Having grown up in the New Order of the Mass, genuflecting and the sign of the cross were mostly what I knew to be right. As I entered my adult years I watched my mum bowing her head at the raising of the Eucharist and I understood that she was glorifying the Good Lord. This beautiful but simple movement was all the more significant because she was usually the only one in the church who did it.
I have often felt a strong desire to use gestures in the Mass as a means of participating in the Holy Sacrifice. I always want to copy the priest when he makes the sign of the cross, but I never do so because of embarrassment and not wanting to appear too pious.
I once saw a priest beating his breast at the Confeitor and I would love to do this too, but are we meant to?
During lent I read a book called The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass Explained. This little treasure was written in the 1600s by Rev. Martinus Von Cochem and has a fantastic chapter on how to assist devoutly at Mass. He shows how gestures in Mass move one's thoughts in the right direction towards God:
At the "Lord Have Mercy" strike your breast three times to awaken contrition and sorrow for sin as far as you can. Consider how Christ lay prostrate on his face in the Garden of Olives expiating your sins with bitter tears and sweat of Blood.I might start doing these simple things in Mass. Well ok, with the last one I promise not to start trembling all over during the Canon to remind me that the Lord of Lords is coming...
At the "Holy, Holy, Holy" bow down and adore the Holy Trinity in all humility.
At the Canon, keep silence and tremble with awe and and withdraw thoughts from earthly things, for the King of Kings, Lord of Lords is about to come.