Why do we face the Gospel book?

The Rev. Jim Richardson, Priest-in-Charge

The gospel is a Greek word meaning “good news” and that is the title given to the first four books of the New Testament–Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the biographies of the life of Jesus. These are traditionally considered the most important books for Christians in the Bible, hence they are arranged first in the New Testament.

The Gospel lesson is always read by a member of the clergy, and if possible, it is read by a deacon, as a sign of respect for the Gospel. On special occasions, the Gospel may be sung or chanted.

On most Sundays, there is a procession into the center of the congregation with a deacon or priest carrying the book. The procession signifies that the Gospel is at the center of our life as a faith community, and also signifies that we are to carry the Gospel out into the community. The Gospel Procession is led by a cross. Torch bearers with candles are at the flank to light the book.

Wherever we are seated in the church, it is appropriate for us to stand up and turn to face the Gospel book and reader as a sign of reverence and respect. This is also an echo of the Jewish practice of carrying the Torah–the first five books of the Bible–into the congregation as a sign of reverence and respect. If you are in a front row, you should turn to face the Gospel in the center of the aisle.