Candles During the Gospel (continuation)

In a Follow-up: Lighted Candles at the Lectern

Some interesting questions emerged from our piece on ambo candles.

A Massachusettsreader asked: “I have attended a liturgy where the altar servers carried two candles in procession and placed them at the ambo. The candles were then brought to the altar upon the conclusion of the homily or Prayers of the Faithful. In my church, the candles are already lit at the ambo and then blown out after the Prayers of the Faithful so as to focus on the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Is this correct?”

The candles on or near the altar are usually lit before Mass, and thus the processional candles accompanying the Gospel during the entrance procession and proclamation should normally be distinct from the altar candles. The processional candles are usually left on the credence table or another convenient place in the sanctuary while not in use.

However, some places do have the custom of placing the processional candles on or near the altar after the entrance procession, and, provided they are not the only candles present, it does not appear to go against the liturgical norms. All the same, the use of distinct processional candles seems liturgically preferable and avoids awkward movements near the altar.

Likewise, the torches that accompany the thurifer while incensing the Sacred Species during the consecration should, in principle, be different from the processional candles. These latter may, however, accompany the thurifer in smaller parishes with fewer ministers.

The question regarding blowing out the candles after the Liturgy of the Word is somewhat moot, for, as we mentioned in our previous column, the practice of permanent candles at the ambo, lit or unlit, does not correspond to Catholic liturgical tradition.

While liturgical inventiveness still abounds, we need to remember that the most pastorally effective use of symbols remains that foreseen in the liturgical books. Arbitrarily changing the symbols, even with the best of intentions, inevitably conveys a different message to that desired by the universal Church.

Regarding the ambo in general, aTennesseecorrespondent asked: “Can we read announcements from the ambo at the end of Mass?” AKansasreader asked for comments on the following practice: “In our parish lectors have been instructed to approach and make a profound bow to the ambo before proclaiming the word. Further, upon concluding the readings we are instructed to make another profound bow to the ambo and return to our pew. We have been specifically instructed not to acknowledge or genuflect in the direction of the tabernacle which is recessed to the left rear of the ambo.”

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), No. 309, states: “From the ambo only the readings, the responsorial Psalm, and the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) are to be proclaimed; it may be used also for giving the homily and for announcing the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. The dignity of the ambo requires that only a minister of the word should go up to it.”

Thus all other commentaries, announcements and similar activities should be carried out from another suitable place.

The indication of not making a genuflection or other gesture toward the tabernacle during the celebration of Mass is correct and in conformity with GIRM 274: “If, however, the tabernacle with the Most Blessed Sacrament is present in the sanctuary, the priest, the deacon, and the other ministers genuflect when they approach the altar and when they depart from it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself.”

The bows toward the ambo — or in other places toward the altar or even toward the celebrant — at the beginning and end of the reading are not prescribed in the liturgical books. They probably arise from a sense of natural courtesy and reverence, especially when the lectors enter from the pews or do not participate in the entrance procession.

AWinnipeg,Manitoba, reader asked about the origin of the word “ambo.”

According to one authoritative dictionary it appears that the word is of medieval Latin origin and probably derives from the Greek “ambon” — a raised rim, or pulpit. It thus referred to either of the two raised pulpits from which the Gospels and epistles were read in early Christian churches.

Special thanks to
ZENIT International News Agency
Via della Stazione di Ottavia, 95
00165 Rome, Italy
for these contributions.

Read or download a recent follow-up On this subject:

 Candles at the Gospel Reading.


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