Every liturgy includes a celebration of the Word of God. The people in the pews are not just a passive audience addressed by a reader, cantor or preacher – what they hear challenges them as no other words can. It challenges them to respond during the Mass by psalms and acclamations and also in their individual lives. Because of this the ambo should reflect the dignity and nobility of the message proclaimed from it – this is why candles are lit whenever the scriptures are proclaimed. The key word here is “proclaimed”. The Word of God is not the printed text in a book. It is those words spoken by the reader, deacon or priest. It is something alive, active – sharper than a double edged sword. Our reverence for the Word of God is expressed in the reverence that we pay to the Book of the Gospels and the Lectionary – the priest or deacon proclaiming the Gospel will kiss the passage he has read when he finishes. It is only right that this should be expressed in the construction of the ambo.
The Word of God is not dead text printed on a page, it is something alive that lives in its proclamation and in the hearts of those who hear it.
All the readings, the homily (unless preached from the chair) and the prayers of the faithful are all proclaimed from the ambo. However, because the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Mass, form one act of worship it is recommended that the ambo and the altar have a common design to reflect this but it should not overshadow the altar.
The origins of the ambo can be traced back to the raised area with a reading desk in the synagogue called a bema. The first Christians would have been familiar with these from the services that they attended
“Each day, with one heart, they regularly went to the Temple, but met in their houses for the breaking of bread” Acts 2: 46.