Last week we considered whether our community truly feels gathered when it comes together to celebrate the Eucharist. Certainly there are a number of factors, including our ministry to each other, and the arrangement of our worship space that can contribute to how people perceive our community’s hospitality and inclusiveness.
Throughout the celebration of Mass, a tension needs to be kept in balance. The people gathered together form one Body of Christ. At the same time, from within that Body, members of our community serve us in ministerial functions.
The Liturgy of the Word is one example. Lay people proclaim the scripture and sing the psalm. The people are called to listen, for Christ is made present through the word that is proclaimed. Even the presider, as a member of the community at this time is required to listen to the scripture. Just because he is a priest does not mean he need not listen to the word.
The gospel and the homily are then the responsibility of the priest (unless, of course a deacon is present). He must proclaim, while the rest of the community continue to listen, responding later in the profession of faith and the prayers of the faithful.
In the Old Testament, when proclaiming the law to the people, Ezra stood at a specially prepared raised wooden dais. The ambo in the church must also be positioned to reflect the dignity and importance of the Word of God. All the people must be able to see it, and to hear those who proclaim from it. It is sometimes called “the Table of the Word”. Thus it is one of the “two tables” of the Eucharistic celebration; the other of course being the altar, or “the Table of the Lord”.
Is the ambo positioned so that all (including the presider) can see the proclaiming minister?
Can those who proclaim the word be heard effectively by all present?
Is the ambo positioned so that the word is proclaimed in the midst of the community, or does it seem separated from the people so that the minister appears to be distanced from the assembly to which they belong?