First Things First

The Sign of the Cross and the Greeting

What Not to Miss

  • First things first: the Cross and the Trinity are foundational to our faith and to all prayer, so it's only fitting that the Mass begins by invoking both.
  • As Mass begins, we stand up to show our readiness to pray and our reverence for God.
  • As with so many of our prayers, the Mass begins with the Sign of the Cross. This shows that we are one with Christ and that we are about to participate in his sacrifice, which will be made present in the Eucharist.
  • The invocation of the Holy Trinity in the Sign of the Cross shows that we share in the love of the Divine Persons for each other—God has given us his own life.
  • The priest says "The Lord be with you" to pray for God's grace and presence for the entire congregation as Mass begins.
  • We reply "And with your spirit" to ask the Holy Spirit to give the priest's spirit the special graces of his ordination so he can celebrate the Mass worthily.

Next Time You Go to Mass...

  • As you make the Sign of the Cross, thank God for loving you and making you a member of Christ's Body.
  • Teach your children to make the Sign of the Cross.
  • Ask God to draw close to you, the rest of the congregation, and the priest during Mass. Remember that both the baptized and ordained members of Christ's Body have a role to play in the liturgy.

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.