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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011
To begin our preparation for the new translation of the prayers of the Mass we print a summary of the first section of A Guide to the New Translation of The Mass by Edward Sri, Ascension Press

How often do we make a sign of the cross and say ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’. But do we really understand the power and significance of this prayer?
This short reflection will explore the biblical roots of the sign of the cross; the better we understand this prayer the better we will be prepared to receive the treasures God has in store for us each time we say this prayer. There are two aspects – the ritual of making the sign, and the words we say.

The sign: This goes back to Old Testament times. The prophet Ezekiel was given a vision of the dreadful sins being committed in Jerusalem and the judgement that would occur (Ezek Ch 8), but then he was told that an angel would mark all the righteous with a mark on their forehead (the Hebrew letter tav – which looks like a cross). And like the blood on the doorpost that protected the Israelite families from God’s punishment on Egypt at the first Passover, this sign would set them apart from the corrupt culture and would serve as a sign of divine protection when God’s judgement fell on the city (Ezek Ch 9).

Early Christians soon adopted this sign, now the Cross of Christ, which was traced over their bodies. So when we make the sign we are expressing our desire to be set apart from the corrupt ways of the world, and in addition we are invoking God’s protection for our lives, especially in times of temptation or suffering.

The power of God’s name. In the Old Testament we read of many occasions when people call on God’s name. In Scripture, a name is not just a way of identifying or referring to a person, a name mysteriously represents the essence of a person and carried the power of that person. So to call on God’s name is to invoke his presence and his power. So at the very start of Mass we solemnly call on his name, invoking his divine presence and power. It is if we are consecrating the next 40 or so minutes of our lives to the Lord, saying that everything we do in the Mass, we do in his name, asking for his help as we prepare to enter the sacred mysteries.

So let us make the sign of the cross with careful attention and great reverence. Given all that this ritual means, let us not make the sign of the cross in a hurried or sloppy way.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 11:47 am