The proclamation of the Gospel

    Why do we stand for the Gospel?
    While sitting is a position of receptivity for the other two readings, we stand for the Gospel as a sign of respect for the words of Jesus and to manifest an eagerness and attentiveness to hear his Word. This makes sense if we consider our everyday experience of greeting a guest. If we are eager to meet someone important who is about to enter the room, we would stand out of respect. In the same way, we stand to greet Christ and to anticipate the proclamation of his Good News.
    Why can only a priest or deacon proclaim the Gospel?
    In the liturgical setting, only the priest or deacon can proclaim the Gospel. At his ordination, a priest or deacon is given the privilege to officially proclaim the Gospel during the liturgy. In our Catholic tradition, we believe that the words of the Gospel are not just read, but that through the proclamation of the words and the ministry of the priesthood and diaconate, Christ actually becomes present in his Word.
    Why do we sign ourselves on the forehead, the lips and the heart before the Gospel?
    After the greeting of “The Lord be with you” by the priest or deacon and our response of “And with your Spirit,” the proclaimer of the Gospel says, “A reading from the Holy Gospel according to (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John).” As the proclaimer says that, he traces the sign of the cross on the Gospel book and then makes three small crosses, one on his forehead, lips and heart. When the priest or deacon makes the three crosses, the congregation responds, “Glory to you, O Lord,” and is also invited to make three small crosses at the same time. As we sign ourselves, we silently pray, like the priest or deacon, “that the Word might enlighten our minds, cleanse our hearts, and open our lips, to proclaim the praise of the Lord.”  This prayer reminds us that the Word of Jesus is not to fall upon deaf ears, but rather is meant to permeate our minds, purify our speech, and change our hearts.
    Why does the priest or deacon kiss the book after proclaiming the Gospel?
    After the Gospel reading, he kisses the Gospel that he just proclaimed. This kiss is a sign of gratitude and reverence for the Word of God in the Gospel.
    What does he silently pray as he kisses the book of the Gospel?
    As he is kissing the Book of the Gospel, he silently prays, “Through the words of the Gospel may our sins be wiped away.” This prayer is a reminder to the priest that our salvation and forgiveness of sins comes from the Gospel message.
    Why do we respond, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ” after the Gospel?
    At the end of the Gospel, the priest or deacon says, “The Gospel of the Lord.” As one community, we respond “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ” as a sign of thanksgiving and acceptance of God’s Word that we have received in our ears and in our hearts.
    Why is the book of the Gospels enthroned in a place of prominence after it is proclaimed?
    In many churches on the front side of the ambo, there is a place for the scriptures to be enthroned. However, in all cases, after the Gospel is proclaimed, the book holding Christ’s Word should be treated with dignity and not just placed aside. The Book of the Gospels should be visible during the Liturgy of the Eucharist because, having been fed by the Word of God proclaimed, we approach the table of the Lord to be fed by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
    Tim Hedrick is a second-year theologian studying for the Archdiocese of New Orleans at Notre Dame Seminary. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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