“There is also to be a cross, with a figure of Christ crucified upon it, either on the altar or near it, where it is clearly visible to the assembled congregation. It is appropriate that such a cross, which calls to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord, remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations.” (GIRM 308).
In ancient times this was the basic Christian symbol used at the altar. It was used to lead the worshipping community into their gathering place it was placed in a prominent place for the rest of the ritual action. So it has remained, it is the primordial element shaping the community – think of the veneration paid to the newly unveiled cross at the Solemn Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday. We make its sign every time we pray.
To be a crucifer you need one thing – muscles – it is a heavy and awkward object to carry, especially when you are exiting or entering the sacristy. Assuming that you have made it to the church porch without demolishing something, decapitating a fellow altar server or denting Father Paul’s car take up your position just inside the glass doors and wait for Mass to begin. Stand to one side so that people can still come in. If incense is not used it will be your job, along with the acolytes, to lead the entrance procession:
“The cross bearer carries the cross so that the figure of the crucifix always faces forward. The cross should be held firmly, reasonably high. The staff should be held away from the body. The lower part of the staff is held by the left hand; the upper part by the right hand, preferably at eye level. The cross bearer places the cross in its bracket or stand and never leave it leaning against a wall.” (Elliott CMRR 166).
On a signal from the MC form up into the procession. If incense is being used you will have the thurifer with the boat bearer on his/her left immediately in front of you, an acolyte on either shoulder and Deacon Michael with the Book of the Gospels immediately behind you. If you are leading the procession remember that everyone else will take their pace from you. Try to keep it constant and moderate. When you reach the sanctuary steps, bow to the altar and place the cross in its stand angled so that the figure faces the first pillar on the font side of the nave (between the twelfth and thirteenth Stations of the Cross). Do not try to genuflect when you are carrying the cross.
At the end of Mass, after Deacon Michael has said the dismissal (“Go in the peace of Christ” or similar) wait until Father Paul moves from the chair. Pick up the cross and with the figure still facing forwards, descend into the church accompanied by the acolytes. Turn to face the altar and wait for the rest of the sanctuary party to join you. How far back into the church you go will depend on the number of altar servers, clergy etc. Usually about two pews back is sufficient. When everyone has lined up, bowed to the altar and genuflected to the tabernacle turn and lead the procession out at a reasonable pace – and – remember to lower the cross as you go through the entrance of the church!