In the Orthodox Church the Gospel Book (Greek: Εύαγγέλιον, Evangélion) is a central liturgical item. It is considered to be an icon of Christ, and is venerated in the same manner as an icon.
Placement in the church
Traditionally, the Orthodox will never cover the Gospel Book in leather—the skin of a dead animal—because the words of Christ are considered to be life-giving. Animal skins are also reminiscent of the Fall of Man, when God fashioned garments of skin for Adam and Eve after their disobedience 3:21). The Apostle Paul speaks of Christ being the "New Adam" (1st Corinthians 15:22,47-49), and the Orthodox understand Christ as coming to clothe mankind in the original "garments of light" which Adam and Eve lost in Paradise. Traditionally, the Gospel is covered in gold, the earthly element which is best symbolizes the glory of Heaven. If gold in unavailable, the Gospel may be covered in cloth.
The Gospel Book rests on the center of the altar table, as the Cross of Christ was planted in the center of the earth. This placement of the Gospel Book also represents the activity of Christ at the Creation (the square Altar representing the created world). The Gospel rests upon the antimension, which remains on the Altar at all times, as Christ will remain with the Church until the end of the world (Matthew 28:20).
- Photo of Paschal Liturgy (the Gospel Book can be seen lying on the Epitaphios)
Use during the Liturgy
The Divine Liturgy begins with the priest lifting the Gospel Book high and making the sign of the cross with it over the Altar. The Gospel Book is carried in procession at specific times, accompanied by candles. The most frequent occurrence is during the Divine Liturgy when it is carried in the Little Entrance which precedes the Epistle and Gospel readings. It is also carried in the Crucessions at Pascha and Theophany. After reading from the Gospel, the priest will bless the faithful with it. At Sunday Matins, after the Gospel reading, all come forward to venerate the Gospel Book and receive the blessing of the priest or bishop.
Use on other Occasions
Whenever an Eastern Christian goes to Confession he or she will confess before a Gospel Book and the Cross. In traditional Orthodox countries, when a person takes a vow or oath, he usually does so before a Gospel Book and Cross.
Near the end of the Sacred Mystery of Holy Unction, the person or persons that were anointed will kneel and the Gospel Book is opened and placed on their heads, with the writing down. While the chief priest says a special Prayer of the Gospel.
When a Bishop is Consecrated, he kneels, touching his forehead to the Altar, and the Gospel Book is opened and placed with the text down over his neck, while the consecrating bishops place their hands on the Gospel and say the Prayer of Consecration.
When a Synod of bishops meets, a Gospel Book is often enthroned in a prominent place to show that Christ Himself presides over the meeting.
When a priest or bishop is buried, he is buried together with a Gospel Book, as an indication of his vocation to preach the Gospel to all men.
The Gospel Book contains the readings that are used at Orthros, the Divine Liturgy, Moliebens, and other services. Among the Greeks the Gospel Book is laid out in order of the cycle of readings as they occur in the ecclesiastical year, with a section in the back providing the Gospel readings for Matins, Feasts and special occasions. In the Slavic usage, the Gospel Book contains the full text of the four Gospels in canonical order (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), with annotations in the margins to indicate the beginning and ending of each reading, and a table of readings in the back. Occasionally it will contain pre-arranged texts of the more complex composite readings, such as the Twelve Gospels read at Matins on Holy Friday.
- ↑ In the Greek usage, the processional cross and fans are used in the Small Entrance as well. With the Russians, the fans are usually only used when a Bishop is celebrating.
- Holoviak Gospels (King James and New King James Text, Slavic style Lectionary)
- Gospel Lectionary (Byzantine Style) with the King James text
- Orthodox Christian Scripture Lectionary - An Examination of how the Gospel and Apostolos Lectionary is used throughout the year
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