THE EPISTLE SIDE OF THE ALTAR/THE GOSPEL SIDE OF THE ALTAR - DR. GIL HAAS, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY
In the liturgical traditions of Western Christianity, the Epistle side of the altar designates the side of a church from which the Epistle is read during the Mass. It is the right hand side of the altar as viewed by the congregation from the nave. The gospel was read from the opposite side of the altar, which was consequently known as the “Gospel side”. This usage made it way into widespread Anglican practice after the revival of highly ceremonial liturgies in the second half of the nineteenth century. In some places, the Gospel side is called the Evangelist side. During a high mass, the lectern holding the Missal (the book from which the mass is read by the celebrant) was moved from the Epistle side of the altar to the Gospel side of the altar after the Epistle had been read. The Book of Common Prayer discourages all such labels, stating “it is desirable that the lessons be read from a lectern or pulpit, and that the Gospel be read from the same lectern, from the pulpit, or from the midst of the congregation” (p 406).
~Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, OK
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