LECTERN, a four-legged wooden or metal bookstand, about 50 inches (125 cm) in height, on which the Bible and other liturgical books are placed for reading. It is often in the form of an eagle with outstretched wings. The lower part is customarily used as a storage container for books and musical instruments employed in the services, such as cymbals and triangles.
There are two lecterns in every Coptic church. These lecterns are often adorned with geometric designs and sometimes inlaid with
ivory carvings. The finest example is to be found in the old Cathedral of Saint Mark at the district of al-Azbakiyyah in Cairo. It had earlier belonged to al-Mu‘allaqah Church in Old Cairo and may date to the tenth or eleventh century. A covering of silk or some rich
material is sometimes placed on the manjaliyyah in such a way that it covers the sloping desk and hangs halfway down the front.
The two lecterns always stand in the choir area before the haykal (sanctuary) door. The one at the north side faces east and is used for singing the lessons in Coptic. The other lectern, at the south side, faces west and is used for reading the lessons in Arabic.
Occasionally, there is only one lectern, but the bookrest in this case is usually double and revolves on a central column. The north side of the choir is considered the proper place for a single lectern.
To the left of the person reading at each lectern usually stands a tall candelabrum on which the censer is hung when not in use.
The principal purpose of the lectern is to support the books of the biblical liturgical lessons, that is, the lectionaries for the whole year, for Lent, and for Holy Week. It is also used for reading the Apocalypse (on Holy Saturday), the SYNAXARION, the Homilies, the PSALMODIA, the DIFNAR, the TURUHAT (see TARH), and the biblical lessons in other priestly offices such as matrimonial or burial services.
It is also normally used as a pulpit for sermons, though a sermon by the patriarch or a bishop is delivered from his own seat.
At the beginning of Holy Week, the lecterns and candelabra are moved from the choir into the nave of the church and the lecterns are covered with black cloth. All the lessons are then sung or read at these lecterns in the nave, except those of the morning offering of
incense and the Divine Liturgy on Maundy Thursday, which are read from a lectern in the choir area. At the twelfth hour of Good Friday the lecterns and candelabra are returned to their places in the choir area.
[See also: EUCHOLOGION STAND and LITURGICAL INSTRUMENTS.]
EMIL MAHER ISHAQ
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