Sign Before the Gospel
Question: I have been going to Mass for years and have always wondered: why do we make the three signs of the cross before the Gospel?
Answer: Certainly, many people go to Mass or other devotions, doing and saying things out of habit or reverence and not really understanding the reasons behind some of these things. But everything we do has a meaning or purpose that helps us to worship better, proclaim our beliefs, or focus the attention of the people on something that has a greater importance or significance. A review of the meaning of various gestures and practices can help us have a deeper appreciation for what we do.
There is a little prayer that goes with the three crosses before the Gospel: “May the words of the Holy Gospel be on my mind, on my lips and in my heart.” In standing to hear the Gospel, we acknowledge that Jesus is present, and the words of the Gospel are addressed to us. All of the gestures and special postures we adopt before the Gospel are intended to help us prepare for hearing the Word as well as act on it. The incense, the Alleluia, the deacon or priest, and the special dialogue and announcement that introduces the Gospel help us focus our attention on the Good News we are about to hear. The three signs of the cross show our desire and good intention to hear and live the Gospel.