40 Lenten Lessons on the Mass.

Lesson 7: Greeting

After venerating the altar with a kiss, the priest goes to his chair, and once the Entrance Song has concluded, and while he and the congregation are standing, the priest leads the people in the Sign of the Cross and greets the people with arms extended with the words, “The Lord be with you.” And the people respond, “And with your spirit.”

Why do we begin the Mass by making the sign of the Cross? Because it identifies us as Christians and followers of Christ. That’s what we do as Catholics. Besides, it combines in one simple gesture the two chief mysteries of our faith: that God is a Trinity of persons, and that Jesus died for us on the Cross. There is no Christianity without the Cross.

What could possibly be a better greeting than “May the Lord be with you?” If we have the Lord with us, nothing else is needed, because we are assured of salvation and happiness. All fear is vanquished, and all distress relieved, if the Lord is with us.

And we respond “And with your spirit” as a declaration that we recognize that God dwells in our soul by his grace, and that the Spirit of God within us makes us children of God.

And why does the priest extend his arms when he greets the people? It is a profound gesture of welcome and openness. When a person’s arms are extended, he places himself in a somewhat vulnerable position — a weakened and humbler position. That openness will attract souls to Christ.

We are not accidents of a random process. You and I were directly willed by God. And by Baptism, God’s grace has been infused into our souls.

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