Why We Stand For The Reading Of The Holy Gospel
Standing for the reading / hearing of the holy Gospel is an ancient tradition handed down to us from The Didascalia, which is a foundational Christian document composed by an un-named bishop in the 200’s.
The Didascalia says that according to tradition the apostles themselves had already laid down the rule “that except for the Old Testament and the Prophets and the Gospel … nothing should be read on the bema of the church.”
But of the readings Gospel lesson was given the highest status. The apostles, according to this tradition, also laid down “that at the conclusion of all the Scriptures, the Gospels shall be read as being the seal of all Scriptures; and let the people listen to it standing upon their feet, because it is good tidings of the redemption of all men.”
The bema is the raised platform after which our pulpit and lectern are modeled. It is fitting that Scripture should be read from it because the raised position is a liturgical indicator that what we are hearing is God’s high Word, and not man’s.
It is fitting, further, that the Baptized should stand to receive the holy Gospel because it is the “seal” of all Scripture and the “good tidings of redemption”.
It is a “seal” because the New Testament is what we might term “the last chapter of the Old Testament.” All that was promised in the Old is given in the New.
And the Gospel is “good tidings.” That is the welcome and happy message that in Christ we are redeemed from all sin, from death and from the tyranny of the devil. Good News that though the “wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Good News that we are no longer slaves of sin, because the Son has set us free. (John 8:32ff).
What a beautiful thought that we are following a tradition that God's people have observed for 19 centuries.