Signing with the cross was a gesture practiced by Christians as early as the second century . By the late fourth century this action was incorporated at many points in the celebration of the Sacraments. This is surely the earliest prayer. Your parents made the sign of the cross on your forehead when you were brought to the Church for Baptism. We’ve all taught very young children by moving their hands for them.
A greeting extended by the priest, on the other hand, is among the most ancient elements of the introductory rites. The traditional formula in the west has been “The Lord be with you,”a text of biblical origins. Although these words greet Ruth 2:4, they are more often found as a simple statement of God’s presence in the community, e.g. Judges 6:12. The accustomed Latin response Et cum spiritu tuo has parallels in St. Paul, e.g. Galatians 6:18, and its meaning is generally accepted as one of reciprocity.
One of the first changes in the New Testament you’ll notice is in response to the Priest’s “The Lord be with you.” We will respond using the direct translation of the Latin, “And with your spirit”. This empasizes the spirit of the Priest’s ordination as he is not to celebrated the Mass as ‘Joe, Pete, Bill’ but as a priest of the Sacrament.
The Order of Mass provides two additional greetings. the first is the conclusion of St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians (13:13) and is found in some easter liturgies as introducing the dialogue before the eucharistic prayer: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ …”. The other is “The grace and peace of God our Father …. ” a formula often used by St. Paul to begin his letters e.g. Galatians 1:3.
The Order of Mass allows the Presider or suitable minister to give a short introduction to the celebration.
General Instruction of the Roman Missal (The Church’s Textbook)
28. After the entrance song, the priest and congregation make the sign of the cross. Then through a greeting the priest expresses the presence of the Lord to the assemble community.
29. After greeting the people, the priest or other suitable minister may very briefly introduce the Mass of the day.
86. Then the priest goes to the chair.
The sign of the cross, a traditional prelude to prayer, is a form of self-blessing with strong baptismal overtones: in the rite of Christian initiation we are signed with the cross since all salvation come through the victorious cross of Christ. Moreover, every Christian has been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The community at worship is first and foremost a baptismal community.
Questions for Reflection:
1. How is the sign of the cross made – reverently and with thought or absentmindedly and carelessly?
2. Have I reflected on what my Baptism means to me?
Scripture: Gal. 6:18, Cor.13:13