Traditions are accepted unquestioningly and become as natural as breathing and blinking, but I’ve had a lifelong preoccupation with why we cross ourselves three times before the gospel is read.
Although I’m not one with roaming eyeballs in church— Mom was adamant about that— I’ve observed variations of the triple crossing before the gospel. Some dot the four edges of the cross on their forehead, mouth, and heart, while others make the sign of the cross with their thumb. I’ve also noticed that, while no one struggles to get it right, some perform the ritual so gracefully that it’s elegantly genuine.
With countless observations in the field I was ready. Sooo, in 2005, I took the plunge.
If I make the ritual uniquely mine, it’ll make sense to me.
I felt awkward at first— actually, for some time— but practice has its perks. I’m okay with it now; but every single time before the gospel’s read, the simple act of crossing myself three times still makes me self-conscious.
Do others fumble with the ritual as I have? Or are they perfectly at ease with the tradition?
How can something so simple be so complex?
Until yesterday when I received Father Brummel’s weekly devotion from the Claretian National Shrine of St. Jude, I’d never thought to ask, nor had anyone thought to explain, the significance of the triple crossing before the gospel is read during Mass.
“We make the sign of the cross over our forehead, lips, and heart… praying that God’s powerful Word might always be in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.”
Father Brummel’s simple yet profound explanation was so insightful that I’m still smiling.
Only now, this inquiring mind is percolating another thought.
More to ponder
At Mass back home, the Alleluia is always sung before and after the gospel and is followed by the sign of the cross after the homily.
Is this not a universal practice?
Behold the cross of the Lord! Begone all evil powers! The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered! Alleluia, alleluia! (St. Anthony).
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
June 15, 2014
“Think of the Father as a root, and of the Son as a branch, and of the Spirit as a fruit; for the substance in these three is one” (St. John Damascus).
April 4, 2015
“His sign is the sign of the cross, the death that leads to transfiguration” (Fr. Robert Barron).
March 24, 2016
“The sign of the cross is a seal at sight of which the destroying angel passes on and does us no harm” (St. John Damascene de Boulogne).
April 21, 2016
When making the sign of the cross, therefore, we confess three great mysteries: the Trinity, the Passion, and the remission of sins by which we are moved from the left, the hand of the curse, to the right, the hand of blessing (St. Francis de Sales, The Sign of the Cross).
June 13, 2016
The devil is afraid of us when we pray and make sacrifices. He is also afraid when we are humble and good. He is especially afraid when we love Jesus very much. He runs away when we make the sign of the cross (St. Anthony of Padua).
December 20, 2016
Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering you own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them— every day begin the task anew (St. Francis de Sales, The Sign of the Cross).
St. James Church – Bishop, TX
Links of interest… Blessing your children… Claretians: blog / faith reflections / national shrine / prayers / videos (YT)… Holy water: hidden power, use, & why… How we fill our space… John Adams & the Mass… Kneeling ban: Good liturgy or loss of religious freedom… Make Christ present, wherever you are… Sign of the cross: 21 things we do / about / & our baptism / beautiful gesture / book / how to make (more) / our faith / significance / what is / why Catholics do this… Spiritual significance of genuflecting… St. Francis de Sales: Treatise on the love of God: book / ebook (more) / quotes / summary… Thomas à Kempis: Imitation of Christ… We are all marked men & women…