Missa – In nomine Patris…..
In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. These are the words that accompany the Signum Crucis or Sign of the Cross. It is an action made by the ancient church, and even retained in some of the early protestant sects. You’ve seen it made by catholics, or on tv and in the movies, usually to signify a religious or spiritual moment. The Sign of the Cross is a blessing which is made by tracing a cross with the hand and repeating the Trinitarian Formula. The most notable instance of this is by tracing the cross over the body, starting from the forehead, down to the chest and then to both shoulders. It is with this sign that the Introductory Rites of the mass begin, and throughout the mass the Signum Crucis will reappear.
After the Procession, when the Priest and those accompanying make their way to the Altar, the priest continues to the altar, he genuflects, and then in an acknowledgment of Christ, he will kiss the altar. The kiss is also of ancient origin, a greeting which was not confined to those of the opposite sex. It carried with it not only a sign of affection but was also a symbol of homage, allegiance and submission. Kissing the altar expresses the submission of the priest to Christ because the altar itself is a symbol of Christ.
The priest will then turn to the congregation and greet them with the sign of the cross to which the congregation will respond by making the sign on their own bodies along with the priests blessing and completing it with an “Amen.”
The sign of the cross is an action. Some would call it a dead ritual or even a work of sorts. Something done merely for religion; a reaction, a mechanical response done without meaning. But the truth is that such symbols which are expressed by action and word are a completion of what goes on in ones mind. A sad aspect of modernity, especially in the religions which were born out of the reformation is that such actions were slowly removed, ridiculed and rejected, in light of a more ‘mental’ or ‘assent’ styled faith. The ancient church, in every way has been ‘incarnational’ in it’s mindset. It is a holistic faith where the body, soul and spirit are all at work together, completing the whole man, and completing what is traditionally understood as faith. Understanding what the symbol means, what is meant by the action sets the stage for the mass in the same way that holding hands or giving a hug may begin a date. Some may criticize, giggle, or frown upon such acts of affection but for the couple who are preparing for a special night out, such signs are essential for a romance. A word whose etymology starts in Rome.