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After the Book of the Gospels Is Read

What the Congregation Should Do

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Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university. 
Q: Does one need to remain standing until the Book of the Gospels is placed on a stand after it is read? I thought this was only when the archbishop was present and we waited until he kissed the book. Is there anything in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) about this? I cannot find it. Several people in our parish feel we need to remain standing. — K.S., Atlanta, Georgia
A: As our reader correctly states, the GIRM does not say anything specific regarding this point. It says the following in No. 175:
“If incense is used, the deacon assists the priest when he puts incense in the thurible during the singing of the Alleluia or other chant. Then he makes a profound bow before the priest and asks for the blessing, saying in a low voice, Iube, domine, benedicere (Father, give me your blessing). The priest blesses him, saying, Dominus sit in corde tuo (The Lord be in your heart). The deacon signs himself with the Sign of the Cross and responds, Amen. Having bowed to the altar, he then takes up the Book of the Gospels which was placed upon it. He proceeds to the ambo, carrying the book slightly elevated. He is preceded by a thurifer, carrying a thurible with smoking incense, and by servers with lighted candles. There the deacon, with hands joined, greets the people, saying, Dominus vobiscum (The Lord be with you). Then, at the words Lectio sancti Evangelii (A reading from the holy gospel), he signs the book with his thumb and, afterwards, himself on his forehead, mouth, and breast. He incenses the book and proclaims the Gospel reading. When the reading is concluded, he says the acclamation Verbum Domini (The gospel of the Lord), and all respond, Laus tibi, Christe (Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ). He then venerates the book with a kiss, saying privately, Per evangelica dicta (May the words of the gospel), and returns to the priest’s side.
“When the deacon is assisting the Bishop, he carries the book to him to be kissed, or else kisses it himself, saying quietly, Per evangelica dicta (May the words of the gospel). In more solemn celebrations, as the occasion suggests, a Bishop may impart a blessing to the people with the Book of the Gospels.
“Lastly, the deacon may carry the Book of the Gospels to the credence table or to another appropriate and dignified place.”
Since the above text says that the Book of the Gospels is placed on the credence table or some other worthy place once the text has been proclaimed or brought to a bishop for kissing and, if appropriate, blessing, then I think it is fairly obvious that no special ceremony is envisaged for this moment. 
The Evangeliary is always treated with respect. Thus by saying that it is placed either on the credence table or some other appropriate and dignified place, the GIRM indicates that it should not be set aside in an undignified manner such as, for example, stuffed under the ambo. If not the credence table, an appropriate place could be another table or even a window still. However, it is important to note that, in normal circumstances, from this moment the Book of the Gospels no longer has any liturgical function and is not exalted in any way.
In some institutions of ministers and ordinations, the Book of the Gospels is returned to the altar as it will be used again during these rites. 
The fact that GIRM says that the deacon “may” carry the book to the credence table, etc., implies that the option exists of leaving it upon the ambo. This is a possibility, although many priests or deacons prefer to have the full lectionary before them during the homily, and the GIRM seems to take this into account. 
Because of this it is quite common that, after proclaiming the Gospel, the deacon carries the Book of the Gospels to a prepared place which is usually close at hand, and he replaces the lectionary. Meanwhile the priest leaves the chair and approaches the ambo for the homily. If there is time, deacon and priest can meet in front of the altar and reverence it together. 
If the deacon preaches the homily, he can quickly substitute one book for the other or leave the Book of the Gospels on the ambo.
It is true that some churches have a place where the Scriptures are habitually displayed. For example, the U.S. bishops’ document on Church buildings “Built of Living Stones” mentions this as possibility for the ambo:
62. Our reverence for the word of God is expressed not only in an attentive listening to and reflection upon the Scripture, but also by the way we handle and treat the Book of the Gospels. The ambo can be designed not only for reading and preaching, but also for displaying the open Book of the Gospels or a copy of the Scriptures before and after the liturgical celebration.”
This legitimate practice, however, does not imply any form of procession following the proclamation of the Gospel to return the book to its habitual place, even if it were to remain closed. Indeed the above text would seem to exclude the display during the liturgical celebration.
In conclusion, the normal practice is for the faithful to sit following the proclamation of the Gospel. The carrying of the Evangeliary to another place is done briefly and without ceremony. 
If a bishop presides, the book is brought to him to kiss and or bless with. In such cases it is customary in many places to repeat the Alleluia so that the people know that they should remain standing until the bishop has concluded. 
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Readers may send questions to zenit.liturgy@gmail.com. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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Fr. Edward McNamara

Padre Edward McNamara, L.C., è professore di Teologia e direttore spirituale

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