Skip to comments.The Sign of the Cross
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!
(This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is used by permission of the author.)
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.
Connection with today's Gospel highlighted below:
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”
Does anyone have any information regarding the origin and meaning of the Triple Cross???
Triple cross? Be more specific.
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 Christs head on the Cross. The middle bar is that on which the Lord's hands were nailed. The slanted bottom bar is the footrest.
What a coincidence! That was our Gospel reading today, as well.
Ping to #9
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.
Thanks, Our first and last prayer.
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???
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.”
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.”
I have not seen Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio recently on EWTN?
In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.
I love this hymn! Isn’t the music by Ralph Vaughn Williams? It’s appropriately majestic with full organ accompaniment!
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.