GILM 32-34: Ambo

Under a Chapter II subheading, “Aids to the Proper Celebration of the Liturgy of the Word,” we have three numbered sections devoted to “the Place for the Proclamation of the Word of God.”

32. There must be a place in the church that is somewhat elevated, fixed, and of a suitable design and nobility. It should reflect the dignity of God’s word and be a clear reminder to the people that in the Mass the table of God’s word and of Christ’s body is placed before them. [62] The place for the readings must also truly help the people’s listening and attention during the liturgy of the word. Great pains must therefore be taken, in keeping with the design of each church, over the harmonious and close relationship of the ambo with the altar.
Note the language used here alluding to the spiritual nourishment derived from both the proclamation of the Word and the celebration of the Sacrament.
In order to help with “listening and attention,” the ambo will need to be placed well for acoustic purposes. Note that the “close relationship” does not necessarily mean close proximity. In my parish, the two share a common axis with the font and the main entrance, but our ambo does not share a raised platform with the altar.
Don’t forget to decorate simply:
33. Either permanently or at least on occasions of greater solemnity, the ambo should be decorated simply and in keeping with its design.
Since the ambo is the place from which the word of God is proclaimed by the ministers, it must of its nature be reserved for the readings, the responsorial psalm, and the Easter Proclamation (the Exsultet). The ambo may rightly be used for the homily and the prayer of the faithful, however, because of their close connection with the entire liturgy of the word. It is better for the commentator, cantor, or director of singing, for example, not to use the ambo. [63]
Your parish does proclaim the Exsultet from the ambo, right?
Here is a curious point I’ve not noticed before: the provision that the ambo be large enough to accommodate multiple readers.
34. In order that the ambo may properly serve its liturgical purpose, it is to be rather large, since on occasion several ministers must use it at the same time. Provision must also be made for the readers to have enough light to read the text and, as required, to have modern sound equipment enabling the faithful to hear them without difficulty.

These last bits are common sense provisions. Anything you see important or even missing in the GILM’s discussion on the ambo?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in General Introduction to the Lectionary, post-conciliar liturgy documents, Scripture. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to GILM 32-34: Ambo

  1. David D. says:

    “It is better for the commentator, cantor, or director of singing, for example, not to use the ambo.”

    I’ve never seen any mention of the role of commentator except in my old Maryknoll missal. I’m curious to see if it merits discussion when you get to GILM 57.

  2. Mollie says:

    Re: the ambo and its uses. I suppose it was naive of me to be surprised, but surprised I was when I read Liturgicae instaurationes (from 1970, on instituting the liturgical reforms) and saw the note that “The conferences of bishops are to give specific directions on the place best suited for women to read the word of God in the liturgical assembly.” As I noted in the comments here, I finally figured out that this was code for “If you can figure out a way for women to proclaim the readings without entering the sanctuary, go ahead.” The notion that the no-girls-allowed-in-the-sanctuary rule would ever have taken precedent over the proper use of the ambo as described in your post is still pretty disturbing to me.

    P.S. David D.: that same document says that women may “read the commentary assisting the people toward a better understanding of the rite.” A new idea to me!

  3. Todd says:


    Yes, good ol’ Liturgicae Insaurationes 7.

    I don’t know what would be worse: a hierarchy actively misogynistic, or a naive and sheltered hierarchy totally unaware of the insult rendered to women.

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