How and why to make the Sign of the Cross before the Gospel

How and why to make the Sign of the Cross before the Gospel

For Catholics, there is a quick gesture that can often go unnoticed before the recitation of the Gospel reading at Mass. It is a brief tracing of the cross that is not the typical gesture usually performed and contains much symbolism.

The rubrics of the Roman Missal instruct the priest or deacon to “make the sign of the cross first on the book at the beginning of the Gospel to be read, and then on himself on the forehead, mouth, and breast.” Those attending Mass, are invited to make a similar gesture before the Gospel is read, while saying interiorly a brief prayer that prepares them to receive the Word of God: May the Word of the Lord be on my mind, on my lips, and in my heart.

It is a beautiful action with deep biblical roots. For example, God commands the people of Israel to recite the Shema Yisrael (“Hear, O Israel …“) daily and to put that phrase “as a pendant on your forehead” (Deut 6:8). Secondly, the prayer is reminiscent of how the prophet Isaiah received a vision where an angel purified his lips with a burning coal (see Isaiah 6). The prayer also recalls the words of the Letter to the Hebrews, “the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword…” (Heb 4:12).

When we make such a gesture at Mass, it is truly a profound prayer, opening ourselves up to the words of Jesus Christ. Every time we listen to the Gospel Jesus is knocking at the door of our heart, waiting to get in. We just have to open the door.

Philip Kosloski, How to make the Sign of the Cross before the Gospel at Mass
Excerpted from, May 3, 2018. With permission