Built of Living Stones 61-62: The Ambo

Two brief sections on the ambo:

§ 61 § The central focus of the area in which the word of God is proclaimed during the liturgy is the ambo. The design of the ambo and its prominent placement reflects the dignity and nobility of that saving word and draws the attention of those present to the proclamation of the word.(GILH 32; Cf. GIRM 309) Here the Christian community encounters the living Lord in the word of God and prepares itself for the “breaking of the bread” and the mission to live the word that will be proclaimed. An ample area around the ambo is needed to allow a Gospel procession with a full complement of ministers bearing candles and incense. The Introduction to the Lectionary recommends that the design of altar and ambo bear an “harmonious and close relationship” to one another(GILM 32) in order to emphasize the close relationship between word and Eucharist. Since many people share in the ministry of the word, the ambo should be accessible to everyone, including those with physical disabilities.*

* The elevation of the ambo, an access without steps, and in situations where it seems feasible, an ambo with a top section that is adjustable in height either manually or electrically will enable all to serve as celebrant, lector, and cantor.

§ 62 § Our reverence for the word of God is expressed not only in an attentive listening to and reflection upon the Scripture, but also by the way we handle and treat the Book of the Gospels. The ambo can be designed not only for reading and preaching, but also for displaying the open Book of the Gospels or a copy of the Scriptures before and after the liturgical celebration.*

* It has become customary to provide a place for the permanent display of the Scriptures in the sanctuary area. This can be done using the front of the ambo or another kind of pedestal.


“GILH” is the General Introduction to the Lectionary, which we examined about a year and a half ago. Check the sidebar for those posts.

I see a lot of ambo placement on the front edge of the sanctuary space. Gospel processions with the “extras” can get awkward. Not impossiblke, mind you, but deserving of a little more thought and care.

I’m not sure why the starred notes (nos. 83 & 84 in the document) aren’t incorporated into the text. They are sensible considerations.

About that permanent display of the Gospel Book–I see it in a few churches. My parish doesn’t have it, and we’ve been in discernment about the possibilities for several months now. I’m reticent about that “other kind of pedestal,” as it has the potential to make the sanctuary space more busy than it needs to be. Would you leave the book open or closed?

All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Built of Living Stones, USCCB documents. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Built of Living Stones 61-62: The Ambo

  1. Liam says:

    I’ve typically seen the Book of The Gospels left open to the most recently read pericope.

    A classic way to provide the pedestal is as an integrated part of the lower front of the ambo (assuming the ambo is raised in some way, as it typically is).

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