The Gospel Book
The Gospel Book (Gk. Evangélion) is a liturgical book containing the text of the Holy Gospel, arranged in sections called pericopes (Gk. perikopaí; Slav. zachála). These readings are presented in the order at which they are read throughout the year.
The Book of the Gospels rests normally on the centre of the Holy Table, and whenever possible its cover is elaborately decorated with silver or gold; it should on no account be bound in the skins of dead animals (i.e. in vellum or leather). The Gospel Book plays an important part in Orthodox ceremonial: it is carried in procession at the Small Entrance in the Liturgy; and when there is a Gospel reading at Mattins, it is afterwards placed on an analogion (in the Ruthenian churches, a tetrapod) in the centre of the church - or held up by the priest - and the congregation approach one by one in order to venerate it. In general the Gospel Book is treated in the same way as the Holy Icons, and is regarded as an icon of the Saviour, more particularly in His teaching ministry.
(Mother Mary and Kallistos Ware, The Festal Menaion, p. 535).
Contents of the Gospel BookThe Gospel Book contains all of the Gospel readings used throughout the year, presented (as described above) in sections called pericopes (pronounced pe-rik'-a-pēz). The readings are presented in the order in which they occur liturgically, rather than in their original order.
The Gospel Book in Church Slavonic
The L'viv Sluzebnik, following the customs of the time, provided the individual Gospel and Epistle readings in their proper places in the liturgical cycle (in the same fashion as the Roman Missal). This allowed the priest to celebrate the Liturgy at the altar, without the need for a reader.
As part of the Ruthenian reform of the 1940's, a new Gospel Book for the Ruthenian Recension of the liturgy was published, in two different formats:
- A large "altar Gospel" to be placed on the Holy Table, and containing all the readings for the year. and
- a smaller Gospel book, containing the Gospel readings for Sundays and major feast, and the common readings for the days of the week and for classes of saints. (Remember that these books were published during World War II, when the likelihood of priests having to travel or go into exile was foreseen.)
The letter of Cardinal Tisserant promulgating the new books of the Ruthenian Recension made it quite clear that the abuse of celebrating from the altar, and combining liturgical books into a single "missal", was to end.
Both editions of the Ruthenian Gospel Book are reprinted occasionally by the Vatican Polyglot Press.