Help a reader with a TLM question

I got a question by e-mail from a retired priest military chaplain (edited):

Can you tell me why the number of the signs of the cross over the sacred species after the consecration [in the TLM]?  After all, we are not "blessing" Jesus.

 

It is good to know why we do things in the older form of Mass.  An image flashed through my mind of some priest being "tested" by his somewhat unfriendly bishop to see if he was "qualified" to celebrate the older form, turning the tables and asking his somewhat hostile bishop, "Why all the signs of the Cross after the consecration?"

Help a reader with a TLM question
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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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43 Responses to Help a reader with a TLM question

  1. xathar says:

    Jungmann states that the sings after the consecration, much like those before, originally began as pointing gestures. (It was a Roman rhetorical device to point to that to which one was referring). Eventually, these pointings became stylized into signs of the cross. You will notice that every time the gifts are referred to, a sign of the cross is made over them. BTW, these multiple signs of the cross within the canon are not medieval accretions, but are to be found even in the early text of the Old Gelasian Sacramentary (c. 750) whose prototype is thought to be from between the years 618 and 715.

  2. Serafino says:

    Along those lines, I always wanted to know why, at the end of the Canon, the priest makes five signs of the cross with the Host just before the minor elevation?

  3. Jungmann could be right about this. If you want to have an idea of what that ancient “pointing” or rhetorical “teaching” gesture was like, how it was employed, you can see it in ancient Christian, and pagan, art.  For example, here is a shot of an ancient sarcophagus/altar front.  You can see the pointing/teaching gesture used throughout.  The pointing was not done with the finger, but rather the whole hand.




    Click on the image for a larger version.

  4. xathar says:

    Jungmann offers the opinion that just as the three crosses were made at the mention of the Son in the word ipse, now the last two crosses were joined to the mention of the Father and the Holy Ghost. These five crosses serve to emphasize the naming of Christ (ipse) all the more by a reference to the mystery of the Cross in which finally ‘all honor and glory’ mounts to God.

  5. Richard Pickett says:

    In his Summa St Thomas Aquinas identifies these signs of the cross as part of the sacrificial ritual representing moments in Our Lord’s passion.

  6. Henry Edwards says:

    Marginal remarks in the Angelus Press 19962 missal:

    “These five signs of the cross [after the consecration] represent the five wounds of Christ.”

    “The first triple sign of the cross [in the Te igitur at the beginning of the Canon] represents Christ’s betrayal, which was the work of God, of Judas, and of the Jews. (Hmm … Perhaps Pope Benedict needs to take a look at this.)

    “The first three signs of the cross [in the Quam oblationem before the consecration] signify the selling of Christ to the Priests, to the scribes, and to the Pharisees … The following two signs of the cross represent the person of Judas the seller and of Christ Who was sold.”

    Further that the triple sign of the cross at the beginning of the final doxology at the end of the canon represents Christ’s threefold prayer upon the cross.

    And finally, of the 5 signs of the cross just before the minor elevation — The first three signify the three hours Christ hung on the cross, and the last two representation the separation of His soul from His body in death.

  7. Liam says:

    That makes sense, and now I have to remember that as an alternative explanation for 5.

    Classically, in Christological references, 3=Trinity, 2=Christ’s two natures, and 5=the 5 wounds of Christ. Here, however, we have a different addition of 3 and 2.

  8. thetimman says:

    Dom Prosper Gueranger has a secton on this in his book “The Holy Mass”, published by Baronius Press.

  9. Pope Evaristus, Martyr says:

    Fortescue explains these very well on page 347 of his “The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy”

    (actually, a great deal of his book is about this subject)

    It would be better to read the whole explanation, but in brief he says:

    “The signs of the Cross here and later . . . need cause no difficulty. They are not merely ways of pointing but are real blessings. As such they again exemplify a common idea. The whole Consecration-prayer is one thing, of which the effect is the change of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. During this prayer we ask continually for that grace; although the prayer takes time and God grants what we ask at one instant, not necessarily the last instant of the prayer. So in all Rites, people ask for what, presumably, they have already received. Our baptism and ordination services furnish obvious parallel examples.”

    In the footnote: “All the medieval writers see enormous difficulties in these signs of the cross and in the following prayers, asking God to bless, sanctify, and accept the sacrifice, after the words of Consecration . . . the favorite idea is that the crosses are not blessings but symbols of the Holy Trinity, the Five Wounds, etc. . . . . All of which is a most superfluous twisting of the real idea.”

    Fortescue goes on and on about this. I cannot retype the whole book. He treats the subject in depth, in many places.

    Basically, they are “dramatic postponements” — (remember, as well, that our Canon is not in its original order, and is fragmented)

  10. Robert says:

    Jungmann’s explanation was the principal justification reformers cited for the elimination of the signs in the reformed liturgy.

  11. I do remember that one of Luther’s criticisms of the Mass was the multiple post-consecration signs of the cross. He said it was a presumptuous and superstitious act of “the created blessing the creator.”

  12. xathar says:

    Robert,

    That is incorrect. The reformers took out the signs because they believed that they were confusing to the modern mind, which saw these indicatory gestures as blessings.

  13. RBrown says:

    What is the difference between saying “Benedicamus Domino” and making three signs of the cross over the consecrated species?

    By us blessing the Lord, we are appealing to him to bless us.

  14. Diane says:

    My understand, as with Henry Edward’s is that each of the sets of crosses made represents moments in the passion of Christ.

    I find all of these gestures to have such spiritual depth. When I read those descriptions in my missal that Henry points in his post above, interior reverence began to grow, and I found they gave me things to meditate upon during the Canon of the Mass.

  15. David M. Wallace says:

    Replying to the following objection: “Further, the ceremonies performed in the sacraments of the Church ought not to be repeated. Consequently it is not proper for the priest to repeat the sign of the cross many times over this sacrament,” St. Thomas Aquinas writes (STh III.83.5) the answer as such:

    “The priest, in celebrating the mass, makes use of the sign of the cross to signify Christ’s Passion which was ended upon the cross. Now, Christ’s Passion was accomplished in certain stages. First of all there was Christ’s betrayal, which was the work of God, of Judas, and of the Jews; and this is signified by the triple sign of the cross at the words, ‘These gifts, these presents, these holy unspotted sacrifices.’

    “Secondly, there was the selling of Christ. Now he was sold to the Priests, to the Scribes, and to the Pharisees: and to signify this the threefold sign of the cross is repeated, at the words, ‘blessed, enrolled, ratified.’ Or again, to signify the price for which He was sold, viz. thirty pence. And a double cross is added at the words–‘that it may become to us the Body and the Blood,’ etc., to signify the person of Judas the seller, and of Christ Who was sold.

    “Thirdly, there was the foreshadowing of the Passion at the last supper. To denote this, in the third place, two crosses are made, one in consecrating the body, the other in consecrating the blood; each time while saying, ‘He blessed.’

    “Fourthly, there was Christ’s Passion itself. And so in order to represent His five wounds, in the fourth place, there is a fivefold signing of the cross at the words, ‘a pure Victim, a holy Victim, a spotless Victim, the holy bread of eternal life, and the cup of everlasting salvation.’

    “Fifthly, the outstretching of Christ’s body, and the shedding of the blood, and the fruits of the Passion, are signified by the triple signing of the cross at the words, ‘as many as shall receive the body and blood, may be filled with every blessing,’ etc.

    “Sixthly, Christ’s threefold prayer upon the cross is represented; one for His persecutors when He said, ‘Father, forgive them'; the second for deliverance from death, when He cried, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ the third referring to His entrance into glory, when He said, ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit'; and in order to denote these there is a triple signing with the cross made at the words, ‘Thou dost sanctify, quicken, bless.’

    “Seventhly, the three hours during which He hung upon the cross, that is, from the sixth to the ninth hour, are represented; in signification of which we make once more a triple sign of the cross at the words, ‘Through Him, and with Him, and in Him.’

    “Eighthly, the separation of His soul from the body is signified by the two subsequent crosses made over the chalice.

    “Ninthly, the resurrection on the third day is represented by the three crosses made at the words–‘May the peace of the Lord be ever with you.’

    “In short, we may say that the consecration of this sacrament, and the acceptance of this sacrifice, and its fruits, proceed from the virtue of the cross of Christ, and therefore wherever mention is made of these, the priest makes use of the sign of the cross.”

    Answering the objection that “quite unseemingly the priest, after the consecration, blesses this sacrament, by signing it with the cross,” St. Thomas responds thusly:

    “After the consecration, the priest makes the sign of the cross, not for the purpose of blessing and consecrating, but only for calling to mind the virtue of the cross, and the manner of Christ’s suffering, as is evident from what has been said (cf. response to objection above).”

  16. Diane says:

    But….. after reading the quote from page 347 in Fortescue’s book, I am wondering….it sounds like he does not support these crosses having anything to do with Christ’s passion, or am I misreading it?

    I have the book at home and will read the entire section.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but how it came into practice (it’s history) is one thing. How it is now regarded is another.

    For example, we know that the maniple was originally used to wipe sweat from the brow of the priest. Later, the maniple took on deeper meaning.

    I think this may be the case with the many crosses in the TLM.

    I’m curious now how others read it, and if anyone else aside from Fortescue has written on the subject. If I’m not mistaken, the Angelus Press missal, which contains those notes in the sidebar, references the work of Dom Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B, among others which escape me at the moment (my missal is at home).

  17. Diane says:

    David M. Wallace:

    Thank you for that post with the words of St. Thomas (we were posting at the same time, and mine fell after yours. )

    Now that you mention it, the Angelus Press also references St. Thomas Aquinas which could be where those sidebar notes come from.

    Good stuff! Very deep!

    Thanks for this post Fr. Z

  18. Maureen says:

    You can start doing something for one spiritual reason, and still have it take on another spiritual layer of meaning. Or five or six more. Just because something isn’t the historical reason, doesn’t make it not spiritually satisfying.

    Historically, the beads of the Rosary stood for psalms. Does that mean you can’t invest another meaning in them, by using them to pray the Mysteries of Christ’s life as seen by Mary?

    You have as much right to invest the various signs of the Cross during Mass with “mysteries”, as you do to say the Rosary instead of the Psalms. You could do it even if nobody else had ever thought of them that way; and if you are following a long and spiritually fruitful tradition, you are well advised to do so.

    Fortescue just wants people to be very clear on what is historical and what is nice spiritual practice. (Which is pretty much what a liturgical historian is for, just as a reporter is supposed to report facts about what happens.)

  19. Pope Evaristus, Martyr says:

    Again, in his book, Fortescue cites the Thomas Aquinas you typed out (along with several others), but explains it.

  20. magdalen says:

    Yes, I learned that it was to commemorate the five wounds of Christ.

    Ave Maria!

  21. Diane says:

    Maureen says: Fortescue just wants people to be very clear on what is historical and what is nice spiritual practice. (Which is pretty much what a liturgical historian is for, just as a reporter is supposed to report facts about what happens.

    I’ve seen the name Fortescue mentioned often. Is that what his role was, Liturgical Historian?

  22. Of course we know that many of these explanations are spiritualized explanations that don’t have much to do with the origin of the gestures. That doesn’t make them wrong, of course. It is perfectly legitimate attach meanings to ancient gestures whose original purpose is lost in the march of centuries. As a matter of fact, I have come up with a few of my own which are of aid when saying Mass.

  23. Guy Power says:

    Fr. Z writes, “…The pointing was not done with the finger, but rather the whole hand.

    [trivia]
    Interestingly enough (well, for me at least), this method of teaching was (is still?) being taught to US Army instructors at the Infantry School, Ft. Benning, Georgia. At least, when I attended Infantry Officer courses in 1980 and 1985 they were doing it.

    “…This is how YOU [instructor points open hand, spear-like, to the audience], the infantry officer (or soldier), will excel on the modern battlefield….”
    [/trivia]

  24. Henry Edwards says:

    Diane, I know of no more amazing example of a “simple country priest” than Fr. Adrian Fortescue. To get a sense of him, start by reading

    Adrian Fortescue: Priest and Scholar
    (by Michael Davies)
    http://www.unavoce.org/fortescue.htm

    He said his 1917 book “The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described” — now in its 14th edition, most recently revised in 2003 by Alcuin Reid — was undertaken solely “turpis lucri gratia” to assist his small parish.

  25. Fr. Wymer says:

    There is a substantial difference in what the blessing does: IS the blessing indicative or invocative? The blessings post-consecration are indicative, they indicate that something is now holy, building on Roman rhetorical usage. The blessings that form part of the consecratory act are invocative, because they are invoking the Lord to bless the offering.

  26. I would like to know the evidence that Jungman presents for the blessings in the canon being “dramatic indications” in origin. While attractive on one level, and certainly for the most part linked to verbal repetitions calling attention to the elements, I wonder what function they would have had when Mass was said ad orientem, as we know it always was. The “pointings” would have been invisible to the congregation.

    I am inclinded to think that they are blessings in origin, although I have no evidence to hand to prove that. I would speculate that they originated as intensifications of verbal blessings and references in a prayer that, as a whole, calls down the blessing of God on the elements.

    Early medieval Christians tended to multiply symbolic acts, thus the multiplication of crossings. And do we actually know how many crosses were made in antiquity? As the oldest Mass books have texts without rubrics, I suspect the best we have here are educated guesses. If anyone has copies of the Ordines Romani to hand, perhaps these can cast light on the question.

    Finally, I am skeptical that the crosses before and after the consecration originally had different meanings. The focus on the words of institution as the “moment” of consecration (a theory that I happen to agree with) really required the form and matter analysis of Aristotle to become wholly thought out as it is in Thomas. Early Christians tended, it seems, to have viewed the whole rite as consecratory. This is why the old rite offertory prayers speak of the (unconsecrated) elements as if they were already Christ’s body. Thomas own elaboration of allegorical meanings for the numbers of crosses is probably a post hoc explanation of a practice that was originally not symbolic: like the washing of the hands at the Lavabo.

    The whole action of the Canon takes place in a kind of liturgical “now.” So just as from one perspective Christ is already in some way present at the Offertory, so the consecration is in a certain way still happening during the period of the prayer after the words of institution. So, the multiplication of blessings after the words of institution, as before it, serves to call down God’s blessing and power as part of the rite understood as a whole. Doing actions multiple times, like the late antique pleonasm of the Canon linguistically, serves to reinforce the solemnity and mystery of the prayer as a whole.

    It has always struck me as odd that modern liturgists disliked the old offertory prayers because they proleptically spoke of the elements as if they were already consecrated. This criticism depended on a scholastic focus on the words of institution as providing the “form” to confect the sacrament at that point in the prayer. This was the kind of scholastic analysis that they otherwise abdominated as “medieval.”

  27. David M. Wallace says:

    To add to Fr. Thompson’s discussion, I post a brief portion of my B.A. thesis (from a footnote actually), which concerns the metaphysics of the sacrificial action of the Mass:

    Both in the traditional Roman Rite Offertory and in the Byzantine Great Entrance, much emphasis is placed on the bread and wine being symbols, or types, of Christ’s body and blood. The Roman Rite speaks of the bread as “immaculatam hostiam” (spotless victim) and the wine as “calicem salutis” (chalice of salvation).

    In Sent. IV, dist. 8, St. Thomas conceives the Offertory as “oblatio materiae consecrandae.” In the Summa he elaborates: “Sic igitur populo praeparato et instructo, acceditur ad celebrationem mysterii, quod quidem et offertur ut sacrificium, et consecratur et sumitur ut sacramentum: primo enim peragitur oblatio; secundo, consecratio materiae oblatae; tertio, perceptio eiusdem” (ST III. Q. 83, a. 4.). For Thomas the oblation of the Offertory is understood to be a fundamental part of the Eucharistic sacrifice, along with the Consecration and the Communion. Fr. Franck M. Quoëx writes in “Historical and Doctrinal Notes on the Offertory of the Roman Rite” in Theological and Historical Aspects of the Roman Missal (United Kingdom: Centre International D’Etudes Liturgiques, 2000), 66: “The oblatio consists of two things: the praise of the people during the Offertory chant, which expresses the joy of those who make the offering, and the prayer of the priest, qui petit ut oblatio populi sit a Deo accepta. Even though the gesture of offering is no longer a collective one, St. Thomas reminds us that it is the entire Church which continues to offer the matter of the Sacrifice at the hands and the prayer of the priest. For St. Thomas, the offering of the elements to be consecrated is already a sacrificial action, offertur ut sacrificium.”

  28. xathar says:

    Fr. Augustine,

    Again, the Old Gelasian, contemporaneous with the earliest Ordines Romani, has most, but not all, of the signs of the cross, both before and after the consecration. Ordo Romanus 7, redacted between 750-900, has specifically to do with the signs of the cross in the Canon. These two are our earliest evidence for the signs.

    With regard to the signs originally being pointing gestures, remember to whom the Canon is addressed: not the people, but God. Thus, it would certainly make sense for a priest to point to the elements when speaking to God, indicating the bread and wine to which he is referring. It wouldn’t matter if the people could see this gesture or not, as the priest wasn’t speaking to them.

  29. Thank you, xathar. As I expected “some but not all” the crosses are there in the 700s. I suspect that if we could know what happened earlier, we would find that the farther back we go, the fewer the crosses. Multiplication of symbols over time seems the medieval liturgical “rule.” Although I suspect there were always more crosses than in the current rite.

    While it has some merit, I am not yet convinced by the argument that the “pointings” are meant for God. As far back as we know, they were always crosses, right? It still seems gratitious to me to speculate as Jungman does that originally they were something else.

    Again, thanks for checking the Ordines for us!

  30. Jason in San Antonio says:

    Incidentally, if any of you in or around Ft. Worth, Texas, would like to see sarcophagi such as the one Fr. Z posted above, please do visit the Kimball Art Museum’s Picturing the Bible exhibit. You’ll never see this much pre-Fifth Century Christian art in one place again.

    It’s very, very, very Catholic, and far and away the best museum exhibit I’ve ever seen here in the States. (Better than the St. Peter’s and the Treasures of the Vatican exhibit that came to San Antonio and better than the Dead Sea Scrolls when they came to Houston.)

    You won’t regret it.

  31. Anonymous says:

    I know this is a very personal experience of the signs of the cross, but it is one which has a lot of meaning for me. Although having been a practicing Catholic all my life, I was brought up in the Vatican II experience of Church and Mass, and if truth be told, I only learned the Mass was a Sacrifice of the Lamb (as opposed to one of praise) about 7 years ago. I attend the NO Mass and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass almost equally. The signs of the cross, for me, represent/remind me of the sharpening of the knives, bringing home the real meaning of the Sacrifice of the Lamb. A personal perspective but one which transforms the experience of the Mass for me. The Ordinary Form does not have quite the same symbolism.

  32. Fr. Aidan Logan, OCso says:

    Is there not a letter of St. Gregory the great on this subject?
    I recall reading it many years ago and having it come to mind in the recent past while concelebrating in the Byzantine Rite. It too has multiple signs of the cross after the consecration. At the time I wondered if St. Gregory’s time in Constantinople might not be part of the answer to this question.

    As I jump back and forth between the two forms/uses of the Roman Rite the gestures of the Roman Canon intrigue me more and more. One certainly has a sense that they flow very naturally from the text.

  33. Fr. Aidan Logan, OCso says:

    Is there not a letter of St. Gregory the Great on this subject?
    I recall reading it many years ago and having it come to mind in the recent past while concelebrating in the Byzantine Rite. It too has multiple signs of the cross after the consecration. At the time I wondered if St. Gregory\’s time in Constantinople might not be part of the answer to this question.

    As I jump back and forth between the two forms/uses of the Roman Rite the gestures of the Roman Canon intrigue me more and more. One certainly has a sense that they flow very naturally from the text.

  34. Paul says:

    In response to the whole “we can’t bless Jesus” notion, why hasn’t anyone mentioned the “Ave Maria” – “benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus”? Maybe someone should have told St. Elizabeth that she wasn’t allowed to bless God.

    Or, for that matter, what about the Divine Praises?

    “Blessed be God.
    Blessed be His Holy Name.
    Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true Man.
    Blessed be the Name of Jesus.
    Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart.
    Blessed be His Most Precious Blood.
    Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.”

    Or Genesis 9:26, “And he said: Blessed be the Lord God of Sem”?

    Or Genesis 14:19-20, “Blessed be Abram by the most high God, who created heaven and earth. And blessed be the most high God, by whose protection the enemies are in thy hands.”?

    Or Genesis 24:27, “Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not taken away his mercy and truth from my master, and hath brought me the straight way into the house of my master’s brother.”?

    Or to skip ahead a little, 3 Kings 5:7, “Now when Hiram had heard the words of Solomon, he rejoiced exceedingly, and said: Blessed be the Lord God this day, who hath given to David a very wise son over this numerous people.”?

    Or how about Luke 1:68, said at Morning Prayer daily throughout the whole world, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; because he hath visited and wrought the redemption of his people:”?

    Or how about just taking a look here, for plenty more examples?

    So maybe they make the signs of the cross over the Eucharist because they’re doing exactly what it looks like?

  35. Diane K says:

    Henry: Thanks for the link.

    I’m glad to say that I have a copy of “The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described”.

    I have been doing some targeted studying for a project I’m working on and it includes the writings of Fortescue, Dom Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B, and Nicholas Gihr, whose book on the liturgy is a must have. It’s a 1902 reprint of a book translated from the 6th German edition called, “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass Dogmatically, Liturgically, and Ascetically Explained

    That book by the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Gihr is nearly 800 pages of pure liturgical harddrive on paper (if only it had a search engine). I mean, it is loaded and it was reasonably priced at around $37. Gihr dedicated pages to each paragraph of the Eucharistic prayer, for example. I have not had a chance to look through it for the signs of the cross during the Canon of the Mass or following Consecration, but will breeze through it now that the topic has come up.

  36. Diane K says:

    Fr. Aidan Logan says: “As I jump back and forth between the two forms/uses of the Roman Rite the gestures of the Roman Canon intrigue me more and more. One certainly has a sense that they flow very naturally from the text.”

    First, greetings from Grotto, Father.

    It’s funny you should mention this. As one who assists in the pew, I have had the same reaction. But, it goes one step further and I believe it is the precise effect that Pope Benedict XVI desires: Through the extraordinary form, I am gaining a clearer understanding of the ordinary form. I still have a preference for the usus antiquior. But, this understanding is naturally creating a desire for deeper reverence and interior participation, especially during the Offertory, regardless of the Mass. I hope no one takes this the wrong way: The Offertory is so rich in the EF, and so impoverished in the OF. Yet, I have a whole new outlook on the Offertory in the OF as a result of participation in the EF. I am mindful, of what it is really about.

  37. Fr. W says:

    If we are not sure of why these symbols are there – how dare we delete them.

    I am becoming convinced that we have only scratched the surface of understanding both the Ancient Mass and the Scriptures. I believe that in Eternity we will see that ancients knew far more than we know. We will see the amazing beauty of the ancient Mass, and serious reasons for these signs. I believe they are not the result of any of these ‘gesture-theories’ or anything else, but intimately connected to the scriptures. For example, are there 27 signs of the cross in the Mass? And is not the word euloge? (to bless) used in the NT 27 times?

    I think we should receive in AWE what is given, and not think we know its origin.

  38. Diane says:

    I have just spent about a half hour going through various sections in the book of Nicholas Gihr, I mentioned above.

    I’ve found some things worth mentioning, but I don’t have time. I must get off to work. I’ll try to post it here tonight.

  39. David Kubiak says:

    It has always seemed unbelievable to me to suggest that a pointing gesture would somehow “turn into” a sign of the cross. Transsubstantiation makes much more sense as an idea.

    The answer to this question must lie in studies of the Eastern rites, authentic links to which were, of course, systematically pitched out of the Mass by Bugnini & Co.

  40. RBrown says:

    To by David M. Wallace:

    Did you ever find out why metaphysically the consecrated species are the Body and Blood respectively?

  41. xathar says:

    David Kubiak,

    Why would you assume that the answer to this question about the Roman Canon would be found in the Eastern Rites?

  42. David M. Wallace says:

    RBrown,

    Consult me via email if you’d like to discuss this matter: sacradoctrina@gmail.com.

  43. Henry Edwards says:

    Fr. W: I’ve often heard the priest makes 52 signs of the cross during the Mass. I’ve never verified this or any other number, because I’ve never counted the same number twice (though always more than 27). Of course, the priest makes the sign of the cross with the Host over each communicant, so if there are 100 communicants, that’s 100 more signs of the cross right there.

    Diane: Thanks for telling me about Gihr’s big book, which I’ll be ordering.