The Gospel Procession
Last Sunday some very astute observers at the 9 and 11am masses noticed that there was no crucifer during the Gospel procession. This was not an omission but an intentional change. From at least as early as the seventh century, there has been procession with the Gospel Book to the place where it was to be read or sung. The deacon was always accompanied by acolytes with torches. No doubt the torches helped illuminate the book for reading but they also remind us that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World. The Gospel has been read in various places. It has been read from an ambo (lectern) or even from a platform above the choir (called Jube’s in France). When a deacon was not present, the traditional position for the Gospel reading was the left side of the altar and hence the term, ‘gospel side.’
Traditionally the processional cross was not universally used in the Gospel procession. Theologically, the Gospel Book is the a symbol of Jesus Christ, as the Word of God. Think about the acclamations said after the Gospel is announced, “Glory be to thee, O Lord” and after, “Praise be to thee, O Christ.” The Book is the icon of Jesus Christ. Having the processional cross, which is also an icon of Jesus Christ, can lead to competing images. As someone commented last Sunday, we are used to bowing when the cross passes us. Absolutely and rightly so! But at the Gospel procession, it is the Book that should focus our devotion and attention to Jesus Christ.