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Sep 4, 2019

The Parts of the Mass: The Sign of the Cross

Jeff Cavins

In this series on the Mass I hope to illuminate some of the truths of the Mass and give you some ideas on how you can more actively participate.

At the very beginning of the Mass the priest processes to the sanctuary, and as he does we stand ourselves and he takes his place at the altar. All at once, behind the leadings of the priest, we all say:

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen”

That’s how the Mass begins. It doesn’t begin with a “Good morning,” or a “How are you doing today?” but it actually officially begins with the Sign of the Cross.

We Do It All of the Time

We make the Sign of the Cross before meals, before prayers at bed. In my travels, when in an airplane, before we take off I’ll look around and see two or three people making the Sign of the Cross as the airplane makes its ascent into the sky. It’s not because they’re suspicious or scared, but they want to entrust themselves completely to God.

So what are we doing exactly when we make the Sign of the Cross? Well, there’s the action of doing it, and also the words—which are a way of calling upon God. When we call upon God, and call upon that beautiful name of Jesus, we’re present with him. Jesus said:

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Matthew 18:20

The Mass is the greatest presence of God on earth. It’s the real presence of God on earth. What takes place is that bread and wine become the Body and Blood, the Real Presence. And so when we begin the Mass with the “name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,” we are actually gathering in his name and he is with us.

If you are looking to help teens understand and appreciate the incredible gift we’ve been given in the Mass, we invite you to sign up for a free preview of Altaration: The Mystery of the Mass Revealed.

Why We Do It

Just the act of making the Sign of the Cross is very powerful. The Early Church saw it as a prayer in itself. When we make that sign, we are reminding ourselves of several things:

  1. We are identifying and reaffirming our baptism in Jesus. In our baptism, sin was dealt with, original sin was taken away. We were also introduced into the family of God, the Church. So every time we make the Sign of the Cross, we are reaffirming our relationship with Christ as covenant partners with Christ and members of his household.

  2. We call upon the name. In antiquity, in pagan cultures, they would have temples in their cities and they would have priests working in that temple. The key to each temple was the name of the god for whom it was erected. The priest would keep that name, and whoever had access to that name had access to that god. That’s the beautiful thing about the Mass. When we start, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” we’re reminded of the fact that we have access to God. God is inviting us into a relationship. No longer are we alone. No longer do we need to feel abandoned in the world with all of our problems, but God is inviting us into communion. In the Mass we’re going to experience a real Communion. A real sacrifice is going to take place, a Real Presence of God with us.

Next Time, Don’t Just Go through the Motions

So saying “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” is imperative. Isn’t it a beautiful thing that God has not kept his name from us? He has not given access to him to just a few people, but he makes himself available to all of us.

So at the very beginning of the Mass, when you say, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” you are moving from a menial world of problems and headaches out there to a very special time, a very special place in the Mass, kind of a sanctuary in time where you can focus on what’s really important. You can ask God to help you address the problems in your life.

But before you even do that, you need to get to Mass on time, because if you miss that very beginning you’re late. One of the first things we need to do is focus on getting to Mass on time. Then, right during that processional, say to yourself, “I am actively involved. I am engaged. I’m going to put my problems aside, and I am going to take in this moment.

And all of this is “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

What is the priest really saying when he addresses everyone throughout the Mass with, “The Lord Be With You”? Find out in our next installment in this “Parts of the Mass” series.

This article can also be found as a video here.

Go Deeper!

A Biblical Walk Through the Mass by Dr. Edward Sri is a five part program taking participants on an exciting in-depth tour of the Liturgy, exploring the biblical roots of the words and gestures we experience at Mass, and explaining their profound significance.

Learn More!

About Jeff Cavins

Jeff Cavins is passionate about helping people understand Scripture and become disciples of Jesus Christ. Though he was born Catholic, Jeff went to Bible school and served as a Protestant minister for twelve years before reverting to the Catholic Faith. He then quickly became a leading Catholic evangelist and author. Jeff is best-known for creating The Great Adventure™ Bible study programs published by Ascension, which have been used by hundreds of thousands of people to engage in Scripture in a life-changing way. In addition to The Activated Disciple, some of his other recent projects include his podcast, The Jeff Cavins Show, and the Great Adventure Bible studies, Ephesians: Discover Your Inheritance, and Wisdom: God’s Vision for Life.

Photo by Michael Newcomb on Unsplash

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