Friday, November 10, 2006

Anybody Know Why?

Al Kimel over at Pontifications has just run a delightful piece on liturgical crossing and bowing in which he commends Anglo-Catholics for keeping alive within western Catholicism the fullest tradition of crossing oneself.

Addressing himself to his Roman Catholic brethren, he asks "why restrict yourself to the opening invocation, gospel, and closing blessing? Live on the edge! Push the ritual envelope! Make a gratuitous sign of the cross!"

He goes on to say that, "in addition to the three occasions mentioned above, Anglo-Catholics also make the sign of the cross at the conclusion of the Gloria in exclesis ('in the glory of God the Father'), at the conclusion of the Nicene Creed ('the life of the world to come'), at the Benedictus qui venit ('Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'), at the consecratory elevations, and at the presentation of the Holy Gifts to the congregation."

For the first time since Al left the Episcopal Church and crossed the Tiber, I can say that I fully agree with him. These are nine (I think I counted them right) occasions in which it is common to see Anglo-Catholics cross themselves during the Mass. And over the years, I have gradually come to adopt all of them (the one at the end of the Gloria being the latest addition to my repertoire).

But I have always been curious, and always forgotten to ask someone, why we cross ourselves at the Benedictus. Does anybody know why? And while you're at it, feel free to share any amusing anecdotes about your own experiences.


Anonymous said...

Why not?

poetreader said...

The liturgical instinct is to make the sign of the cross when saying 'blessed'. It just seems appropriate. I sense a delicious irony at the Benedictus qui, in that one is recalling the words of the people as Jesus entered Jerusalem to be crucified, and their demand so soon thereafter that he be nailed to that cross.

There are a lot of other traditional places to cross oneself in the liturgy, and there is no sound tradition for forbidding it at other times. I like the attitude of the Christian East, where it's a case of 'when in doubt, cross.'


J. Gordon Anderson said...

I hope Al Kimmel enjoys his new church.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Don't forget the little crosses with the right thumb, on the forehead, lips and heart, when the Gospel is read.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Tridentine rite also has the same crossings that the Anglo-Catholic rite does. In addition, many people (including myself) cross themselves at the major elevation and transubstantiation of both the host and the chalice, after receiving the host, and of course during the Asperges (which, I know, is not technically part of the Mass, but you get the idea).

nlahey said...

If I remember correctly, we cross ourselves at the Benedictus qui venit because when we bless God, be it all three persons of the Holy Trinity or just one (since any one of the three persons is fully God)we are blessed in return. To call blessing to God is to receive blessing. A crossing, with a bow at the BQV is a humble acknowledment of that blessing received.


Strider said...

My liturgics professor, Louis Weil, has a theory about the origin of some of the crossings inherited by English Catholicism: the Sarum rite rubricized a crossing instead of an osculation of the altar at specific points, including immediately before the priest was instructed to turn toward the people. He theorizes that the congregation saw these crossings, identified them with specific phrases, and began crossing themselves at those points! I have never attempted a comparison between the Sarum rite an the Roman rite to confirm this theory, but it is interesting.