Friscus, or frescus, in the Latin had the meaning of new, fresh, recent; the re meant again; so that refresh means to renew, to make over, to undo the ravages of use and time, in Shakespeare’s phrase, “to knit up the raveled sleeve of care.” To “pass from labor to refreshment” is to find rest and recreation so as to undo the wearing effects of toil, as when a laborer knocks off at noon to eat his lunch and have a rest.
- Source: 100 Words in Masonry
In Masonic language, refreshment is opposed in a peculiar sense to labor. While a Lodge is in activity it must be either at labor or at refreshment. If a Lodge is permanently closed until its next communication, the intervening period is one of abeyance, its activity for Masonic duty having for the time been suspended; although its powers and privileges as a Lodge still exist, and may be at any time resumed. But where it is only temporarily closed, with the intention of soon again resuming labor, the intermediate period is called a time of refreshment, and the Lodge is said not to be closed, but to be called from labor to refreshment. The phrase is an old one, and is found in the early rituals of the eighteenth Century. Calling from labor to refreshment differs from closing in this, that the ceremony is a very brief one, and that the Junior Warden then assumed the control of the draft, in token of which he erects his column on his stand or pedestal, while the Senior Warden lays his down. This is reversed in caging on, in which the ceremony is equally brief.
The word refreshment no longer bears the meaning among Freemasons that it formerly did. It signifies not necessarily eating and drinking, but simply cessation from labor. A Lodge at refreshment may thus be compared to any other society when in a recess During the whole of the eighteenth century, and part of the next, a different meaning was given to the word arising from a now obsolete usage, which Doctor Oliver (Masonic Jurisprudence, page 210) thus describes:
The Lodges in ancient times were not arranged according to the practise in use amongst ourselves at the present day. The Worshipful Master, indeed, stood in t he East, but both the Wardens were placed in the West the South was occupied by the senior Entered Apprentice, whose business it was to obey the instructions of the Master, and to welcome the visiting Brethren, after having duly ascertained that they were Freemasons. The junior Entered Apprentice was placed in the north to present the intrusion of cowans and eavesdroppers; and a long table, and sometimes two, where the Lodge was numerous, were extended in parallel lines from the pedestal to the place where the Wardens sat, on which appeared not only the emblems of Freemasonry, but also materials for refreshments-for in those days every section of the lecture had its peculiar toast or sentiment and at its conclusion the Lodge was called from labour to refreshment by certain ceremonies, and a toast, technically called "the Charge," was drunk in a bumper with the honours, and not infrequently accompanied ivy an appropriate song. After which the Lodge M as caned from refreshment to labour, and another section was delivered with the like result. At the present day, the banquets of Lodges, When they take place, are always held after the Lodge is closed; although they are still supposed to be under the charge of the Junior Warden. When modern Lodges are called to refreshment, it is either as a part of the ceremony of the Third Degree, or for a brief period; sometimes extending to more than a day when labor, which had not been finished, is to be resumed and concluded.
The mythical history of Freemasonry says that high twelve or noon was the hour at Solomon's Temple when the Craft were permitted to suspend their labor, which was resumed an hour after. In reference to this myth, a Lodge is at all times supposed to be called from labor to refreshment at "high twelve," and to be called on again "one hour after high twelve."