Gemma Animae (22): Quid designet, quod Evangelium in ambone legitur

Ch. 22

What is Symbolized by Reading the Gospel at the Ambo.

The Gospel ambo in the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome, which faces north

The Gospel is read at a lofty place because we are told that Christ preached on a mountain. Therefore, too, it is read at a high place [in sublimi], for the evangelical precepts, by which one scales the heights of the heavens, are sublime [1]. A light burns before the Gospel, because the evangelical doctrine enlightens the Church, and because the word of God offers us life-giving light.

The deacon, according to rule, turns towards the south while he reads the Gospel, because the men to whom spiritual things must be preached usually stand in this part. Men, of course, signify the spiritual, and the south represents the Holy Ghost. Now, however, according to the usual custom he turns towards the north where the women stand; they represent the carnal, for the Gospel calls the carnal toward spiritual things. The north also represents the devil, who is fought through the Gospel. Indeed, the north denotes the heathen people, to whom the Gospel is preached that they might be converted to Christ.

Interior Bisi_Luigi,_Interno_del_Duomo_di_Milano 1840
Bisi Luigi, Interno del Duomo di Milano (1840). Note the two ambos, the enormous veil shrouding the far end of the choir, and several articles of furniture!
Rood Screen Venice
The Rood Screen of the Chiesa dei Frari in Venice, with ambos at each corner. Readings were read from the lofts of rood screens.


The Ambo at the north side of the iconostasis at the Basilica San Marco in Venice. Notice how from ground level the reader appears to stand on the same level as the Apostles and Evangelists that line the top of the screen.


[1] This is the same spiritual sense given to the office of the reader by the Pontificale Romanum, where the lector is admonished to read from a high place, in order that his bodily posture may signify the heights of virtue to which he is called. Notice the peaceful coexistence of the literal and figurative senses here: Ideoque, dum legitis, in alto loco Ecclesiae stetis, ut ab omnibus audiamini, et videamini, figurantes positione corporali, vos in alto virtutum gradu debere conversari.

Quid designet, quod Evangelium in ambone legitur.

Evangelium in alto loco legitur, quia Christus in monte praedicasse perhibetur. Ideo et in sublimi legitur, quia sublimia sunt evangelica praecepta per quae altitudo coelorum scanditur. Ante Evangelium lumen ardet, eo quod evangelica doctrina Ecclesiam illuminet, et quia verbum Dei lumen nobis ad vitam praebet. Diaconus secundum ordinem se vertit ad austrum dum legit Evangelium, quia in hac parte viri stare solent quibus spiritalia praedicari debent. Per viros quippe spirituales significantur, et per austrum Spiritus sanctus designatur. Nunc autem secundum solitum morem se ad aquilonem vertit ubi feminae stant, quae carnales significant, quia Evangelium carnales ad spiritualia vocat. Per aquilonem quoque diabolus designatur, qui per Evangelium impugnatur. Per aquilonem enim infidelis populus denotatur, cui Evangelium praedicatur, ut ad Christum convertatur.

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