Two questions about traditional High Church ceremonial
during 1662 Prayer Book evensong:
1. Making the sign of the Cross over one's lips with the
right thumb at the opening versicle "O Lord, open thou our lips"
makes devotional sense as a ceremonial preparation of the lips as
they begin to utter praise. But what is the point of then
immediately making a "normal" sign of the Cross at the next
versicle "O God, make speed to save us?"
2. People often make a "normal" sign of the Cross at the
opening words of the Magnificat (and of the Benedictus at matins).
Some people also cross themselves at the start of the Nunc
Dimittis. What is the point of saluting the Gospel canticles in
that way? [Answers, 10 January]
Having been brought up in the High Church Anglican tradition, I
have always had making the sign of the Cross as a natural part of
The personal significance of this practice will, no doubt, vary
according to the individual, but my understanding of the reason why
we do this is threefold: dedication, identification, and humble
Before prayer and worship, we sign ourselves to dedicate to God
all that we are about to say, sing, and do. At the Magnificat, we
make the sign to identify with Mary's song of praise. Similarly,
before the Gospel, at the end of the Creed, and at the commendation
of the dead, we again identify with the spirit of the words.
At the receiving of holy communion, at the absolution, and at
the blessing, we sign ourselves in humble acceptance of the grace
that is given to us.
In my many years of worship, it has never been suggested to me
that to sign oneself is to bless oneself. I should very much like
to know the origin of this perception.
(Mrs) Madelyn Carlyon (Member of Ludlow Local
Seifton, Craven Arms, Shropshire
Many will have noticed what a high proportion of
Christmas cards arrived through the post with unfranked stamps. Is
it good stewardship, or theft, to re-use them? P. J.
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