WHY DO CATHOLICS MAKE THE SIGN OF THE CROSS?

WHY DO CATHOLICS MAKE THE SIGN OF THE CROSS?

INBOX QUESTION:
“Hi Chinaka, I am
a convert to the Catholic Church by marriage; however, since I started
attending the Church I have found it difficult to understand the reason why
Catholics make the sign of the Cross, and that is why I don’t make it at times. Can you enlighten me a bit? Thanks.”
RESPONSE:
I suggest you create time and attend the Catechism Class (if you had not
attended yet) and also endeavour to get books at the Church’s bookstore in
order to aid your understanding f the Catholic faith.
As
regards your question, the sign of the Cross; that is, the simple gesture that
we (Catholics) make thousands of times in our lives has a deeper meaning most
of us don’t realize.

The practice of tracing the sign of the cross is most prominent in the Catholic
Church but is also practiced in the Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, Lutheran, and
Episcopalian Churches. The history of the sign of the cross goes back as far as
Tertullian, the early church father who lived between A.D. 160 and 220.
Tertullian wrote, “In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in
and going out, in putting off 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 foreheads with the sign of the cross.”
As
Catholics, we find support for the sign of the cross primarily in the Church’s
Tradition and, secondarily, in Exodus 17:9-14 and Revelation 7:3;9:4;14:1…
Because the passages do speak of a sign on the forehead for protection from
God’s judgment.
SIGNIFICANCE:
The sign of the cross is: a confession of faith; a renewal of baptism; a mark
of discipleship; an acceptance of suffering (carrying our crosses and following
Jesus…Matt. 16:24, Lk. 9:23); a defense against the devil (the Cross is the
symbol of Victory); and a victory over self-indulgence. Hence, when you make
the sign, you are professing a mini version of the creed —you are professing
your belief in the Father, and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. When you say
the words and pray in someone’s name you are declaring their presence and
coming into their presence —that’s how a name is used in Scripture. Put
diffrerently, by making the sign of the Cross, we bind unto ourselves, the
STRONG NAME OF THE TRINITY (THE FATHER, THE SON AND THE HOLY SPIRIT).
As
a “sacramental”, it’s a renewal of the sacrament of baptism; when you make it
you say again, in effect, “I died with Christ and rose to new life.”
The sign of the cross in baptism is like a Christian circumcision, which united
Gentile converts to the Jewish nation. The sign links you to the body of
Christ, and when you make it you remember your joining to the body with Christ
as the head.
The
sign of the cross is a mark of discipleship. Jesus says in Luke 9:23, “If
any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,
and follow me.” The word that the Fathers of the Church used for the sign
of the cross is a Greek word that is the same as what a slave owner put on a
slave, a shepherd put on a sheep and a general put on a soldier— it’s a
declaration that I belong to Christ. When suffering comes, the sign of the
cross is a sign of acceptance. It’s remembering that Jesus became a man and
suffered for us and that we participate in Christ’s suffering. The sign of the
cross says, “I am willing to embrace suffering to share in Christ’s
suffering. When you’re suffering, when you’re feeling like God is not there,
the sign of the cross brings him there and declares his presence whether you
feel it. It is a way of acknowledging him at that time of trial.
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. When you sign yourself, you are
declaring to the devil, “Hands off. I belong to Christ; he is my
protection.” It’s both an offensive and defensive tool.
I’ve
found that the sign of the cross is a way to put to death self-indulgence
—those big problems we have, the stubborn things we can’t get rid of. The
Church Fathers say if you are angry, full of lust, fearful, emotional or grappling
with fleshly problems, make the sign when tempted and it will help dispel the
problem.
Outside
the Catholic Church, the sign of the cross is used by Episcopalians, Lutherans,
Methodists and Presbyterians, particularly in baptisms. In his small catechism,
Martin Luther recommends making the sign of the cross at bedtime and first
thing in the morning.
In
order to participate in the great Sacrifice of the Mass, it is recommended you
use holy water to sign yourself, saying “I am a baptized Christian and I
am authorized to participate in this sacrifice.”
When
I see professional athletes make the sign of the cross during games, I’m not
critical of them. It says that in everything I do, I do in the name of Christ —
even games can be played in the presence of God. When people make the sign of
the cross casually, I pray that they will recognize how serious it is — that
they are declaring that they belong to Christ; they want to obey him and accept
suffering.
Dear
friend, it is important to note that the sign of the Cross is NOT a “good-luck
charm”. Many a times, we often see a Muslim recite their prayers publicly,
other Protestants are often seen with their own way of prayers openly, but some
of us are often ashamed of making the sign of the cross publicly as if someone
is out there to kill or arrest us or probably laugh at us. We need to remember
what Jesus said: If we are ashamed of him, he’ll be ashamed of us… We should
feel confident in letting people know that we are Christians and that we belong
to Christ. 


Let us be proud of our catholic heritage.

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