Congregation signs themselves with the sign of the cross on forehead, mouth and breast.greenspun.com : LUSENET : Catholic : One Thread
Right before the reading of the Gospel at Mass, the congregation signs themselves with the sign of the cross on forehead, mouth and breast.
I know that the priest is required to do this, but is the congregation? Thanks and peace in Christ.
-- Brian Drake (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 01, 2002
I am not aware of the existence of any post-Vatican-II document in which the faithful are told to use this gesture, so I don't believe that it is required of us. It seems likely to me, though, that those who wrote the texts did not find it necessary to mention this, since most people had already been following this custom for an unknown number of centuries. It was even retained in at least one of the Protestant denominations founded in the 16th century. The symbolism? Forehead = may we believe in the Good News ... lips = may we spread it by word of mouth ... chest = may we treasure it in our hearts.
There are other very old traditions/customs that are not "codified" in documents. Although we are told when to genuflect, we are not told how to genuflect. The tradition/custom, though, is to do it by touching the right knee to the ground. Why not the left knee? I have read that genuflecting with the left knee was used before royalty, because "left" was symbolically less noble than "right." Only God could be honored by a right-knee genuflection.
God bless you.
-- J. F. Gecik (email@example.com), October 02, 2002.
Why do the memebers of Oriental Churches go from right shoulder to left shoulder while the Latins do it from left to right while making the sign of the Cross? Thanks.- Alberto
-- Alberto Flores (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 02, 2002.
John explained the symbolism very well. I never did understand that gesture until I heard it explained in a homily. Ever since then, I silently enter the prayer "God bless my mind and what I think, my mouth and what I say, and my heart in what I believe" to remind me of the symbolism.
-- Glenn (email@example.com), October 02, 2002.
-- ^ (^@^.^), October 03, 2002.
You asked: "Why do the memebers of Oriental churches go from right shoulder to left shoulder while the Latins do it from left to right while making the sign of the Cross?"
There does not seem to be a universally accepted answer to this question. The certain truth seems not to have been recorded many centuries ago, so people seem to do their best to speculate now. The result is that several possibilities are offered as explanations (as I have learned by digging around on the Internet). I decided to copy here one of the explanations I found -- the one that seems to have a little authority behind it. Before I do so, though, I wanted to mention one thing: Although the Eastern faithful tough right shoulder first, their priests (when facing them to bless with a hand-cross) move the cross from left to right, just as Western priests move their hands from left to right. Thus, the Eastern faithful follow the movement of the hand-cross, as if looking into a mirror.
The following is a small part of an article published in the "Adoremus Bulletin." It was written in 1997 by a Benedictine monk, Fr. Cassian Folsom, who was then Vice-rector of the monastic institute of Sant Anselmo and Pro-President of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome.
[A Christian of the East] "makes the sign of the cross from right to left, whereas we [in the West] make it from left to right. Why? It's interesting to note that in the 13th century, Pope Innocent III (contemporary with St. Francis of Assisi) instructed the faithful on the meaning of the sign of the cross in these words: 'The sign of the cross is made with three fingers, because the signing is done together with the invocation of the Trinity. This is how it is done: from above to below, and from the right to the left, because Christ descended from the heavens to the earth, and from the Jews (right) he passed to the Gentiles (left).'
"Note that Pope Innocent is describing what the custom was in the West. In the 13th century the East and the West still made the sign of the cross in the same way. The pope goes on to say: 'Others, however, make the sign of the cross from the left to the right, because from misery (left) we must cross over to glory (right), just as Christ crossed over from death to life, and from Hades to Paradise. [Some priests] do it this way so that they and the people will be signing themselves in the same way. You can easily verify this -- picture the priest facing the people for the blessing -- when we make the sign of the cross over the people, it is from left to right.'
"So the people, imitating the blessing of the priest, began to sign themselves from left to right. Be that as it may, centuries have gone by since then, and we in the West make the sign of the cross from left to right, with the palm open."
God bless you.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 05, 2002.
Thank you very much, John. -Alberto
-- Alberto Flores (email@example.com), October 06, 2002.