Gospel Procession

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: My question relates to the Gospel procession at the Easter Vigil. Since the Gospel Book is not carried in procession at the beginning of this liturgy our parish had a practice of having a thurifer lead a person carrying the Book from the ‘back of’ the church to the priest in front of the altar during the Gospel procession. Now that we have a deacon who will assist at this liturgy, would he be able/allowed  to go to the ‘back of’ the church to get and carry the Book forward, or must it be placed on the altar prior to the Service of Light?

Thanks for your blog … and for your books. It’s helpful to have you as a go-to person when liturgical questions arise.


A: Thanks for your comments on my blog and my books.

There are no special instructions for the Book of the Gospels at the Easter Vigil, so the other rules pertain. Best practice is to set the Book of the Gospels on the altar before the Vigil begins, and to process it from the altar to the ambo as usual during the gospel acclamation.

Although there is no explanation for this, I believe that having the Book of the Gospels on the altar for the Liturgy of the Word is itself symbolic. These two key symbols of Christ – the book containing his words and the altar of his sacrifice – are united one to the other from the beginning of the liturgy. They are the only objects kissed in the course of the mass. The altar is not just a shelf for the book. It is its proper home on Sundays while the liturgy of the word unfolds. Processing the book from altar to ambo links the two parts of the mass.

To process in with the book from the back of the church during the gospel acclamation would create a second entrance procession after perhaps the most dramatic entrance procession of the year. Such an action may draw attention to the book, but a book bereft of some of its symbolic punch.