Gospel from the center of the congregation?

One of our deacons has adopted yet another liturgy gimmick; he’s started tp read the Gospel from halfway down the center aisle; i.e., the “center of the congregation”. This is followed by the homily (by the priest) given from the front aisle (between the first pews and the altar steps (sanctuary). In both cases, only the taller folks can see who’s speaking. All while the elevated pulpit stands empty. Is this being widely practiced?

From the GIRM:

[FONT=Arial]“134 At the ambo, the priest opens the book and, with his hands joined, says: The Lord be with you, with the people responding, And also with you. Then he says: A reading from the Holy Gospel…, making the sign of the cross with his thumb on the book and on his forehead, mouth and breast, which everyone else does as well. The people make their acclamation: Glory to You, O Lord. The priest then incenses the book, if incense is used. Then he proclaims the gospel reading and at the end makes the acclamation: The Word of the Lord, to which all respond, Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.”[/FONT]

[FONT=Arial]and again:[/FONT]

“136 The priest, standing at the chair or at the ambo, or, when appropriate, in another suitable place, gives the homily; when the homily is completed, a period of silence as the occasion allows may be observed.”

Hope that helps.

One of my former Pastors, whom I deeply respect for Catholic teaching, told me that the Church would prefer that the Gospel be proclaimed from the center of the congregation, as long as the altar servers are there with the candles. This is to symbolize proclaiming the good news among the people. In most churches this isn’t practical, so the Ambo is used.

Well, if the Church prefers it, perhaps he would care to explain why she didn’t mention it in her requirements about where the Gospel must be proclaimed?:rolleyes:

Yeah, good point, and I don’t know the answer. Maybe that it’s just not practical anymore, so it’s been dropped from the GIRM.

It was never the practice of the Roman Catholic Church to proclaim the gospel from the center of the church. This is a practice that became popular in Anglican churches beginning in the 1960’s.

It took its cue from the pre-Vatican II Roman practice at Solemn High Mass of proclaiming the gospel at some distance from the altar, with the deacon facing north. In all but the smallest churches, this was still done within the sanctuary, but closer to the communion rails than to the altar. Some smaller churches had the gospel procession leave the sanctuary and stand immediately outside the rails, but still facing north.

Some High Anglican churches followed this same ritual, but as liturgical changes began, the gospel proclamation shifted to the center aisle, with the explanation that the gospel was proclaimed 'from the midst of the people." It remains popular in Anglican parishes today.

This sounded reasonable but, in fact, it was simply another liturgical innovation. More importantly, then or now, there is no precedent for it in the Roman rite.

This is an adoption from the Anglican Communion where the Gospel is, indeed, proclaimed among the people in the center aisle. The deacon or priest, along with acolytes and assisting ministers process into the center aisle and proclaim the Gospel from a Gospel book held by one of the acolytes.

While it acceptable in the Anglican Communion, in the Catholic Church, it would be an abuse of the Mass, because the GIRM clearly directs the deacon or priest to proclaim the Gospel from the ambo.

Please also note that in several Eastern Catholic and Orthodox traditions, the ambo is centered at the front of the Sanctuary, where in the Western Church, the ambo is not.

I hate to break it to you, but as subsequent posters have pointed out, there’s no “not practical anymore” for something that has never been Catholic practice. Your priest is just out in left field on this one. You should ask him for a source for his assertion, and don’t be surprised if he doesn’t have any from actual liturgical legislation.

Well, he moved on to another parish 4 years ago, and I rarely see him anymore. :frowning: He’s actually one of the best pasters I’ve ever seen. But, like all of us, apparently isn’t perfect.

Another quote, highlighting that the Gospel must be from the Ambo.

From the 2002 General Introduction to the Roman Missal (GIRM) approved for the USA, which can be accessed from romanrite.com/girm.html :
“58. In the celebration of the Mass with a congregation, the readings are always proclaimed from the ambo.”

“*The Ambo *
309. The dignity of the word of God requires that the church have a place that is suitable for the proclamation of the word and toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns during the Liturgy of the Word.
It is appropriate that this place be ordinarily a stationary ambo and not simply a movable lectern. The ambo must be located in keeping with the design of each church in such a way that the ordained ministers and lectors may be clearly seen and heard by the faithful.
From the ambo only the readings, the responsorial Psalm, and the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) are to be proclaimed; it may be used also for giving the homily and for announcing the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. The dignity of the ambo requires that only a minister of the word should go up to it.
It is appropriate that a new ambo be blessed according to the rite described in the Roman Ritual before it is put into liturgical use.”

Well, I should have phrased things to show that I was indicting his bad info, not so much the priest. I’ve heard hosts of Catholic Answers live give incorrect liturgy answers, and I have nothing against them (but I felt their misinformation in this case was tragic in that it gave the caller the impression that a priest who had actually done nothing wrong had abused the liturgy).

I attended Anglican churches for about five years before being reconciled with the Catholic Church one year ago. I always liked the Gospel being read from the center aisle, and missed it when I came back.

I have a copy of the Book of Divine Worship, which is the Holy See’s approved liturgy for the Anglican Use parishes (currently only eight, I believe), a “Romanization” of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The BDW allows for the gospel to be read from the midst of the congregation. This suggests to me that it’s not integral to the Mass that the Gospel be read from the ambo.

But…since most of us attend Mass said from the (Pauline) Roman Missal, we’re subject to that Missal and the GIRM…so the ambo is the right place for it.

No thankfully, and it is not permitted.

You bet! And when the Latin (Tridentine) Mass is restored - if the Motu Proprio is ever issued :shrug: the Gospel will not be read from the center of the congregation any more.


I thought in the days before sound systems the ambo in large churches was near the center of the church so people could hear. Old large churches to this day often have just such an ambo. I suspect that practice forms the basis for your priest’s comment.

I’ve visited many old and ancient churches and the pulpit was always at the front. The only situation where the mid-church arrangement is appropriate is when the seating is arrayed towards the center. People simply listen better when they can see the speaker.

Well, ambos were outside the sanctuary in the nave, but not in the center of the church if by that we mean “so that there would be people listening on all sides.” The ambo was always, to my knowledge, something facing the people, not amidst the people. If liturgists were trying to simply resurrect the placement of the ambo in the nave they would have the Gospel proclaimed from, say, the left edge of the congregation, not the center.

The only ambos that I have see in the Nave, in older churches, were actually off to one side, and above the congregation. The priest would climb stairs to get to the ambo.

Exactly. Ambos were not used to proclaim “from” the congregation, but to it.

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