When we were kids we taught by our parents, priests, and catechists to make the sign of the Cross many times on a daily bases as a ritualistic hand motion. ‘The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”’(CCC2157). We make the sign of the Cross ‘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 awake; when we are in the way and when we are still.’ St. Cyril of Jerusalem from the forth century said (Fisheaters, the Sign of the Cross 2010) and ‘In all our travels and movements’, says St Tertullian (Newadvent, Sign of the Cross 2010).
What is the significance of making that, and what does it include? This is very important matter to all of us, especially for the new generation who are struggling because of the clashing symbols and multi cultural mass media. I would like to share this article the readers. Firstly, I will explain the significance of the sign of the Cross including the Trinitarian prayer, and then I ask you to response hopping it will cover this vital sign.
Signing the Cross
Signing the Cross is an old prayer. We believe in God the Father, in Jesus Christ His only Son, our redeemer and saviour, and we believe in the Holy Spirit, whom we have accepted when we were baptized. We were baptized ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (CCC232). We were taught to sign the Cross that we enjoyed, and still, many times a day. It’s a prayer that dates back to the early church. We can find it in the Our Father, the Eucharistic Prayer and every Church’s Sacrament which we celebrate in the church and in every daily prayer. ‘The sign of the cross, on the threshold of the celebration, marks with the imprint of Christ the one who is going to belong to him and signifies the grace of the redemption Christ won for us by his cross.’ (CCC1235) We can say that it’s a perfect gesture and prayer which almost have not been changed across the history of the church. How and why do we make the sign of the Cross?
How do we Sign the Cross?
To sign the Cross, we have to mark on our forehead then on our breast, after that on the shoulders from the left to right . This is when we hold the thumb and two fingers together and saying ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.’
Why the Sign?
Why do we sign the Cross? Firstly, this sign indicates symbolically the shape of Christ’s Cross. Secondly, it’s a symbol of our faith as Christians in the crucified Christ. Thirdly, it means we believe in the Trinity; One God in three Persons. It’s a mystery of the Holy Trinity which is the central of our faith. Fourthly, it means we join our mind, heart and strength all together and dedicated them to our God. It reflects the union of the three dimension of our personality: the physical, the psychological, and the spiritual. Then, by signing the Cross, we remember of ‘God become bearers of the saving and sanctifying action of Christ’ (CCC1189), we declare that by this sign we are invited by Jesus Christ to share His life. After that, it means that the Trinity dwell in us when we are sealed by Christ. Jesus Christ requested the Apostles to sign it when they baptize the new believers every where. Finally, by signing ourselves with the Cross we protect our selves and lives.
How we Response
I suggest setting a small secret place for prayer corner at home where the Cross is in the center. Anyway, some faithful hang a cross around their necks; they believe that the sign of the cross blesses their body and feel in peace; some sign the Cross when waking up, after a nightmare at midnight, or passing by any church in some countries (like Greece). In Iraq some Muslim women, who their ancestors were Christian, often sign the Cross over the flour when making bread (as in Tikrit). Finally we believe that difficulties are like small crosses which we embrace as Jesus Christ said and did.
Many Christian families, especially in the West, don’t practice signing their selves with the Cross, but for us, the sign of the Cross has become an essential symbol for our Christian life. ‘The sign of the Cross makes kings of all those reborn in Christ’ as St Leo the Great said (CCC786).
We have seen how the sign of the Cross is encountering the faithful during the day everywhere. It’s a short prayer that makes us peace makers, joining with a witness of believers across 2000 years.
As we have been facing the challenges of the clashing symbols in the religious and cultural fields of life, it’s an urgent matter to adhere to this sign. We have seen and heard that in many places, the Christian symbols have been banned (as in some Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia); however, the sign of the Cross is still a lively symbol for many. It has a significant value in the Christian’s culture, religion, and faith. It makes us more hopeful and optimistic, because it’s an image of the center of our faith.
I think, parish priests should occasionally continue confirming this sign during the celebration of the Sacraments. There is a ‘harmony of the signs of celebration so that the mystery celebrated is imprinted in the heart’s memory and is then expressed in the new life of the faithful’ (CCC1162). Moreover, Christian media should also take its part in confirming it as Pope John Paull II wrote; ‘Along with traditional means such as witness of life, catechetics, personal contact, popular piety, the liturgy and similar celebrations, the use of media is now essential in evangelization and catechesis.’; ‘The media can be used to proclaim the Gospel’ (John Paul II, Pastoral Instruction “Aetatis Novae”1992). And pastors with the faithful should be encouraged to use media for translating their faith.
• The Holy See (1994): Catechism of the Catholic Church, Georffrey Chapman
• The Sign of the Cross, 2010 [online]. Web: http://www.fisheaters.com/sign.html [09 March 2010]
• Sign of the Cross, 2010 [online]. Web: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13785a.htm [10 March 2010]
• John Paull II, Pope, 1992. PASTORAL INSTRUCTION “AETATIS NOVAE” ON SOCIAL COMMUNICATIONS, 2010 [online]. Web: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/pccs/documents/rc_pc_pccs_doc_22021992_aetatis_en.html [11 March 2010]
By Fr Habib Jajou
 the Orthodox Church faithful signs from right to left.
 the Orthodox Church faithful signs from right to left.