Before making the sign of the cross it is better for the communicant to wait a second for some distance to open up between himself and the minister. We use the thumb sign of the cross on forehead, lips, and breast before the reading of the gospel. Along this thought, this gesture has been used since the earliest times of the Church to … The sign of the cross, in words and in action, reminds us of the two central realities of our faith: who God is (the Trinity) and what God has done for us (the Cross). A person is “who” someone is. While many religions teach belief in God, Christianity is unique in its belief that the one God is a Trinity of Persons. The same sign is ubiquitous in Catholic piety. In our experience, one human person each possesses one human nature. However, the sign of the cross can be made by any Christian and other Christian communities also use the sign, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians. We begin our prayers with the sign of the cross. Priests make the sign not only during the sacraments but use it to impart blessings on people or objects. If Catholics want to bring to mind the cross an it’s meaning, why not seek the Scriptures that tell if it’s blessings? In his lengthy convoluted answer, Doug acknowledges that Christians making the sign of the cross is an ancient practice. … It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of devils… for when they see the Cross they are reminded of the Crucified; they are afraid of Him, who bruised the heads of the dragon. But the sign of the cross is an ancient tradition with deep theological meaning. With the sign of the cross, we Catholics, for the most part use the same hand gesture which has the same exact meaning of the Orthodox Churches; that is the index finger pointing strait up forming the Greek I, the middle finger crossing the thumb forming the Greek Χ; while the middle finger curving forming the Greek Ϲ (Capital Lunate Sigma). “The Sign of the Cross is indeed a distinctly Catholic (and Orthodox) practice, but it is also one that is deeply rooted in both the Old and New Testaments. We make it when we begin and end our prayers; we make it when we enter and leave a church; we start each Mass with it; we may even make it when we hear the Holy Name of Jesus taken in vain and when we pass a Catholic church where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle. At home, when Catholics pray before meals, they usually open and close the prayer by making the sign of the cross. This blessing is made by the tracing of an upright cross or + across the body with the right hand, often accompanied by spoken or mental recitation of the trinitarian formula: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Making the sign of the cross is a gesture that says, in shorthand, that a person is Catholic. Why Do Catholics Make the Sign of the Cross? But it actually goes all the way back to the Apostles. 2. the sign of the cross symbolizes the power of the Holy Trinity over death and evil. Your email address will not be published. We make it when we begin and end our prayers; we make it when we enter and leave a church; we start each Mass with it; we may even make it when we hear the Holy Name of Jesus taken in vain and when we pass a Catholic church where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle. Catholics should not even be doing it because it is wrong. Let’s examine these both in more detail. Sometimes Catholics make the sign of the cross, with or without words, at other times as well. It is a way of acknowledging him at that time of trial. In this video international Catholic speaker, Fr. Why do catholics make sign of the cross? Just more Catholic superstition not found in the Bible and instead taken from so- called “sacred tradition”. 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. From the first Easter morning through the present, the sign of the cross makes the devil cower and flee. Even the sign of the cross is powerful because it is a reminder of the instrument Jesus used to defeat Satan. In Catholic schools, the prayers the school prays in common usually begin and end with the sign of the cross. Quite obviously, signing ourselves is a mark of our belief in the saving actions of Jesus Christ. . 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. In other words, doing the sign of the cross does not make you closer to God or a better Christian in any way. At the liturgy and in various sacramental rites, the priests trace the sign of the cross over persons and objects. Many do it out of habit with no meaning whatsoever. Stop violating God’s Word by usurping it with man-made tradition. I belong to Christ; he is my protection." 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. Obviously making physical movements with the body is not prayer. For Roman Catholics, there is a quick gesture that can often go unnoticed before the recitation of the Gospel reading at Mass. The sign of the cross both reminds us of who God is and invites God into our prayer and into our lives. Rob Galea, explains the meaning behind why Catholics make the Sign of The Cross when we pray. Where did the custom of signing with the cross originate, and what does it signify? Most Eastern Christians do it in a different order: From top to bottom and then from right to left. Tommy999 August 1, 2014, 1:26am #3. Amen." Making the sign of the cross is a gesture that says, in shorthand, that a person is Catholic. It has and always will be the relationship itself. Required fields are marked *, The Theological Meaning of the Sign of the Cross. It would be great if this custom could be revived. private prayer around the dining room table, Praying for Healing: 2020 Healing Retreat. This “lay blessing” is common in Catholic cultures, made by parents on their children before bed or before going out or on a trip. Of course, Catholics are used to bowing before statues of Mary, bone fragments of so-called “saints” and pictures of Jesus (in violation of the 2nd Commandant which has been removed from their Catechism), not to mention a piece of bread they consider to be God. The sign of the cross that Catholics make before prayer or any other activity is not meant to be a superstitious act, but an outward profession of faith. Copyright © 2021 US Catholic. The shape of the sign is a reminder of the cross of Christ. At least in the Byzantine tradition, where it is stipulated that the sign be made either with two fingers (symbolizing the two natures of Christ) or three fingers (symbolizing the Trinity), a theological statement is being made. Lots of Christians actually do make the sign of the cross when they pray. 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. But what exactly are we doing when we make the Sign of the Cross? Making the Sign of the Cross may be the most common of all actions that Catholics do. I wasn’t aware of its ties to baptism. Sometimes Catholics make the sign of the cross, with or without words, at other times as well. 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.” In God, however, three Persons possess the same divine nature. We only know that God is a Trinity because God revealed this to us. Crossing oneself or making the sign of the cross has become synonymous with the Roman Catholic faith. A husband and wife, no matter how closely united, are still two separate beings. God wants us to walk with him daily and when the Holy Spirit lives in us and we call on Him daily to guide us through life our thoughts and actions will resemble Jesus’ and doing the sign of the cross would not have any compact. It appears as an icon in popular culture, and as a gesture it is scattered throughout film history. Making the Sign of the Cross may be the most common of all actions that Catholics do. Second, powerful symbolic gestures, when examined up close, say more than one thing. Catholic and Orthodox parishioners make the “sign of the cross” before personal prayers, upon entering a church, at various points during worship, and otherwise. [touching one shoulder, then the other]Amen.”. One practical strategy for our common Christian spiritual life is to relearn what we are doing when we sign ourselves. The reader is right: Neither way is right or wrong. St. Cyril of Jerusalem expresses the power of the Cross very well: Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still. Make a large cross, taking time, thinking what you do. At the end of the Mass, he blesses the people “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and they cross themselves as he blesses them. Many worshippers make the sign of the cross with an open hand, their five fingers reminding them of the five wounds of Christ. We have positive evidence from the early Catholic fathers that such a practice was familiar to Christians in the second century. Its witness to a faith that is ever ancient, yet ever new is yet another way the Sign of the Cross symbolizes the heart of what we believe and practice as Catholics. Basil confirms in the fourth century that we learned the sign from the time of the apostles and that it was administered in Baptisms. Why Do Catholics Make the Sign of the Cross? The more expansive sign of the cross (touching forehead, chest, and shoulders) is first mentioned in the devotional life of Christians in the fifth century, but it was not until the early Middle Ages, largely through the influence of monasteries, that the gesture comes into general use. Those Christians are known as Catholics and Orthodox. A love and devotion toward this sacred sign is the mark of a true follower of Christ. > Why don't Christians make the sign of the cross when they pray? Praying the sign of the cross is so common that we often rush through it without thinking much about it. The sign of the cross is a powerful way of making us mindful of the Trinity and inviting God into our prayer and into our daily lives. Historically, the sign has also been viewed as representing the trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. … (Catechetical Lecture 13). What we mean when we say that God is a Trinity is that there is one divine nature, one divine substance. (Hebrews 10:18). 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 … The priest opens Mass by leading the congregation in the Sign of the Cross. They kiss that. Sometimes Catholics may make a quick Sign of the Cross when receiving bad news, or when sirens pass, as a way of praying for those involved. From the earliest days of the Church, Christians understood that the cross of Christ has great power. In his small catechism, Martin Luther recommends making the sign of the cross at bedtime and first thing in the morning. Many Catholics will cross themselves when they pass by a Catholic church or chapel where the Eucharist is present. Catholics often make the Sign of the Cross casually, just as a nice gesture for beginning and ending their prayers. The sign of the cross speaks and confesses. You’ve probably seen your Catholic friends do it or at least you’ve likely seen it on TV as it is often referenced. Tertullian (see above) recommended that the faithful mark themselves with the sign of the cross at all times because of its power in bringing Jesus’ sacrifice into their daily lives. Since Catholics use the sign of the cross so commonly, the gesture itself is considered synonymous with the Catholic Christian faith. First, every religious tradition incorporates bodily gestures to “thicken” the power of religious language. Catholics are so accustomed to making the sign of the cross that we seldom stop to ask what the gesture means. This makes a little cross. The Sign of the Cross is a simple gesture yet a profound expression of faith for both Catholic and Orthodox Christians. A common Byzantine formula used while signing oneself is, “Blessed is our God at all times now and always and forever. Despite its simplicity, the Sign of the Cross is an ancient prayer rich in meaning. Making the sign of the cross is a very ancient Christian symbol that is at once both a blessing and a prayer. It appears as an icon in popular culture, and as a gesture it is scattered throughout film history. Why do Catholics make the sign of the cross? Let it take in your whole being—body, soul, mind, will, thought, feelings, your doing and not-doing—and, by signing it with the cross, strengthen and consecrate the whole in the strength of Christ, in the name of the triune God. If you were to ask each Person in the Trinity, “Who are you?” each person would answer something differently: “I am the Father;” “I am the Son;” “I am the Holy Spirit.” If you were to ask each Person, “What are you?” you would get the same answer from each Person: “I am God.”. Amen.”. It brings the power of Christ’s cross to us and can be a powerful help against temptation and an excellent way of reminding us of the great things Jesus has done for us. In his evocative book Sacred Signs the late Romano Guardini made the point so beautifully that I will give him the last word: It is the holiest of all signs. This is a great mystery that not even the most intelligent theologian or the holiest saint could ever fully comprehend. Some may make the sign as they drive past a cemetery as a quick prayer for the dead who are buried there. 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. Why do Catholics make the sign of the cross. 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. PLEASE ANSWER 2 See answers madwoman26 madwoman26 Answer: 1. when they passed by churches, before and after praying, at the beginning and end of celebrating mass. What does it mean to say that Eve is Adam’s ‘help meet’. The first “sign of the cross” that early Christians made was tracing a small cross on their foreheads. I believe it is what we believe, feel and what we say that keeps us close to God—speaking to Him directly. 60, No. 8). Ghezzi: Yes, the sign of the cross is used by Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians, particularly in baptisms. 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. The thumb is often bent to touch the ring finger in the two-finger position. He notes that John Calvin, the founder of the protestant movement Calvinism, recognized that the sign of the cross was an early tradition going back to the first century. When you sign yourself, you are declaring to the devil, "Hands off. The use of the sign of the cross traces back to early Christianity, with the second century Apostolic Tradi They are not kissing their hand. I do tend to make the Sign of the Cross when I hear an ambulance or pass an accident – basically to ask God to help the victims and responders. God, as a Trinity, exists in three Persons. But more importantly, the sign is also an offensive weapon, helping us reclaim with Christ all that Satan lost at the cross. First of all, let me make it clear that making the sign of the cross is not a commandment of God. As Catholics, it’s something we do when we enter a church, after we receive Communion, before meals, and every time we pray. 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! What is the sign of the cross all about? So on one level, making the sign is a defensive move, declaring our inviolability to the devil’s influence. When we pray “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” we are invoking the Trinity. This essay was originally published in the August 1995 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. Others raise the index and middle fingers together, symbolizing Christ's divine and human natures. Technically, the sign of the cross is a sacramental, a sacred sign instituted by the Church which prepares a person to receive grace and which sanctifies a moment or circumstance. Just as it identified those two American soldiers as genuine Catholics, so the sign of the cross will identify you. Around the year 200, Tertullian, an early Christian theologian, wrote about this sign: “In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our forehead with the sign of the cross.” By the fifth century, other Christian writers reveal that the sign of the cross was also being made on the lips and on the chest. The sign of the cross that Catholics make before prayer or any other activity is not meant to be a superstitious act, but an outward profession of faith. St. 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). Read Mark chapter 7. While the Bible does not instruct us to cross ourselves, the sign of the cross is not without biblical symbolism. It is frequently used in movies to show that a character is a devout Catholic. Thanks for the explanation, SuscipeMeDomine. Your email address will not be published. Q: Do non-Catholics use the sign of the cross? It is unknown exactly when and how that developed, but the sign of the cross as we know it today is probably about 1000 years old. There are several theological interpretations of that difference. 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. A “substance” or “nature” is what something is. That helps fill in the gaps for me some. Here are 21 things: An indulgence of 300 days for making the sign of the cross, with holy water. Testimony from early Church Fathers show it is a tradition handed down from the Apostles. 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…[i Why Do We Make the Sign of the Cross? Today, of course, the gesture of the large sign of the cross with the invocation, “In the name of the Father . How can the Mass be legitimate and propitiatory when God says in His word that the cross 2000 years ago fully paid all man’s sin debt and that from that time there is no longer any offering for sin? Some may make the sign as they drive past a cemetery as a quick prayer for the dead who are buried there. Offbeat — 01 July 2013. 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. The sign of the cross permeates a Catholic’s prayer life, from the public prayer of the Mass to private prayer around the dining room table. Jesus’ death on the cross was the action by which he destroyed death, so the sign of the cross is a constant reminder of our salvation. Those who are in holy orders bless by making the sign of the cross in the air toward the persons or things to be blessed, but layfolk bless others only by using their finger, usually the thumb. According to the book on the catechism of the Catholic Church, making the sign of the cross is a prayer for deliverance from their enemies. It is a curious fact that the cross does not appear in Christian art until the fourth century, but the tracing of the cross on the forehead with thumb or index finger is found in popular Christian usage as early as the second century. These are the core of why Catholics do the sign of the cross. But when we learn to take this act seriously, signing ourselves frequently with faith and reverence, remarkable results can take place. Culture, and Holy Spirit, Martin Luther recommends making the sign of the with! 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