Postition of chanting the Gospel
  • A priest friend of mine wants to chant the Gospel from the center of the Sanctuary but he is being told by others that this is not permitted.

    Does anyone know of any rubrical guidelines here that I can refer him to?
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    From the GIRM:

    58. In the celebration of the Mass with a congregation, the readings are always proclaimed
    from the ambo.
  • Ok, right but is there no flexibility here to allow for tradition?
  • Lawrence
    Posts: 123
    GIRM SCHMIRM. I'm so tired of the Novus Ordo rules emasculating the Roman Rite of its ceremonial. If a priest in a knit stole and plain alb were to do this at a folk Mass, it would be considered "relevant," but if you do it the way it was enshrined in tradition, suddenly people are crying "Foul!"

    Away with positivism! Let tradition be the guide!
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    I don't recall ever seeing the Gospel proclaimed from anywhere but the Ambo, or the Gospel side in the EF, even by one of our pastors who periodically chants it (and quite beautifully, I might add). Nor do I have a copy of the Sacramentary handy to see if there is an option printed in red therein. What is the "tradition" your friend is citing?
  • In the Gregorian (EF) Rite, in a Solemn Mass with Deacon and Sub-Deacon, the Deacon chants the Gospel on the "cantoris" or north (liturgical north if not true north) side of the sanctuary and faces north, the symbolic direction of where the light of the gospel has not yet penetrated, therefore facing those still in darkness. In a Missa Cantata with priest alone it is sung by the priest at the altar, left side again but facing east. In a Missa Cantata a cleric can sing the epistle rather than the celebrant, this is done on the "decani" side (south side) and facing east, towards the altar.

    In the OF, I've seen very beautiful Gospel Processions where the Gospel is chanted in the middle, just outside the gate (if there is one) and facing the people. Certainly there is precedence for this in Eastern liturgical tradition. Tradition in both the East and West seems to disagree with the OF rubric of proclaiming it from the ambon. I agree with Lawrence, let Tradition be the guide as it should always be.
  • Lawrence
    Posts: 123
    In big Solemn High Masses at Mater Ecclesiae, the deacon processes to the middle of the center aisle, and reads the Gospel facing North. In the Lutheran Church where I work this is also done. One of these days I'm going to try to talk my Catholic boss into it, too;-)
  • Ok, but let's say someone asks for some legal rationale in the OF for this. Is there NOTHING we can point to? Surely there is something.
  • At Our Lady of Walsingham, and I'm sure at our sister Anglican Use parishes, the Book of Gospels is carried with two candles, a book bearer and thuribler to the chancel step, where it is proclaimed to the people by the Deacon. Every Solemnity and major feast the Gospel (and the other two readings) are chanted. Such a Gospel procession, though it had fallen by the wayside sometime in the mediaeval era, has, I believe, ancient precedent. Fortescue may have something about this, but I gave my copy to the parish library and don't have it at hand. Jungmann only discusses singing the Gospel from the north side of the altar facing north, the region of pagan darkness. There are, in fact, numerous positions from which the Gospel has been historically proclaimed. In the Use of Sarum, it was sung from the rood loft.
  • Leland
    Posts: 32
    [North…] …the symbolic direction of where the light of the gospel has not yet penetrated … the region of pagan darkness…

    Perhaps, mutatis mutandem, facing Mecca might be the proper application of the tradition. ;-)

    Leland (Baptist layman)
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    I find it more than disconcerting that this august body, which so often rails against liturgical abuse, would be seeking some sort of exception to the rubrics in the GIRM, or to speak so disparagingly thereof. Keep in mind that referencing Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 22, the GIRM further states:

    24. [...T]he priest must remember that he is the servant of the Sacred Liturgy and that he
    himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the
    celebration of Mass.


    If this is a NO Mass celebrated in the US, it is to be done so under the written rubrics of the GIRM. Had these rubrics been followed as intended all along, the many horrid violations so often trotted out as characteristic of the NO would have been avoided and our Mass would not lack in its solemnity whether in Latin or the vernacular.

    Sorry, Father. This is a beautiful and worthy suggestion, but its place seems to be in a non-Eucharistic prayer service - not the Mass.
  • Tradition is definitely the dominant guide that goes into rubrics like GIRM; otherwise, a whole lot more would be different between the EF and the OF than there already is.

    Tradition has already been interpreted in the formulation of the current rubrics. It is not the place of individuals, no matter how qualified, to redo that work.

    Not to downplay the importance of proper liturgy, but let’s all remember that children starve in Africa while we debate the best place in the sanctuary for the proclamation of the gospel. (And yes, I realize the connection with the ointment on Jesus’ feet.)
  • priorstf, I should be clear that my writing or questions or opinions in no way represent "this august body." I'm just a guy with a computer. It's true that I'm involved with the CMAA but so are thousands of others. I certainly would never presume to speak on behalf of the CMAA, which has a tradition of supporting sacred music that dates to the 19th century. I just can't be under the burden of somehow speaking for the organization.
  • I'm with Felipe. We abandon the high ground when we change the ceremonial to suit our desires.

    But ... "let’s all remember that children starve in Africa while we debate the best place in the sanctuary for the proclamation of the gospel. (And yes, I realize the connection with the ointment on Jesus’ feet.)"

    A classic example of a red herring. Test it out... if we stopped discussing matters of liturgical interest would we then automatically direct our efforts to African relief? Are we not capable of charity and spiritual/liturgical inquiry? I don't mean to jump on you, Felipe, but this is the very red herring trotted out (and boy does it smell by now) by some chantophobes in order to deflect discussion away from proper liturgy and music. Just hits a nerve, ya know.
  • Dear Michael,

    A fair call. I’ve had the very same red herring used against me....so I know what you mean.

    I do think that the location of the proclamation of the Gospel matters substantially less, though, than the music we use. Music has a powerful, mysterious effect on us that I am not sure can be said of moving the deacon 10 feet this way or that.
  • Leland
    Posts: 32
    If the location of the proclamation of the Gospel is based in a powerful iconic or symbolic statement or allusion rooted in tradition (as are, for example, both the Tridentine unleavened bread and the Eastern leavened bread) or if it is based in a freely chosen submission to the Liturgy one serves, then it may have (for those who know the meaning) a deep, powerful, and in the best sense mysterious effect on them, comparable to the effect of music. imho.

    Leland
    Baptist layman
  • This Catholic layman, who found the proclamation of the Gospel towards liturgical north particularly powerful at the Solemn High Masses celebrated in Australia, wishes to echo the thoughts expressed by the Baptist layman.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,036
    I would agree that children starve in Africa, both from a lack of food and the lack of a distribution network. It's important to remember things like this. I have also heard the story that the Russian bishops were debating liturgical colors while the communists were taking over Russia. However, despite the importance of keeping things in perspective, it's possible to ignore proper liturgy to the point that we have chaos - just like we are experiencing in many ,if not most, American churches today. Just try to get the average Catholic to explain the importance of tradition and watch the eyes glaze over in confusion. A little balance - "it's a good thing," as Martha Stewart says.
  • From Bruce Ford

    In defense of the priest who wanted to sing the gospel in the middle of the sanctuary rather than at an ambo, you expressed the view that an appeal to tradition would seem to justify disregard of the novus ordo rubric.

    In fact, tradition solidly supports singing the gospel from an ambo and offers little, if any, support for singing it in the middle of the sanctuary (or in the middle of the nave, which is probably what the person who opened the thread meant to say.)

    A manifestly un-traditional practice was introduced in the Episcopal Church (and in some other Anglican provinces) after World Ward II--that of reading the Gospel in the middle of the nave. It was introduced as an attempted improvement over reading it at the altar or while turned toward the north wall of the sanctuary. The only precedent for the practice was in debased Byzantine practice. Few of the "advanced" school considered the possibility of proclaiming it from the puplit or lectern

    In the draft revisions of the liturgy a rubric called for the gospel to be proclaimed "from a pulpit of lectern." Because people had become so attached to the unintelligent but prevalent custom of proclaiming the gospel from the middle of the nave, the rubric was revised in later drafts to "from the same lectern [as the other lessons], from the pulpit, or in the midst of the people]. The liturgical commission made the change very reluctantly. God knows why the practice persists. It is patently silly. The gospel is addressed to the people. When it is read on the floor in the midst of the nave, the reader's back is turned to half the congregation, and the text is not as easily heard as it would be if proclaimed from the ambo.

    At Hagia Sophis the ambo stood in the middle of the nave. A fenced walkway connected the ambo to the sanctuary. Later, in Byzantine churches that lacked ambones, the the practice of proclaiming the gospel in the middle of the nave developed as a pointless evocation of the earlier practice. It is far from universal.

    Ordo Romanus I calls for the proclamation of the Epistle and Gospel from Ambones.

    In medieval Salisbury (except on ferias) the gospel was proclaimed from a "pulpitum," located in the rood loft. In medieval English churches that did not have ambones, lecterns, placed in the midst of the choir, were generally used.

    Medieval English rubrics, incidentally, also called for the cantor of cantors to intone the gradual and to sing the gradual verse from the lectern.

    Only when, because of the language barrier, the proclamation of the gospel had come to be of little interest to the people, did the erection and use of ambones in churches of the Roman rite seem no longer to be worth the effort. The practice of singing it to the north wall is even more stupid than that of singing it in the middle of the nave.

    The post-Tridentine Caeremoniale Episcoporum permitted the gospel to be sung from an ambo or lectern. O'Connell recomended it in places where Latin was understood (e.g., seminaries).

    I'm convinced that many conservative RCs look upon the use of the ambo for the lectiions,gradual/responsorial psalm , and gospel as nothing more than a moderninst innovation--for which they instinctively seek alternatives. I believe, however, that it represents the renewal of tradition in the best possible way.

    The direction in the novus ordo that calls for the deacon to receive the celebrant's blessing before picking up the gospel book follows Ordo Romanus I. I don't understand how or when the later practice developed; but it makes no sense. Tradition--Eastern and Western--treats the gospel book as an object of veneration. To kneel or bow for a blessing while holding it seems to me to be an act of disrespect.
  • Well, this is interesting. I just returned from an ordinary form Pontifical Solemn Latin Mass--everything chanted--in which, much to my surprise in light of this discussion, the Gospel was read from the nave. I asked the reader--a deacon soon to be ordained--why and how. And he said that's the way this parish has always done it. I asked the Bishop and he said that he quite likes it. A Msgr. present said he thinks it is beautiful. And so on. No one even understood why I was asking.

    I asked the organizer of the liturgy, Dean Applegate, and he said it's because it is a completion of the Gospel procession, and added that there is no sense in processing from the altar to the ambo since that takes about 6 seconds. I pointed to the text of the GIRM and he said that it is a great mistake to seek all rubrics from one instruction manual especially since there are hardly any there. a number of others gathered around pointed out that it has an ancient tradition.

    I don't know what to make of this but I must say that it was very effective. In any case, based on this one instance in which no one thought a thing about it, I suspect that there is an embedded practice here that is more substantive than one might glean from this thread.
  • "he said that it is a great mistake to seek all rubrics from one instruction manual especially since there are hardly any there."

    Huh? If the instruction in the GENERAL INSTRUCTION is clear, I don't see how he supports his claim. A rubric in the Missal might explain it, but has anyone seen one? If they want to hold onto a local tradition that is solidly reverent, I'm not going to report them, but their bottom line is "we want to do it this way." I guess it's no worse than singing the psalm from choir area, which many people do.