LITURGY CORNER 7
with Fr. James
MOTIONS & POSTURES
The Sign of the Cross. Why do we make the Sign of the Cross? What is that all about? If a non-Catholic friend would ask you that, what would you say? The first gesture made by the entire community during Mass is the Sign of the Cross. With that motion goes the words, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” This constitutes a confession of faith in Jesus Christ the Crucified. It also indicates that we are willing to pick up our daily cross and follow Jesus (see Mark 8:34), all the while invoking the Trinity upon our prayers and actions. This simple signing of ourselves makes visible all that is distinctively Christian!
After bringing non-Catholic friends to Mass for the first time, they might well ask, “What’s with all the standing, sitting, kneeling throughout Mass?” Could you articulate the symbolic meaning for these actions?
Standing: Standing in the Bible is the usual position for prayer. This posture is used for petitions or praise. It signals our desire to be upright in the presence of God. We begin and end Mass in the standing position, and stand when we petition God at the Prayer of the Faithful.
Sitting. Sitting in the Bible often means ‘to dwell.’ When we are sitting in Mass we are “dwelling on” and assessing what we receive in this place of living faith.
Kneeling. This is the most intense prayer posture regularly used in Mass. In Scripture (e.g., Ps. 95:6; Luke 22:39-42), as in Mass, this is the normal posture to express intense adoration or supplication. It is a posture of vulnerable self-offering to God.
Genuflecting. Upon entering or leaving a chapel that has the Blessed Sacrament reserved in a tabernacle, it is Catholic practice to genuflect. This word comes from a Latin word meaning ‘bend the knee.’ This echoes the utter exaltation of Jesus, because God “gave him the name that is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:9-11). Bending the knee to Jesus is an acknowledgment that Jesus is Lord in our lives.