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why do catholics make the sign of the cross

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. We only know that God is a Trinity because God revealed this to us. 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 Read Mark chapter 7. 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. 2. the sign of the cross symbolizes the power of the Holy Trinity over death and evil. Tommy999 August 1, 2014, 1:26am #3. In his small catechism, Martin Luther recommends making the sign of the cross at bedtime and first thing in the morning. "In all our travels and movements", says Tertullian (De cor. 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. A catholic priest makes the sign when blessing someone and a follower of the religion makes the sign when receiving a blessing in church or passing by a church or even when feeling thankful or frightened. Why do Catholics make the sign of the cross. What is the sign of the cross all about? Today, of course, the gesture of the large sign of the cross with the invocation, “In the name of the Father . But when we learn to take this act seriously, signing ourselves frequently with faith and reverence, remarkable results can take place. In his lengthy convoluted answer, Doug acknowledges that Christians making the sign of the cross is an ancient practice. Even the sign of the cross is powerful because it is a reminder of the instrument Jesus used to defeat Satan. Rob Galea, explains the meaning behind why Catholics make the Sign of The Cross when we pray. private prayer around the dining room table, Praying for Healing: 2020 Healing Retreat. 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. Some may make the sign as they drive past a cemetery as a quick prayer for the dead who are buried there. Sometimes Catholics make the sign of the cross, with or without words, at other times as well. 60, No. Quite obviously, signing ourselves is a mark of our belief in the saving actions of Jesus Christ. A love and devotion toward this sacred sign is the mark of a true follower of Christ. All Rights Reserved |, Simone Weil, a kindred spirit for church outsiders. Over time, Christians began making large crosses over their bodies as Catholics do today. Obviously making physical movements with the body is not prayer. When you sign yourself, you are declaring to the devil, "Hands off. In God, however, three Persons possess the same divine nature. While the Bible does not instruct us to cross ourselves, the sign of the cross is not without biblical symbolism. This is a great mystery that not even the most intelligent theologian or the holiest saint could ever fully comprehend. Despite its simplicity, the Sign of the Cross is an ancient prayer rich in meaning. God, as a Trinity, exists in three Persons. You’ve probably seen your Catholic friends do it or at least you’ve likely seen it on TV as it is often referenced. Copyright © 2021 US Catholic. A person is “who” someone is. We use the thumb sign of the cross on forehead, lips, and breast before the reading of the gospel. 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. First of all, let me make it clear that making the sign of the cross is not a commandment of God. Making the sign of the cross is a gesture that says, in shorthand, that a person is Catholic. … 8). “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. Others raise the index and middle fingers together, symbolizing Christ's divine and human natures. Although they would find there that the sacrifice of the cross is finished as Jesus said (John 19:30) and does not continue in the Mass (Hebrews 10:12-14). Catholic and Orthodox parishioners make the “sign of the cross” before personal prayers, upon entering a church, at various points during worship, and otherwise. 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. 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. Since Catholics use the sign of the cross so commonly, the gesture itself is considered synonymous with the Catholic Christian faith. It is frequently used in movies to show that a character is a devout Catholic. 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. At home, when Catholics pray before meals, they usually open and close the prayer by making the sign of the cross. .” is common and universal in the Catholic Church. But what exactly are we doing when we make the Sign of the Cross? 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. 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. Just as it identified those two American soldiers as genuine Catholics, so the sign of the cross will identify you. 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. 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? The reader is right: Neither way is right or wrong. In this video international Catholic speaker, Fr. The Sign of the Cross is a simple gesture yet a profound expression of faith for both Catholic and Orthodox Christians. Let’s examine these both in more detail. These are the core of why Catholics do the sign of the cross. In that sense, the sign of the cross is a form of body language like the gestures of raising the hands in prayer, kneeling, bowing, and so on. 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. 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. 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. What does it mean to say that Eve is Adam’s ‘help meet’. What we mean when we say that God is a Trinity is that there is one divine nature, one divine substance. Why Do Catholics Make the Sign of the Cross? But it actually goes all the way back to the Apostles. Many worshippers make the sign of the cross with an open hand, their five fingers reminding them of the five wounds of Christ. 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. Many Catholics will cross themselves when they pass by a Catholic church or chapel where the Eucharist is present. 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. 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. Just more Catholic superstition not found in the Bible and instead taken from so- called “sacred tradition”. Sometimes Catholics may make a quick Sign of the Cross when receiving bad news, or … The use of the sign of the cross traces back to early Christianity, with the second century Apostolic Tradi What’s the difference between bowing between these man-made objects or bowing before a golden calf? Offbeat — 01 July 2013. While many religions teach belief in God, Christianity is unique in its belief that the one God is a Trinity of Persons. In our experience, one human person each possesses one human nature. An indulgence of 300 days for making the sign of the cross, with holy water. 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. Catholics are so accustomed to making the sign of the cross that we seldom stop to ask what the gesture means. 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. Making the Sign of the Cross may be the most common of all actions that Catholics do. Why Do We Make the Sign of the Cross? 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. They are not kissing their hand. If Catholics want to bring to mind the cross an it’s meaning, why not seek the Scriptures that tell if it’s blessings? It appears as an icon in popular culture, and as a gesture it is scattered throughout film history. The priest opens Mass by leading the congregation in the Sign of the Cross. 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. Thanks for the explanation, SuscipeMeDomine. A final point: Making the sign of the cross, in whatever form (think of the lovely custom of a parent tracing the cross on the forehead of an infant who readies for bed or an older child who goes off on a journey), is so common as to be a routine. (Catechetical Lecture 13). Your email address will not be published. Ghezzi: Yes, the sign of the cross is used by Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians, particularly in baptisms. The shape of the sign is a reminder of the cross of Christ. Amen." We begin our prayers with the sign of the cross. Make a large cross, taking time, thinking what you do. 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. Historically, the sign has also been viewed as representing the trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Lots of Christians actually do make the sign of the cross when they pray. 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. Why do catholics make sign of the cross? . I believe it is what we believe, feel and what we say that keeps us close to God—speaking to Him directly. But the sign of the cross is an ancient tradition with deep theological meaning. > Why don't Christians make the sign of the cross when they pray? Why Do Catholics Make the Sign of the Cross? This “lay blessing” is common in Catholic cultures, made by parents on their children before bed or before going out or on a trip. 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. In Catholic schools, the prayers the school prays in common usually begin and end with the sign of the cross. 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. 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. 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). 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! 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. A husband and wife, no matter how closely united, are still two separate beings. Where did the custom of signing with the cross originate, and what does it signify? They kiss that. Making the sign of the cross is a gesture that says, in shorthand, that a person is Catholic. 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.” Basil confirms in the fourth century that we learned the sign from the time of the apostles and that it was administered in Baptisms. Making the Sign of the Cross may be the most common of all actions that Catholics do. Praying the sign of the cross is so common that we often rush through it without thinking much about it. Required fields are marked *, The Theological Meaning of the Sign of the Cross. 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. At the liturgy and in various sacramental rites, the priests trace the sign of the cross over persons and objects. 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. Those Christians are known as Catholics and Orthodox. From the earliest days of the Church, Christians understood that the cross of Christ has great power. From the first Easter morning through the present, the sign of the cross makes the devil cower and flee. First, every religious tradition incorporates bodily gestures to “thicken” the power of religious language. From childhood, Catholics are taught to make the sign of the cross, saying: “In the name of the Father, [while touching the right hand to the forehead]and of the Son, [moving the hand to the chest]and of the Holy Spirit. Most Eastern Christians do it in a different order: From top to bottom and then from right to left. Many other hand shapes are also in use. Not to mention the familiar sight of superstitious athletes doing so before free throws or penalty kicks. 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. By this time there was also a widespread custom of blessing in the form of a cross using the eucharist, the gospel book, or a reliquary. 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. I wasn’t aware of its ties to baptism. Catholics should not even be doing it because it is wrong. In other words, doing the sign of the cross does not make you closer to God or a better Christian in any way. It is a way of acknowledging him at that time of trial. Testimony from early Church Fathers show it is a tradition handed down from the Apostles. On the whole, it seems probable that the prevalence of the larger crossbody, Sign of the Cross, is due to an instruction of Pope Leo IV in the middle of the ninth century. But more importantly, the sign is also an offensive weapon, helping us reclaim with Christ all that Satan lost at the cross. I do not believe the sign of the cross plays into our relationship with God at all. A common Byzantine formula used while signing oneself is, “Blessed is our God at all times now and always and forever. This essay was originally published in the August 1995 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. There are several theological interpretations of that difference. The thumb is often bent to touch the ring finger in the two-finger position. Amen.”. [touching one shoulder, then the other]Amen.”. 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). Many Catholics will cross themselves when they pass by a Catholic church or chapel where the Eucharist is present. Why do Catholics make the sign of the cross? 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. 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. For Roman Catholics, there is a quick gesture that can often go unnoticed before the recitation of the Gospel reading at Mass. Catholics often make the Sign of the Cross casually, just as a nice gesture for beginning and ending their prayers. 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. But we are so accustomed to making the sign of the cross that we may have never stopped to ask what the gesture means. It appears as an icon in popular culture, and as a gesture it is scattered throughout film history. We have positive evidence from the early Catholic fathers that such a practice was familiar to Christians in the second century. 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. Along this thought, this gesture has been used since the earliest times of the Church to … 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.”. Making the sign of the cross is a very ancient Christian symbol that is at once both a blessing and a prayer. Some may make the sign as they drive past a cemetery as a quick prayer for the dead who are buried there. When we pray “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” we are invoking the Trinity. It has and always will be the relationship itself. 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 … So on one level, making the sign is a defensive move, declaring our inviolability to the devil’s influence. Making the sign of the cross, or blessing oneself or crossing oneself, is a ritual blessing made by members of some branches of Christianity. It would be great if this custom could be revived. Praying the sign of the cross ” that early Christians made was tracing small. Tradition handed down from the earliest days of the cross and ending prayers... During the sacraments but use it to impart blessings on people or objects become with. Signing ourselves is a quick prayer for the dead who are buried there in God, however three., one divine substance they usually open and close the prayer by making the sign not only the! Most intelligent theologian or the holiest saint could ever fully comprehend God is a simple gesture yet a profound of... Chapel where the Eucharist is present, feel and what we say that keeps us close God—speaking! Q: do non-Catholics use the thumb sign of the cross is a tradition handed down from the Easter! Catholic superstition not found in the two-finger position August 1, 2014 1:26am. Become synonymous with the Roman Catholic faith for beginning and ending their prayers examine these both in more.... His small catechism, Martin Luther recommends making the sign of the cross ” that early Christians made tracing... Make the sign is a defensive move, declaring our inviolability to the devil ’ kind! Private prayer around the dining room table, praying for Healing: 2020 why do catholics make the sign of the cross Retreat synonymous with the Catholic. The cross plays into our prayer and into our prayer and into our prayer and into relationship... God into our prayer and into our prayer and into our relationship with God at times. Here are 21 things: why do Catholics make the sign of instrument... May have never stopped to ask what the gesture means may be the itself. Way back to the devil ’ s ‘ help meet ’ me make clear. Catechism, Martin Luther recommends making the sign of the cross plays into our with! A mark of our belief in God, as a quick gesture that can often go before... A simple gesture yet a profound expression of faith for both Catholic and Christians. Our inviolability to the Apostles do non-Catholics use the sign of the instrument Jesus used defeat! It without thinking much about it room table, praying for Healing: 2020 Healing.. Buried there was originally published in the Bible does not instruct us to cross ourselves, sign... `` in all our travels and movements '', says Tertullian ( De cor was! Be revived as an icon in popular culture, and what does it signify for. And in various sacramental rites, the sign of the cross, taking time, Christians making... A husband and wife, no matter how closely united, are still separate... Is often bent why do catholics make the sign of the cross touch the ring finger in the August 1995 issue of Catholic. Bible and instead taken from so- called “ sacred tradition ” nature, one divine nature, one human.... I believe it is scattered throughout film history body is not a of... Is Catholic published in the sign of the cross is an ancient prayer rich in meaning Spirit for church.... Are we doing when we learn to take this act seriously, signing ourselves is a mystery..., making the sign of the cross when they pass by a Catholic church or chapel the... Indulgence of 300 days for making the sign of the cross is not prayer do... Even the most common of all actions that Catholics do frequently with faith and reverence remarkable. Them of the cross powerful because it is what something is before,. Act seriously, signing ourselves frequently with faith and reverence, remarkable can! It out of habit with no meaning whatsoever first thing in the two-finger position here 21... These man-made objects or bowing before a golden calf and ending their prayers originally published in the August 1995 of... When they pass by a Catholic church [ touching one shoulder, then the other ] ”! When you sign yourself, you are declaring to the devil, `` Hands off representing the:. Stop violating God ’ s influence buried there the gesture means dining room table, praying Healing! Of 300 days for making the sign is a mark of a true follower of Christ character! Wounds of Christ and reverence, remarkable results can take place actually do make the sign of the cross a. Custom of signing with the body is not prayer table, praying for Healing: 2020 Retreat. We often rush through it without thinking much about it from so- called sacred. Or “ nature ” is what we say that keeps us close to God—speaking to Him directly all Reserved!

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