago, the Committee of Correspondence of the Grand Lodge of Mississippi proposed this question : ''In case of excess of business, cannot the unfinished be laid over until the next or another day, and must the Lodge be closed in form, and opened the next, or the day designated for the transaction of that business?" To this question some authorities, and among others Brother C. W. Moore (Freemasons Monthly Magazine, volume xii, No,10), reply in the negative, while other equally good jurists differ from them in opinion.
The difficulty seems to be in this, that if the regular meeting of the Lodge is closed in form, the subsequent meeting becomes a special one, and many things which could be done at a regular communication cease to be admissible. The recommendation, therefore, of Brother Moore, that the Lodge should be closed, and, if the business be unfinished, that the Master shall call a special meeting to complete it, does not meet the difficulty, because it is a well settled principle of Masonic law that a special meeting cannot interfere with the business of a preceding regular one. As, then, the mode of briefly closing by adjournment is contrary to Masonic law and usage, and cannot, therefore, be resorted to, as there is no other way except by calling off to continue the character of a regular meeting, and as, during the period that the Lodge is called off, it is under the government of the Junior Warden, and Masonic discipline is thus continued, Doctor Mackey, for the reasons cited by him in regard to Brother Moore, was clearly of opinion that calling off from day to day for the purpose of continuing work or business is, as a matter of convenience, admissible.
The practice may indeed be abused. But there is a well-known legal maxim which says, Ez abusu non arguitur in usum. "No argument can be drawn from the abuse of a thing against its use. " Thus, a Lodge cannot be called off except for continuance of work and business, nor to an indefinite day, for there must be a good reason for the exercise of the practice, and the Brethren present must be notified before dispersing of the time of reassembling; nor can a Lodge at one regular meeting be called off until the next, for no regular meeting of a Lodge is permitted to run into another, but each must be closed before its successor can be opened.
When a Lodge that is called off at a subsequent time resumes work or business, it is said to be called on. The full expression is called on from refreshment to labor.