Lodges in the eighteenth century and at the beginning of the nineteenth inflicted fines for nonattendance at Lodge meetings, and of course excuses were then required to avoid the penalty. But this has now grown out of use. Freemasonry being considered a voluntary institution, fines for absence are not inflicted, and excuses are therefore not now required. The infliction of a fine would, it is supposed, detract from the solemnity of the obligation which makes attendance a duty. The old Constitutions, however, required excuses for non-attendance, although no penalty was prescribed for a violation of the rule. Thus, in the Matthew Cooke Manuscript (of the fifteenth century) it is said, "that every master of this art should be warned to come to his congregation that they come duly, but if (unless) they may be excused by some manner of cause" (see lines 7404). And in the Regius Manuscript (lines 107-12) it is written: That every master, that is a Mason;
So that he hyt resonebly y-tolde
Where that the semble shall be holde;
And to that semble he must nede gon
But he have a resenabul skwsacyon.
- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry