Q: At a funeral my community places a Book of the Gospel on the coffin. Is it good, within the tradition, or acceptable to use that book the time comes for the Gospel reading? It seems odd to me to have it there but not put it to use. It seems like the procession to the ambo could involved a stop at the coffin to get the book, and it could be returned at the conclusion of the Gospel’s proclamation. Thank you.
A: I wouldn’t use the gospel book that way. It think it is conflating two symbols. The book of the gospels is usually carried in procession and placed on the altar where it serves as a symbol for the presence of the living Christ among us, drawing together gospel and altar, the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the eucharist. After the proclamation of the gospel, the book is set aside because it no longer plays a central role in the liturgy.
The gospel book on the coffin has another purpose: showing the connection between the deceased and the gospel in which they believed. It fittingly remains there undisturbed throughout the funeral.
That said, I don’t know of any prohibition. I just think it would not represent best practice.