The Sign of the cross is a gesture or ritual used by Catholics(both eastern Catholics and Roman Catholics) , Anglican, orthodox and Lutheran to bless themselves, others and object . It’s made by tracing a cross(+) on the object or person and also by tracing a cross(+) across oneself using the right hand then reciting “In the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. ”
The sign of the cross is a practice popular used to identify a Catholic members whether in sports, hospital, schools and every other public places. It’s mostly used to start and end prayers.
Ways to do sign of the cross
There’s slight difference in the way the sign of the cross is made between the different rites of the church, but they are all legit.
The Roman Catholic Church makes the sign of the cross with the right hand and all 5 fingers outstretched (symbolizing the 5 wounds of the Lord) , they touch the forehead saying the Father; then the lower middle of the chest saying of the Son; and the left shoulder saying the word “Holy” and the right shoulder on the word “Spirit.”
Eastern Christians, both Eastern Catholics and Orthodox, reverse the order, touching their right shoulder on the word “Holy” and their left shoulder on the word “Spirit.”. They also stretch only 2 fingers symbolizing the two nature of Christ and also 3 fingers symbolizing the Holy Trinity.
A priest can also bless the congregation by making the sign of the cross in the air. During the mass, before the gospel is read by a priest the congregation makes the sign of the cross by using their thumb to trace cross(+) on their foreheads, then another one on their lips and lastly on their chest, before the gospel is read by the priest.
History of the sign of the cross
The sign of the cross has existed since the early Christian. In the fourth century St Basil said that the early Christian learn the sign of the cross from the days of the apostles and was used during the conversation and administration of baptism. Scholars said that what Paul meant when he said in Galatians 6:17 That he bears the marks of Christ on his body ,was the sign of the cross.
Why Catholics do sign of the cross
1. The Catholics normally begins the day with the sign of the cross which means they have dedicated the day to God and ask for God’s protection and guidance throughout the day.
2. When a Catholic enters the church and dips his hands inside the holy water (if available) and makes the sign of the cross it reminds them of their baptism and also signify they have entered a sacred place which is different from the world.
3. The sign of the cross is a small Creed(statement of belief) which means you have professed your faith in the Holy Trinity.
4. The Catholics make the sign of the cross when in danger, need, despair or confused to summon God’s help in the situation.
6. Catholic make sign of the cross as a defense against the devil and his affliction. When angry, lustful, full of fear , emotional or grappling with fleshly problems, make the sign of the cross when tempted and it will help dispel the problem.
7. When Catholics are suffering, they make the sign of the cross as an acceptance of the suffering just as Jesus accept his suffering and carried the cross and beckoned on us to follow him with our cross (suffering) .
When do Catholics make the sign of the cross
A catholic makes sign of the cross when he passes by a Cemetery or dead person.
They also make the sign before and after prayer.
They also do the sign when faced with temptation or trial, hardship, trouble, confusion etc.
Before a catholic starts a Confession they do the sign of the cross.
When a Catholic hears the name of Jesus especially when mentioned in vain, they make the sign of the cross to honor the name Christ.
During the mass the congregation do the sign multiple times eg When the mass starts, when the gospel is about to be read etc.
Can non-catholics make the sign of the cross
Every religion has a physical act or gesture that helps to strengthen the spiritual part of the religion . In Christianity the sign of the cross is a gesture just like kneeling down while praying, closing eyes while praying, or raising your hands while praising God. It’s not limited to only Catholics, it can be used by anyone to connect yourself to God. In 1Samuel 16:7 it says “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” God sees things in the view of our hearts, a person that understands the meaning of the sign of the cross and uses it in his daily activities, will come to understand what it means to be in the presence of God and feel the manifestation of his power daily.