The Sign of the Cross: Remembering Who We Are

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.” With these words, we invoke the Trinity as we trace the sign of the cross on our bodies. But what does this mean for us as Christians? I want to offer a few reflections on this powerful sign of our faith.

A reminder of our baptism; a reminder of who we are. 
On the day of our baptism, the sign of the cross was traced on our foreheads. We were claimed for Christ by this sign.  Each time we enter the church and dip our fingers into the font, we sign ourselves and remember that we were claimed for Christ. We are God’s children!

The indwelling of the Trinity.
The Trinity dwells within each baptized person. As we make the sign of the cross and name the Trinity, we remember that this same Trinity dwells deep within us.

A sign of Eternity.
Just as our life of faith begins with baptism, so at the end of our earthly life we are once again clothed in a white garment (the pall). We are again sprinkled with holy water recalling our baptism. In the Mass, we begin and end with the sign of the cross. It is for a sign of eternity, of beginnings and endings.

A sharing in the cross of Christ.
As we make this sign, we think about the Father as we touch our forehead. The Father sent his Son, Jesus, to be our Savior and Redeemer. We remember the sacrifice that Jesus gave for our sins as we touch our chest and speak His Name. We recall that God sent His Holy Spirit to be with us after Jesus ascended into heaven. We recall the Holy Spirit as we touch our shoulders. This action should also remind us of the cross that Jesus carried on His shoulders. We are each called to carry our own crosses in this earthly life, and this gesture reminds us that we are not alone in our suffering.

A sign of sanctity.
During the prayer of consecration, the priest extends his hands over the bread and wine and calls down the Holy Spirit to sanctify the gifts. The priest then makes the sign of the cross over the gifts as He implores the Spirit to change these ordinary elements into the Body and Blood of our Lord.

A sign of blessing.
We bless in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As the priest or deacon makes the sign of the cross over us, we trace that sign on our bodies as we receive the blessing.

A sign of sacramental grace.
The sinner enters the confessional to confess his sins and receive God’s mercy, grace, and healing. As the words of absolution are spoken by the priest, the prayer ends with the sign of the cross, as the priest traces that sign over the penitent. This sign is present in every sacrament we receive in our life of faith. It is a sign of God’s grace that is available to us in the sacrament we receive.

A sign of healing.
A person in poor health or in danger of death may receive the sacrament of anointing. The cross is traced as the oil is imposed on the sick person.

A sign of protection against evil.
St. John Chrysostom said this about the power of the Sign of the Cross:

“Never leave your house without making the sign of the cross. It will be to you a staff, a weapon, an impregnable fortress. Neither man nor demon will dare to attack you, seeing you covered with such powerful armor. Let this sign teach you that you are a soldier, ready to combat against the demons, and ready to fight for the crown of justice. Are you ignorant of what the cross has done? It has vanquished death, destroyed sin, emptied hell, dethroned Satan, and restored the universe. Would you doubt its power?”

One good way to remember to make the Sign of the Cross regularly is to place a holy water font near the door of your home. This way, those entering and leaving may bless themselves, so that God will bless “their coming and their going.”

As we continue this beautiful journey through the mysteries of the Mass, let us soak in the deep symbolism and meaning that is there for us to discover.

Blessings and Peace!
Deacon Tim

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