The Sign of the Cross
As we try to grow closer to God, it is good for us to stop and remember the meaning of even the simple things of our Faith. How do we begin the Mass? How do we start every prayer? With the sign of the Cross. Why? Because it is a reminder of the chief Mysteries of the Faith. It calls to mind God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
In the Old Testament, Moses told the Jews to remember that there is only one God, that He alone should be worshiped, that He should be given all of their love, and that they should give all of their strength in His service. Moses told them to keep this so much in their minds that these words should be written on their foreheads, on their hands, and on the walls of their homes. The point was that the thought of God should always be on their minds. And so the Jews, our spiritual fathers, to remind themselves what Moses said, took these words, found in the book of Deuteronomy, and wrote them on little scrolls which they kept in tiny boxes [called phylacteries in Greek and tefillin in Hebrew]. Whenever they would pray, they would tie these boxes to their foreheads, and tie them to their wrist, as a way of saying to themselves and to God: yes, I believe this; yes, I want to serve you alone; yes, I remember all that you did to make us Your own people, bringing us out of Egypt and giving us a covenant.
We do the same thing when we make the Sign of the Cross. We remind ourselves that there is one God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that Jesus died to save us, and in His Blood, applied at our baptism, we were made into His people and His children. So, at the start of every prayer, we set aside the time and ourselves, saying to God: yes, I believe all the words of Jesus; yes, I believe that He saved me; yes, I want to give myself to Him; and, yes, I need the grace given on the Cross by His death to love Him as I should.
The Sign of the Cross is the Creed in miniature, expressing the whole of the Catholic Faith by one simple gesture. We recall the Holy Trinity by speaking of each of the Persons; we express our belief in their unity, that there is only one God by speaking of “Name”, not “names”; we remember the Cross of Christ, and so, man’s creation, the Fall, the fact that God became a man, that He suffered, died, and rose again. We place it on ourselves and over things to claim them for God, and to unite ourselves to Him. One Catholic writer described it this way, “Exceedingly great, therefore, is the efficacy of the holy Sign of Cross which, likened by the Fathers to the true Cross of Christ, is not infrequently termed by them the cause of our salvation.—The Cross is the source of all graces and blessings; it is likewise the weapon and the armor of our defense against the evil spirit; for it is the glorious sign of the victory of Christ over sin, death, and hell.”
When we make the Sign of the Cross, we begin our prayer in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Recently, at Easter, new Catholics were Baptized “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” as Jesus told the Apostles to do (Matthew 28:9). By praying “in the Name” of God, we declare that our prayer is made in the way He wishes, and that we are living as members of the Body of Christ. It is a reminder of our own Baptism, a declaration that we are living our lives in obedience to God, and a plea that we are given the grace to do so. By the Sign of the Cross we ask for the assistance of God to pray as we ought, protected from all evil, and remembering that we have truly become His children.
We should make the Sign of Cross, then, with the attention and care it deserves.