Recently we have been looking at the postures and gestures that we engage in duringMass. Each is intended to help us direct our minds and hearts more intently towards what we are celebrating.
While some of the gestures of Mass have fallen into disuse, one that has not been lost is the gesture prior to the proclamation of the gospel.
Once the priest announces the gospel reading, each of us signs ourselves with the cross three times; once each on the forehead, lips and chest as we say (or sing) the response, “Glory to you, O Lord.” Signing ourselves with the cross these three times serves as a prayer or petition in itself. Through signing ourselves with the cross we ask that the word of Christ be always in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts. In other words, we pray that all that we say and do in our lives may make the gospel of Jesus something very real for us today.
Posture is also an important part of the Liturgy of the Word. During the Introductory Rites we stand, united as the Body of Christ that has been gathered and formed to share in the ultimate act of thanksgiving that is the celebration of the Eucharist. Standing is also the typical posture for any time that the assembly prays during the liturgy, and the Introductory Rites include several different forms of prayer.
For the first and second readings, as well as the responsorial psalm, we sit and listen to the word of God. The role of the assembly has changed here from praying, to listening to the scripture proclamations. We stand again for the gospel, but not because we resume the role of praying. We stand because the gospel is the high pointof the Liturgy of the Word. God speaks to us through all of the readings, but Christ is particularly made present to us through the proclamation of the gospel. The introduction to the Lectionary for Mass (book of readings) reminds us that “Christ himself is the centre and fullness of all of Scripture, as he is of the entire liturgy” (article 5). Our standing for the gospel is a sign and acknowledgement of the particular importance of the gospel both in the celebration of Mass, and in our lives as Christians.