I have always liked the idea of ‘back to basics’  where religion is concerned, and what’s more basic than the sign of the cross?

When was the last time you reflected on the why you make the sign of the cross? Is it a secret code to ‘dial’ and ‘hang up’ when communicating with God? Take a few minutes to read through the following article and you may discover new insights into this simple but profound act of faith.

Train Crossing

Making the Sign of the Cross!…
Father Francois Dufour, SDB
Member of the “Church on the Ball” Comittee

8 March 2010

This simple gesture that Christians make thousands of times in their lives has a deeper meaning most don’t realize. But this sign means a lot of things. The sign of the cross is: a prayer without words, a blessing on oneself, a calling to mind the presence of the Trinity, a confession of faith, a renewal of baptism, a mark of discipleship, a defence against the devil, a victory over self-indulgence, an acceptance of suffering, a way to thank God for a favour.

Making the sign of the cross is…

– professing a mini version of the creed.
– is professing belief in the Father, and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit.
– is declaring the presence of the Trinity and coming into their presence.
– is a gesture of discipleship, and belonging to Christ.
– is affirming to the Lord, “I want to obey you; I belong to you.
– is a sign of acceptance of the trials of living Christ-like life.
– is remembering that Jesus became a man and suffered for us
– is saying, “I am willing to embrace suffering to share in Christ’s suffering.”
– is declaring to the devil, “Hands off. I belong to Christ; he is my protection.”
– is both an offensive and defensive tool.
– is a way to repel self-indulgence.

Can/Do non-Catholics use the sign of the cross?
Yes, the sign of the cross is used by Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians, particularly in baptisms. In his small catechism, Martin Luther recommends making the sign of the cross at bedtime and first thing in the morning. It is a pity that many non-Catholics see it as something they shouldn’t do for it comes from an ancient Church that we all share.

The sign of the cross has enormous power as a sacramental. The sign of the cross is the easiest sacramental. When we see professional sportsmen make the sign of the cross during sports – and there is hardly ever a soccer match without several instances of this -there is no need to be critical of them. Games become special when played with the awareness of the presence of God. The gesture declares: “Everything I do, I do in the name of Christ!”

The sign of the Cross is made by touching the hand sequentially to the forehead, lower chest or navel area, and both shoulders, in silence or accompanied by the words. At the forehead – In the name of the Father. At the stomach or heart – and of the Son. Across the shoulders – and of the Holy Spirit; concluding with – Amen.

There are several interpretations…

…the forehead can symbolize Heaven;
the stomach, the earth;
the shoulders, the place and sign of power.

Also, the hand to the forehead may be seen as a prayer to the Father for wisdom;
the hand to the stomach as a prayer to the Son who became incarnate; and the hand to the shoulders as a prayer to the Holy Spirit.

Touching the forehead signifies that God is in heaven and we pray that He will enlighten our mind.
Touching our chest signifies that God is in our hearts and feelings, or touching the stomach signifies that we believe that Jesus came down to earth from heaven and was made Man in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  Touching the left shoulder we are ask the Holy Spirit to completely cover us. Touching our right shoulder reminds us of our hope in Jesus Christ – that he will place us at his right hand when he comes to judge the world, and also that Christ sits at the right hand of the Father.

By this “seal” we confirm our own acceptance of our cross through our faith in God. From the times of the Apostles, Christian people have made use of the Sign of the Cross. When we are mindful of its significance, and we make the Sign of the Cross with care and reverence, it can become for us a source and fountain of every blessing. Crossing ourselves is an act of devotion, a declaration of our faith and our pride in the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ who allowed Himself to be crucified for our sake and for our salvation.  

Making the Sign of the Cross is a reminder of the Life of Christ, His Divinity and His Living Presence in ourselves who believe and call on His Name.

It is good to make the Sign of the Cross when…

…we begin our prayers and when we close them;  also when we begin any work or any journey, when we enter or leave a church, when we start and finish our meals, and on many other occasions. The frequent repetition of the Sign of the Cross can become to us a source of great blessing, giving us calmness, strength and courage to face the trials that each day brings.

Linked from the Train Crossing group on facebook