During Mass, we make a little cross on our head, lips, and heart, because these outward gestures made with our bodies are pointing to an inward prayer that is happening in our hearts.
When the Gospel is about to be read, the priest or deacon says, “A Reading from the Holy Gospel
according to ________.” The congregation then responds, “Glory to You Oh Lord,” making a small cross with their thumb over their forehead, lips, and chest.
Remember, the cross itself is a sign of redemption in and through Jesus Christ. When we make this sign of
the cross, in any form, it’s an outward act to profess our inward faith in the Trinity. This sign declares that,
through our baptism, we belong to God.
The reason for making a cross during this period of the Mass is to highlight the importance of the Word of God we are about to hear.
St. Paul taught us, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the
heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
In the outward sign of crossing our forehead, lips, and heart, we are asking that the Word of God to pierce our mind, lips, and hearts.
We cross our forehead so that the Word of God may be in our thoughts and purify our minds. We cross our lips so that our speech may be holy and incline us to share the Gospel with others. And we cross our hearts to invite God to strengthen our love for Him and others. All of this is so that we might know, proclaim, and love Jesus Christ all the more.
So next time you’re at mass and the Gospel is about to be proclaimed, pray that “The word of God be ever in my mind, proclaimed by my lips, and pierce my heart, leading me to deeper communion with you, Jesus.”
Read more in the “Why Do We Do That?” series from Deacon Mike Fritz.