In the post-Vatican II Church, there is no such differentiation. In the older Church, when you faced the altar the Gospel side was to the left and the Epistle side to the right. I have found no particular significance to this arrangement. It seems to be a custom handed down for hundreds of years.Personal reflectionAll altars used to face east. When you are standing facing the altar, the left was the north, and the south was on your right. I was told that the altar boy carrying the book from the Epistle side (right or south) to the Gospel side (left or north) was to symbolize the Gospel being carried north from Italy and the Mediterranean through Europe the further north. I don't know if this was something they came up with after the fact or how it came to be. However it came to be, it is referred to as the Gospel side because that it is the side where the book and the priest are when the Gospel is proclaimed, in the traditional format of the Mass
Viewed from the congregation, the right side is the epistle side and the left side the gospel side. However, the terms epistle side and gospel side do not refer merely to one side of the congregation or the other. One can also speak of the gospel side of the altar, or of the gospel side of the church.
.Catholic AnswerOutside of Mass, only an altar cloth (should be linen) may be on the altar. When Mass begins, they may put the book of the Gospels on it. At the Offertory, they spread a corporal in the center, on which they may put the gifts (the Gospels have come off when the Gospel is read). After Holy Communion, everything must be removed, and only the altar cloth remains. If the candles are not near the altar, they may be on it.
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