Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Sign of the Cross

For some it is just a mechanical part of starting and concluding time talking to God through prayer. For some, it seems no more than a good-luck charm to make superstitiously before stepping up to bat. We know it is much more than that!

  • In baptism, a cross is traced on the foreheads of the baptized.
  • In confirmation, a cross is traced on the foreheads with sacred oil called “chrism.”

As the cross is traced, the name of the triune God is pronounced, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To delve deeper, we need to look at our history.
This practice reaches quite far back.

  • In Gal 6:14-18 Paul says “I bear the brand marks of Jesus in my body.”

  • In the book of Revelation, those doomed to death have the mark of the beast on their foreheads while the 144,000 in white robes have been sealed with the name of God and the Lamb (Rev 7:3-4, Rev 11:1) . . . the sign of the cross? Most probably.

In the early Church, the sign of the cross was seen as the brand mark on the body of a Christian that indicated that he or she was now the property of a new master and under the protection of that master.

The blood of the lamb on the doorposts of the Israelites protected them from the Angel of Death who “passed over” their homes. The sign of the cross on the Christian says “hands off!” to the power of Darkness.
Note that Jesus says to his disciples “I have given you power to tread on snakes and scorpions and all the forces of the enemy, and nothing shall ever injure you” (Lk 10:19). The sign of the cross is the sign of this power.

When we make the sign of the cross we say, "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" -- we are IN God's family, we are claiming that.

But this sign means even more than belonging to the triune God.

  • It indicates how and why we’ve come to belong to God and to be entitled to his protection.
  • It means that for my standing with God, I do not trust in the good deeds that I’ve done or the “good person” that I am.
  • Rather, I stake my claim to heaven on what Jesus did for me on Calvary.
  • It means that I am saved by a pure gift of His love, by grace. “May I never boast of anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Gal 6:14).
In this simple little sign is contained the very essence of the gospel. Scott Hahn says it well. He says it is our faith in a gesture. That is the power of that symbol of crossing ourselves.
Everything in our Catholic heritage is like this – full of rich meaning that we do well to both remember and delve deeper.

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