As Anglicans, we believe worship is not a performance; we aren’t audience members, we have something to offer in sacrifice and service to God (Ps. 50:14, Rom. 12:1, Heb. 13:15, 1 Pet. 2:5). Because of this deeply rooted conviction, our worship is very participatory. The sign of the cross, signifying God’s love and blessing through the person of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3), and our embracing our own crosses as his disciples (Luke 9:23), is just one way we participate. If this is something you find meaningful, we encourage you to do so, but if not, that’s okay. There’s a lot of freedom in Anglican worship. As Jesus says, what’s most important is that we worship in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
When Should I Make the Sign of the Cross?
If you feel making the sign of the cross would be a meaningful devotional practice for you, there are five moments throughout the service where it is commonly made. The first moment is at conclusion of the Nicene Creed, symbolizing that we enter eternal life by the crucified and risen Christ. The second moment is after the priest declares the absolution of sins. This symbolizes out reception of Christ’s absolute forgiveness of sins through the cross (absolute-tion). The third moment is during the Hosanna chorus during communion. When we make the sign of the cross here we are saying we embrace Jesus as our Savior; we embrace his cross. And as we embrace his cross, we too are sent in the name of the Lord. The fourth moment is before and/or after we receive Communion, symbolizing our participation in Jesus’ New Covenant. The fifth and final moment is during the Priestly Blessing. This is our way of symbolically receiving God’s peace and blessing on our hearts.
Why Use a Lectionary?
The purpose of using a lectionary is so that we read the whole of Scripture and not just the parts we like or the passages we find the most “preachable.” As Christians, we believe “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and so we want to be regularly immersed in the entirety of God’s word. The lectionary readings on a given Sunday will include selections from four areas of Scripture: the Psalms, The Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Gospels. Using the lectionary, about 90% of the Bible will be read in public over the span of 3 years.
Why is the Gospel Text Read in the Middle of The Congregation?
If you’ve ever been to an Anglican service, you’ve probably seen the deacon lift up the Bible and carry it down the center aisle before reading the gospel text appointed for the day in the midst of the people. In this symbolic action the deacon rehearses the beautiful truth that Jesus came to stand God incarnate in our midst to proclaim the gospel (John 1:14). The grace of God in the gospel came to us; we couldn’t bind ourselves back to God, we couldn’t figure out what he was like on our own, we needed Jesus to show us what the Father was like (Col. 1:15, Heb. 1:3).
You may also notice that as the deacon opens the Bible to read he says, “the holy gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to (for example) St. John.” When he says this, many in the congregation will trace a small cross over their forehead, then their lips, and finally their hearts. When we do this, we’re really saying a prayer without words. We’re asking the Father to rule our thought lives (Rom 12:1-2, 2 Cor. 10:5), guide our speech (Deut. 6:7, Matt. 15:11, Eph. 4:29), and transform our hearts (Ps. 51:10, Ps. 119:1, John 14:27, Phil. 4:7). In short, we’re telling God we want our entire lives to be governed by the gospel Jesus proclaimed.