The Sign Of The Cross
DECEMBER 21ST, 2009 (IN CATHOLIC TRADITIONS) By Msgr. Anselm
The Sign of the Cross is absolutely ancient, rooted not only in the Old Testament but also in the New. In Ezekiel chapter 9, we read, “And the Lord said to him: Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem: and mark upon the foreheads of the men that sign” (Ezekiel 9:4). The book of Apocalypse speaks of those who have the sign of God on their foreheads.
As Catholics, the Sign of Cross is a physical sign that brings the relevance of the Sacrifice of the Jesus Christ directly into our lives and our situations. The invocation that is said while making this holy sign calls on our God — the Father, His Son, and the Holy Ghost. It is, therefore, a “mini-creed” that asserts our belief in the Triune God as well as a prayer that invokes the Trinity into action. It is an expression of our faith and a declaration of that faith to others. It is also a sign that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
At Confirmation, the Bishop traces the Sign of the Cross on the foreheads of the candidates with Chrism. When you make the Sign of the Cross, you are recalling that seal. Also when we use holy water when making this sign, such as we do when we enter a church, it recalls our Baptism and brings to our mind that we are born again of water and Spirit.
The position of our fingers as we make the Sign of the Cross was given to the church by Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) who directed that the Sign of the Cross be made with the thumb, index, and middle finger pressed together and brought to a point upright (signifying the Trinity, three persons sharing a single essence) and the remaining two fingers pressed close together and down to the palm (representing the human and divine natures that are united together in Jesus Christ).
Because of what the Sign indicates — the very Cross of our salvation — Satan hates it, and our using it makes demons flee. Therefore, whenever you wish to honor and invoke God or ward off evil, fear, and temptation, you should make the Sign of the Cross. Let the Sign of the Cross mark all your actions. Never leave your home, eat, drink, go to bed, or travel out without first signing yourself with the Cross. As St. Cyril of Jerusalem exhorts us: “Let us, therefore, not be ashamed of the Cross of Christ or be ashamed to make the sign in public. Let us rather, openly seal it upon our forehead, that the devils may behold the royal sign and flee trembling far away. Make then this sign at eating and drinking, at sitting, at lying down, at rising up, at speaking, at walking: in a few words, at every act.”
As Christians, there is no habit to be compared with signing yourself with the Sign of the Cross. It is a good public witness! Do not be ashamed of it! To be ashamed of the sign of His Cross is to be ashamed of Him. Therefore, make the Sign of the Cross a protecting wall around all your conduct. Most importantly, teach it to your children — even the tiniest of them. If they are infants, take their hands and make the movements for them that they may earnestly learn and use this most powerful sign.