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The Sign of the Cross
Catholic Exchange ^ | July 6, 2007 | Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.

Posted on 07/08/2007 5:42:54 AM PDT by NYer

To some, being Italian-American means overindulging in pasta and joking about tough guys.  But being Italian means being heir to a rich tradition stretching back before the Caesars.  Included are philosophers like Seneca, poets like Dante, artists such as Michelangelo, and saints like Francis of Assisi.

To some, being Catholic means giving up chocolate for Lent.  But those who explore their Catholic heritage discover thousands of years of meaning, insight, and life-giving resources: inspiring stories about people from Abraham to Mother Teresa, practical instruction by some of the most brilliant thinkers of all time, tried and true spiritual practices that make people grow in character and happiness.

In John 10:10, Jesus said "I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly."  That recalls Isaiah who, speaking of God's people, says: "Lo, I will spread prosperity over her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent."  (Is 66:10-14, this Sunday's first reading).  The Catholic Church is all about preserving and enjoying the WHOLE, rich heritage of Christ.  In fact, the word "Catholic" comes from the Greek word for "whole."  The problem is that some preserve outward practices of this heritage, like giving up something for Lent, but have lost the connection with the meaning and power of the practice.

Take for example the sign of the cross.  For some it is just a mechanical part of "logging on" and "logging off" of our time "connected" to God via prayer.  For others, it seems no more than a good-luck charm to make superstitiously before stepping up to bat.

To see what it really means, we need to look where it comes from.  In baptism, a cross is traced on the forehead of the baptized.  The same happens in confirmation, where it is done with sacred oil called "chrism."  As the cross is traced, the name of the triune God is pronounced, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

How far back in time does this practice go?  Paul says "I bear the brand marks of Jesus in my body."  (Gal 6:14-18, Sunday's second reading).  Notice that 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).  Sounds a lot like the sign of the cross, doesn't it?

 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.

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).

Each time I make this sign, it is a renewal of my "decision for Christ," my intimate relationship of love with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit which comes as a pure gift of God's grace through faith, baptism and confirmation.  In this simple little sign is contained the very essence of the Gospel.

The good news is that everything in the Catholic heritage is like this — full of rich meaning that we've forgotten. But we can recover the meaning and reactivate the power. Let's get busy exploring and unpacking the amazing Catholic tradition!


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: catholic; trinity
Dr. D'Ambrosio studied under Avery Cardinal Dulles for his Ph.D. in historical theology and taught for many years at the University of Dallas. He now directs www.crossroadsinitiative.com, which offers Catholic resources for RCIA and adult and teen faith formation, with a special emphasis on the Year of the Eucharist, the Theology of the Body, the early Church Fathers, and the Sacrament of Confirmation.

(This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is used by permission of the author.)

1 posted on 07/08/2007 5:42:54 AM PDT by NYer
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To: Lady In Blue; Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; Romulus; ...

History bump


2 posted on 07/08/2007 5:43:39 AM PDT by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: NYer
Good morning. I hope you are feeling well.

Good post.

For some it is just a mechanical part of "logging on" and "logging off" of our time "connected" to God via prayer.

I'm sorry, but that was funny.

5.56mm

3 posted on 07/08/2007 6:19:30 AM PDT by M Kehoe
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To: NYer
I posted this on the Daily Readings thread last night and was going to post it today. LOL! Glad you did!

Connection with today's Gospel highlighted below:

Gospel
Lk 10:1-12, 17-20 or 10:1-9

At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter, first say,
‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you,
for the laborer deserves his payment.
Do not move about from one house to another.
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you,
eat what is set before you,
cure the sick in it and say to them,
‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’
Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you,
go out into the streets and say,
‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet,
even that we shake off against you.’
Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand.
I tell you,
it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.”

The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said,
“Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.”
Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.
Behold, I have given you the power to ‘tread upon serpents’ and scorpions
and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you,
but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

4 posted on 07/08/2007 7:36:09 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: NYer

The connection with the Second Reading is adequately mentioned. I just thought some might miss that one-liner in the Gospel.

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen”


5 posted on 07/08/2007 7:38:34 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: NYer

Does anyone have any information regarding the origin and meaning of the Triple Cross???


6 posted on 07/08/2007 10:30:43 AM PDT by Uncle Chip (TRUTH : Ignore it. Deride it. Allegorize it. Interpret it. But you can't ESCAPE it.)
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To: Uncle Chip

Triple cross? Be more specific.


7 posted on 07/08/2007 10:37:35 AM PDT by Pyro7480 ("Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus" -St. Ralph Sherwin's last words at Tyburn)
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To: Uncle Chip
Do you mean this one?


8 posted on 07/08/2007 10:47:03 AM PDT by Pyro7480 ("Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus" -St. Ralph Sherwin's last words at Tyburn)
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To: Uncle Chip
Does anyone have any information regarding the origin and meaning of the Triple Cross???

Are you referring to the 3 bar cross? There are several versions. The Maronite Catholic Church has the Antiochene or 3 bar cross. You can see it inside the Synod logo here below.

The Antiochene Cross (three bar Cross) is in the center to represent the tree of life as envisioned by the Syriac writers.  It also represents the unity between bishops, patriarch and the Holy See. Under the Cross there is Christ's promise "I am with you to the end of time". The color gold represents God's benevolence.

There is another 3 bar cross that belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The top bar is the title-board, which Pilate ordered to be hung in mockery over Christ’s head on the Cross. The middle bar is that on which the Lord's hands were nailed. The slanted bottom bar is the footrest.

9 posted on 07/08/2007 10:47:03 AM PDT by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: Salvation

What a coincidence! That was our Gospel reading today, as well.


10 posted on 07/08/2007 10:49:36 AM PDT by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: Pyro7480

Ping to #9


11 posted on 07/08/2007 10:50:28 AM PDT by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: Salvation
At the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
every tongue confess him King of glory now;
'tis the Father's pleasure we should call him Lord,
who from the beginning was the mighty Word.

At his voice creation sprang at once to sight,
all the angel faces, all the hosts of light,
Thrones and Dominations, stars upon their way,
all the heavenly orders, in their great array.

Humbled for a season, to receive a Name
from the lips of sinners, unto whom he came,
faithfully he bore it spotless to the last,
brought it back victorious, when from death he passed;

Bore it up triumphant, with its human light,
through all ranks of creatures, to the central height,
to the throne of Godhead, to the Father's breast;
filled it with the glory of that perfect rest.

Name him, brothers, name him, with love as strong as death,
but with awe and wonder and with bated breath;
he is God the Savior, he is Christ the Lord,
ever to be worshiped, trusted, and adored.

In your hearts enthrone him; there let him subdue
all that is not holy, all that is not true;
crown him as your Captain in temptation's hour;
let his will enfold you in its light and power.

Brothers, this Lord Jesus shall return again,
with his Father's glory with his angel train;
for all wreaths of empire meet upon his brow,
and our hearts confess him King of glory now.

12 posted on 07/08/2007 10:57:27 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: NYer

Thanks, Our first and last prayer.


13 posted on 07/08/2007 11:07:50 AM PDT by ex-snook ("But above all things, truth beareth away the victory.")
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To: Pyro7480; NYer
That's the one --- its called the Papal Cross in heraldry. I had a book with a picture showing Pope Leo the Great holding it and wondered if he was the originator of the useage of the Papal Cross and just where the idea for it came from.

I also see people crossing themselves three times --- on the forehead, the mouth, and breast. I don't remember seeing people do that when I was younger. Isn't a single sign of the cross sufficient??? Why three???

14 posted on 07/08/2007 11:39:31 AM PDT by Uncle Chip (TRUTH : Ignore it. Deride it. Allegorize it. Interpret it. But you can't ESCAPE it.)
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To: Uncle Chip

It is at the reading of the gospel that we cross our foreheads, lips and heart to ask God “May the Word be in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart.”


15 posted on 07/08/2007 12:12:46 PM PDT by tiki
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To: tiki; Uncle Chip

This particular prayer and triple signing takes place right before the reading of the Holy Gospel at Mass.

Tiki, I learned it a bit differently but it is all the same prayer. The way I was taught, as a convert, is:

“May the words of the Holy Gospel be in my mind, on my lips and in my heart.”


16 posted on 07/08/2007 12:44:36 PM PDT by Running On Empty (The three sorriest words: "It's too late")
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To: NYer

I have not seen Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio recently on EWTN?


17 posted on 07/08/2007 5:25:05 PM PDT by franky1
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To: Salvation; NYer

In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.


18 posted on 07/08/2007 8:15:42 PM PDT by baa39 (Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.)
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To: AnAmericanMother

I love this hymn! Isn’t the music by Ralph Vaughn Williams? It’s appropriately majestic with full organ accompaniment!


19 posted on 07/09/2007 5:08:57 AM PDT by nanetteclaret (Our Lady's Hat Society)
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To: nanetteclaret
Good ol' Ralph! Yup, the Episcopal hymnal has always used his tune "King's Weston" for this, but there are 3-4 other hymn tunes in use in England and Australia.

Vaughn Williams really was the perfect composer for the English Hymnal. So much of his music (including this tune) is based on traditional English folk song, so it's organically English and fits the rhythm of English speech to a "T". His 4 part setting of the "Magnificat" with the old Prayer Book words is perfection.

20 posted on 07/09/2007 6:35:03 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: AnAmericanMother

Another of my favorites of his is “For All the Saints” (especially with all the verses). It’s so inspiring, plus it has one of those melodies that never ends ... like our pilgrimage here on earth...


21 posted on 07/09/2007 7:53:01 AM PDT by nanetteclaret (Our Lady's Hat Society)
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To: nanetteclaret
The ECUSA hymnal has alternating unison and parts verses, with beautiful smooth harmony in the parts verses alternating with the crashing unison accompaniment.

Pretty cool.

The Piskies may be a bunch of heretics, but their music is the tops.

22 posted on 07/09/2007 7:54:24 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: AnAmericanMother

Anglican Music is one reason I waited so long to convert. My old ECUSA parish, Incarnation in Dallas, has a fabulous music program featuring all the wonderful English hymns and anthems as well as awesome organ and organists. They’ve been on tour to England several times, made numerous CDs, and have several choirs for various ages. It was hard to give up... :(

But I gradually realized, better to have bad music and Truth, than excellent music and heresy...


23 posted on 07/09/2007 9:19:41 AM PDT by nanetteclaret (Our Lady's Hat Society)
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To: nanetteclaret
Me too, but the Lord and St. Cecilia took pity on me.

Our music is wonderful. Any time you're in the Atlanta area, drop in and we'll sing something particularly Anglican (we sing a lot of Byrd, Tallis, and the Victorians like Howells).

24 posted on 07/09/2007 11:51:35 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: AnAmericanMother

I would love it! Humming ...


25 posted on 07/09/2007 12:20:56 PM PDT by nanetteclaret (Our Lady's Hat Society)
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