From childhood, Catholics are taught to make the sign of the cross, saying: “In the name of the Father, [while touching the right hand to the forehead]and of the Son, [moving the hand to the chest]and of the Holy Spirit. 2. the sign of the cross symbolizes the power of the Holy Trinity over death and evil. Despite its simplicity, the Sign of the Cross is an ancient prayer rich in meaning. Amen." If a person raises his hand too quickly to cross himself, he risks striking the ciborium or chalice, which could cause an accident with the Eucharist. By this time there was also a widespread custom of blessing in the form of a cross using the eucharist, the gospel book, or a reliquary. Pray the sign of the cross often and be mindful of what it means in the life of the Church and in your own life! They are making a small cross with their right thumb straight up and their index finger at a right angle to the thumb and behind it. Sometimes Catholics make the sign of the cross, with or without words, at other times as well. This essay was originally published in the August 1995 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. Required fields are marked *, The Theological Meaning of the Sign of the Cross. Your email address will not be published. A catholic priest makes the sign when blessing someone and a follower of the religion makes the sign when receiving a blessing in church or passing by a church or even when feeling thankful or frightened. Moving priests make solemn signs over newly dead persons or penitents in the confessional, boxers make clumsy signs with their gloved fists, tonsured monks in medieval garb make the same gesture as a shorthand way of indicating that they are either superstitious or in the presence of some eerie portent, and there is nothing like a vivid sign of the cross (made preferably with a raised crucifix) to get Bela Lugosi as Dracula to turn away dramatically from a previously inviting neck. The sign of the cross often introduces and closes other prayers, but it is a prayer in itself and can also be prayed on its own. Catholics should not even be doing it because it is wrong. But when we learn to take this act seriously, signing ourselves frequently with faith and reverence, remarkable results can take place. One of the main teachings of the early Church Fathers is that the sign of the cross is a declaration of defense against the devil. Many Catholics will cross themselves when they pass by a Catholic church or chapel where the Eucharist is present. Since my wife and I spent two years in an Eastern Rite Catholic parish, I find myself on occasion making the Sign of the Cross in the Eastern manner, especially when praying prayers that I learned in the Eastern Church or when venerating icons. What we mean when we say that God is a Trinity is that there is one divine nature, one divine substance. Most Eastern Christians do it in a different order: From top to bottom and then from right to left. Ghezzi: Yes, the sign of the cross is used by Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians, particularly in baptisms. Copyright © 2021 US Catholic. [touching one shoulder, then the other]Amen.”. For Roman Catholics, there is a quick gesture that can often go unnoticed before the recitation of the Gospel reading at Mass. In this video international Catholic speaker, Fr. As Catholics, it’s something we do when we enter a church, after we receive Communion, before meals, and every time we pray. Over time, Christians began making large crosses over their bodies as Catholics do today. Why do Catholics make the sign of the cross. Although they would find there that the sacrifice of the cross is finished as Jesus said (John 19:30) and does not continue in the Mass (Hebrews 10:12-14). Offbeat — 01 July 2013. While our words in the prayer of the sign of the cross are an invocation of the Trinity, the shape of the cross we make during this prayer are a reminder of the cross of Christ. Along this thought, this gesture has been used since the earliest times of the Church to … Making the sign of the cross is a gesture that says, in shorthand, that a person is Catholic. Making the sign of the cross says something, and when it is done in public (for example, at the blessing before meals in a public place) it is also an act of faith. You’ve probably seen your Catholic friends do it or at least you’ve likely seen it on TV as it is often referenced. As the Baltimore Catechism explains, “The sign of the cross is a profession of faith in the chief mysteries of our religion because it expresses the mysteries of the Unity and Trinity of God and of the Incarnation and death of our Lord… [it] expresses the mystery of the Incarnation by reminding us that the Son of God, having become man, suffered death on the cross.” But it actually goes all the way back to the Apostles. A final point: Making the sign of the cross, in whatever form (think of the lovely custom of a parent tracing the cross on the forehead of an infant who readies for bed or an older child who goes off on a journey), is so common as to be a routine. Tommy999 August 1, 2014, 1:26am #3. While the Bible does not instruct us to cross ourselves, the sign of the cross is not without biblical symbolism. What does it mean to say that Eve is Adam’s ‘help meet’. Roman Catholics make the sign of the cross in the following order: The right hand moves from top (forehead) to bottom (chest) and then from left (left shoulder) to right (right shoulder). Today, of course, the gesture of the large sign of the cross with the invocation, “In the name of the Father . It’s kind of a quick prayer on their behalf. Many Catholics will cross themselves when they pass by a Catholic church or chapel where the Eucharist is present. The following is taken from the May/June 2003 issue of the Oblates magazine, by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate "The Sign of the Cross is probably the most often used prayer of Christians and most likely the first prayer we learned as children. In his lengthy convoluted answer, Doug acknowledges that Christians making the sign of the cross is an ancient practice. At home, when Catholics pray before meals, they usually open and close the prayer by making the sign of the cross. 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