Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The deacon proclaims the Gospel

In the course of the Sacred Liturgy there are several times when the ministers say prayers sotto voce, as it were. One of those times is immediately following the reading of the Gospel, when the deacon, or, in his absence, the priest, according to the Missal, whether in the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form:

Then he kisses the book, saying quietly:

Through the words of the Gospel may our sins be wiped away.

Gospel book cover with central carving by Jonathan Pageau

In Latin:

Per evangelica dicta deleantur nostra delicta.

It is also interesting that in a Church built facing east, that is, ad orientum, originally meaning the altar was against the east wall towards which the priest, the other sacred ministers (i.e., deacon and subdeacon, and, in a Pontifical Mass sung by a bishop, the assisting priest), and servers faced when at the altar (the congregation always faced that way), that the deacon sang the Gospel from a special ambo facing north, not west towards the congregation. Why north? There are two reasons. The first and most practical being that the deacon should not turn his back to the altar or priest. As a result, in such a configuration, he is not able to face the congregation full-on. Facing north, then, represents what might be called the half-way solution. There is also something to be said for the reasoning that, given the Mediterranean locus of the Church's ancient origin, north, in the words of Martin Mosebach, "is the abode of the pagans." So, the Good News is broadcast through the wall to those who have not yet heard and received it. I like the second reason much better. I agree with Mosebach who asserts, "We should almost always be suspicious of these attempts to derive [liturgical] practices from profane utility."

I agree that one of the legitimate criticisms of the Ordinary Form, the so-called Missal of Pope Paul VI, is the insistence on being so didactic, so linear.

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