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Reasons for sign of the Cross

24 January 2014

Write, if you have any answers to the questions listed at the end of this section, or would like to add to the answers below.


Your answers

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 my worship.

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 acceptance.

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 Ministry;  churchwarden)
Seifton, Craven Arms, Shropshire

Your questions

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. M.

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