The Sign of the Cross is the most notable tell-tale sign that someone is Catholic. We begin our prayers with it, we end our prayers with it. We begin the Mass with it, we end the Mass with it. And there are some other times Catholics do this, depending upon how old you are and the traditions that were passed down to you. Some do it when passing a Catholic Church where the Blessed Sacrament is, or hearing the Lord’s name taken in vain. It is simply a sign of our Christianity. “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Acknowledging the Holy Trinity. The Sign of the Cross is a prayer in itself.
It is rooted in the Old Testament and in the New.
Roman Catholics aren’t the only Christians to make the Sign of the Cross. All Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox do as well, along with many high-church Anglicans and Lutherans, and a smattering of other Mainline Protestants. Because it is a creed that all Christians can relate to, it shouldn’t be thought of as just “a Catholic thing.”
“Let us not then be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow and in 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 awake; when we are in the way and when we are still. Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the poor’s sake; without toil, for the sick, since also its grace is from God. It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of evils; for He has triumphed over them in it, having made a shew of them openly; for when they see the Cross, they are reminded of the Crucified; they are afraid of Him, Who hath bruised the heads of the dragon. Despise not the Seal, because of the freeness of the Gift; but for this rather honor thy Benefactor.”
— St. Cyril of Jerusalem, A.D. 315 – 386
The Pope, priests and deacons will also make the Sign of the Cross over a person or the entire congregation to give us a blessing.
How do you do it?
Using your right hand, you should touch your forehead at the mention of the Father; the lower middle of your chest at the mention of the Son; and the left shoulder on the word “Holy” and the right shoulder on the word “Spirit.”
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
“In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.” I’m fascinated with the Latin…I love the beauty of the language. We say some prayers in Latin at church and I really wish I had learned Latin in school.
My most favorite part of the St. Cyril of Jerusalem quote above is “and the dread of evils.” That is pretty powerful…The evil ones can’t stand the sign of the cross! I take comfort in that.
Until next time, go fish!