The most notable aspect of any lodge room, that which first captures the eye of anyone entering, is the altar. Situated in the center of the room it is impossible to ignore, and immediately communicates the sense that this is not an ordinary room. As the altar is located in the middle of the lodge room floor, it becomes the centerpiece of all Masonic ritual and comportment. The altar is the locus of actions done in Lodge, and the fount from which Truth radiates.
The altar is a place for adoration, sacrifice, and obligation. At the altar, surrounded by his Brothers, the chaplain kneels in prayer and dedicates the workings of the Lodge to the Grand Architect of the Universe, and ends the labors of the Craft in the same fashion.
Upon the altar each man must sacrifice anything that would hinder his growth. Pride, anger, ignorance, and many other unworthy attributes make up the sacrifice of he who would be a Brother and a Better Man.
At the altar, each man kneels to make his obligations. Here his promises become solemn vows, and with that solemnity they have the power to effect a mighty change in the his heart. They are sanctified, and in turn sanctify the man who makes and keeps them.
The altar is the source of Masonic truth and light. As it sits in the center of the path that the Brothers walk about the lodge, it becomes a circumpunct, or point with in a circle, which represents the sun. Upon the the altar lies the Volume of Sacred Law, or scripture. From both the sun and scripture radiate truth and light to fill the earth.
In ancient days, the Masonic altar was based on the drawing boards of the Operative Masons. On such a board, the Master of the Lodge would draw the day's plans, and the other masons could come to the drawing board in the lodge room to receive the instructions that would help them to shape the stones and assemble them correctly. In Speculative Masonry a man can approach the altar for the same end: To receive instructions on how to shape his nature and build the edifice of his life.
Except in the circumambulation of the lodge, a man may not pass between the altar and the Worshipful Master in the East. Here is another symbol: It is not meet that anyone should step between the altar and the seat in the East and break the symbolic constant flow of light that should exist between them. All other men approach the altar from the West, and thereby they receive light from the East, either from the Worshipful Master or from the altar directly.
When we realize the importance of centering our life around the altar, we see new vistas of light and knowledge dawning, and we take an active step towards becoming better men.