Weekly Reflections for June 12, 2022
REFLECTION ON WHY AND HOW WE
MAKE THE SIGN OF THE CROSS
Because we are both body and soul, we pray not only by words but also by gestures: kneeling, standing, with hands folded, etc., and by the sign of the cross. Although words often accompany it, they are not essential. When we do combine this gesture with vocal prayer, we pray twice. In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. By the sign of the cross, “we profess the central truths of our faith: that God became one of us, with a body and soul; that He died on the cross to save us; and that our own bodies and souls share in the same power of the Savior whereby we are freed from sin and death and brought to the resurrection and the life of heaven.” Moreover, this sign provides powerful protection against evil spirits and our own weak nature.
St. Basil the Great states that the Apostles taught the sign of the cross themselves. Traditionally, the right hand is the hand of blessing and greeting in many cultural settings and in Scripture and Tradition, i.e. “Seated at the right hand of the Father.” The sign of the cross recurs many times in the liturgy of the Mass and in the rituals offices associated with the sacraments and sacramentals.
The “little” cross (which seems to be the most ancient) was originally traced by Christians with the thumb or finger on their own foreheads based on certain references in Scripture: Ezekiel 9:4 (the mark of the letter Tau); Exodus 17:9 -14, Book of Revelation 7:3, 9:4, 14:1 Today, Catholics sign the cross with their thumb on forehead, lips and/or heart prior to the reading the Gospel. The priest or deacon traces the cross on the book of the Gospels before signing his own forehead, lips, and breast. We sign the large cross ( from forehead to breast and from left shoulder to right shoulder) when we are being blessed or at the beginning or the ending of our prayers. When we use the thumb and first two fingers with the last two fingers folded back, it symbolized the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity and the two natures/wills in Jesus.
How, when, and why do you sign the cross? What words, if any, do you use to accompany the sign? How about this: IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER (the Father who loves you. He sees you not as a slave to order around but as a child to be loved. He wants you to know that everything that separates you from Him has been forgiven); AND OF THE SON (the Son who redeemed you was sent by the Father in love. He made the ultimate sacrifice so that you could join His family. You are an essential part of His body, the Church); AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (the Holy Spirit who gives you life actually dwells in you as a gift of the Father and the Son).
- Mac and Marcia