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The Sign of the Cross
Catholic Education Resource Center CERC ^ | 2003 | FR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS

Posted on 08/10/2007 9:39:37 PM PDT by Salvation

The Sign of the Cross    FR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS

My friend is Greek Orthodox. In his Church, they make the sign of the cross crossing themselves from the right shoulder to the left, but we do the opposite. Why is there a difference? When did this come into practice?

The sign of the cross is a beautiful gesture which reminds the faithful of the cross of salvation while invoking the Holy Trinity. Technically, the sign of the cross is a sacramental, a sacred sign instituted by the Church which prepares a person to receive grace and which sanctifies a moment or circumstance. Along this thought, this gesture has been used since the earliest times of the Church to begin and to conclude prayer and the Mass.

The early Church Fathers attested to the use of the sign of the cross. Tertullian (d. ca. 250) described the commonness of the sign of the cross: "In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on 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" (De corona, 30).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386) in his Catechetical Lectures stated, "Let us then not be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the cross our seal, made with boldness by our fingers on our brow and in everything; over the bread we eat and the cups we drink, in our comings and in our goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are traveling, and when we are at rest" (Catecheses, 13). Gradually, the sign of the cross was incorporated in different acts of the Mass, such as the three-fold signing of the forehead, lips, and heart at the reading of the gospel or the blessing and signing of the bread and wine to be offered occurs about the ninth century.

The earliest formalized way of making the sign of the cross appeared about the 400s, during the Monophysite heresy which denied the two natures in the divine person of Christ and thereby the unity of the Holy Trinity. The sign of the cross was made from forehead to chest, and then from right shoulder to left shoulder with the right hand. The thumb, forefinger, and middle fingers were held together to symbolize the Holy Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Moreover, these fingers were held in such a way that they represented the Greek abbreviation I X C (Iesus Christus Soter, Jesus Christ Savior): the straight forefinger representing the I; the middle finger crossed with the thumb, the X; and the bent middle finger, the C. The ring finger and "pinky" finger were bent downward against the palm, and symbolize the unity of the human nature and divine nature, and the human will and divine will in the person of Christ. This practice was universal for the whole Church until about the twelfth century, but continues to be the practice for the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches.

An instruction of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) evidences the traditional practice but also indicates a shift in the Latin Rite practice of the Catholic Church: "The sign of the cross is made with three fingers, because the signing is done together with the invocation of the Trinity ... This is how it is done: from above to below, and from the right to the left, because Christ descended from the heavens to the earth, and from the Jews (right) He passed to the Gentiles (left)." While noting the custom of making the cross from the right to the left shoulder was for both the western and eastern Churches, Pope Innocent continued, "Others, however, make the sign of the cross from the left to the right, because from misery (left) we must cross over to glory (right), just as Christ crossed over from death to life, and from Hades to Paradise. [Some priests] do it this way so that they and the people will be signing themselves in the same way. You can easily verify this — picture the priest facing the people for the blessing — when we make the sign of the cross over the people, it is from left to right...." Therefore, about this time, the faithful began to imitate the priest imparting the blessing, going from the left shoulder to the right shoulder with an open hand. Eventually, this practice became the custom for the Western Church.

In the classic work, The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite by Adrian Fortescue and J. B. O’Connell, the sign of the cross is made as follows: "Place the left hand extended under the breast. Hold the right hand extended also. At the word Patris [Father] raise it and touch the forehead; at Filii [Son] touch the breast at a sufficient distance down, but above the left hand; at Spiritus Sancti [Holy Spirit] touch the left and right shoulders; at Amen join the hands if they are to be joined." Although this practice may have evolved from the original and still current practice of Eastern Rite, it nevertheless has been the standing custom for the Latin Rite Church for centuries.

No matter how one technically makes the sign of the cross, the gesture should be made consciously and devoutly. The individual must be mindful of the Holy Trinity, that central dogma that makes Christians "Christians." Also, the individual must remember that the cross is the sign of our salvation: Jesus Christ, true God who became true man, offered the perfect sacrifice for our redemption from sin on the altar of the cross. This simple yet profound act makes each person mindful of the great love of God for us, a love that is stronger than death and promises everlasting life. The sign of the cross should be made with purpose and precision, not hastily or carelessly.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Saunders, Rev. William. "The Sign of the Cross." Arlington Catholic Herald.

This article is reprinted with permission from Arlington Catholic Herald.

THE AUTHOR

Father William Saunders is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College and pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Sterling, Virginia. The above article is a "Straight Answers" column he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Father Saunders is also the author of Straight Answers, a book based on 100 of his columns and published by Cathedral Press in Baltimore.

Copyright © 2003 Arlington Catholic Herald



TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Prayer
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; prayer; trinity
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Continuing education and discussion.
1 posted on 08/10/2007 9:39:40 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: Salvation
The sign of the cross capable of killing microbes

The Sign of the Cross

In the Name of the Father . . .[The Sign of the Cross]

The Sign of the Cross

2 posted on 08/10/2007 9:44:58 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All

I liked all the historical information in this article!


3 posted on 08/10/2007 9:45:50 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: nickcarraway; sandyeggo; Lady In Blue; NYer; american colleen; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; ...
Catholic Discussion Ping!

Please notify me via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Catholic Discussion Ping List.

4 posted on 08/10/2007 9:46:57 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

And the “sign of the cross” as a personal unction, is found where in the Bible?


5 posted on 08/10/2007 9:48:46 PM PDT by doc1019 (Fred Thompson '08)
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To: doc1019

And Jesus told the Apostles:

Paraphrasing from a Gospel:

Go out and spread the Gospel, baptizing all in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes, I really wonder if you guys read the Gospels of if you just read St. Paul.


6 posted on 08/10/2007 9:51:15 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

Still see nothing that requires me to show the sign of the cross, by crossing myself. Sometimes I wonder why some of you make stuff.


7 posted on 08/10/2007 9:57:10 PM PDT by doc1019 (Fred Thompson '08)
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To: doc1019

And that’s the beauty of it. You don’t have to. You also don’t need to recognize the cross as a sacred symbol of christianity either. OR recognize the canonization of St. Augustine, St. Peter, St. Paul, etc, etc. No one is twisting your arm. You can join the methodists, quakers or the Benny Hinn crusade.


8 posted on 08/10/2007 10:14:09 PM PDT by pissant (Duncan Hunter: Warrior, Statesman, Conservative)
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To: doc1019

**Still see nothing that requires me to show the sign of the cross, by crossing myself. Sometimes I wonder why some of you make stuff.**

So please stop crashing the Catholic threads then. Good bye.


9 posted on 08/10/2007 10:22:02 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: doc1019

And of course, the other thing you might do is open your eyes, your ears, your mind, and your heart.

You seem to be stuck somewhere.


10 posted on 08/10/2007 10:23:08 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

Thank you so much for this post!!!


11 posted on 08/11/2007 12:57:14 AM PDT by GOP Poet
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To: Salvation
Although you will find no such thing in the bible no matter how much you twist the scripture, there seems to nothing in there that would prohibit the gesture...And as a result, the article didn't merit a response from me until I read this mis-information...

The individual must be mindful of the Holy Trinity, that central dogma that makes Christians "Christians."

This kind of teaching is what will send people to an eternity in Hell...

Belief in the Holy Trinity will not save anyone...Being mindful of the Trinity DOES NOT make Christians, Christians...

Jesus giving His life as the last Sacrifice and accepting that sacrifice for your sin is what makes a Christian, Christian...

You can make the sign of the cross a million times a day...It surely won't save you...

12 posted on 08/11/2007 5:28:34 AM PDT by Iscool (OK, I'm Back...Now what were your other two wishes???)
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To: doc1019

A deeper question is why you show no humility in the face of ancient practice. Who annointed you arbiter of things to be considered acceptible? This practice shows evidence of being in use virtually from the beginning, yet you have the nerve to ask: “Where is that in the Bible?” You’d do better to wonder why your ecclesial community jettisoned traditions that the Church adopted virtually - if not literally - from the time of the Apostles. You rail against anything not specifically found in the Bible, but in doing so you unintentioanlly point out how much the Catholic Church brings forth from apostolic times.

Not everything spanning the time of historical Christianity can be found in the Bible. For 1500 years, in traceable organic development, the Church, East and West, found no problem in these types of sacramentals. Only in the 16th Century did your spiritual forebears decide (on their own authority) that there was suddenly a problem with anything not specifically “mandated” by Scripture. If they were right, then there is little evidence that God, in the preceding 1500 years, showed any providential care for His Church, for He would never suffer such practices to develop if He cared for the Church. If they were wrong - and they were - then you should shudder at how much you and your ancestors threw away with no evidence of God’s mandate or authorization at all.

Your cry of “the Bible alone” is not correct, for it is not found in Scripture itself and its sudden appearance 3/4 of the way to our own time demonstrates clearly that it is a man-made concept. Your argument only holds true if the concept is demonstrably of apostolic origin. That cannot be proven. Therefore, your protests are founded on sand, and it is not our fault if you have built a mere shell of a theological edifice on that sand.

For 2000 years, the Church has upheld the three-fold teaching authority of Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium. The evidence of God’s design and positive will in this setup is perfectly clear. For you to remove two of the legs holding up God’s arrangement puts your balance entirely at the mercy of your ability to ride a spiritual unicycle - a very inefficient mode of transportation - spiritual or otherwise - indeed!


13 posted on 08/11/2007 7:45:09 AM PDT by magisterium
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To: GOP Poet

Thanks. I liked the touch of history in it.


14 posted on 08/11/2007 9:08:44 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: magisterium

Excellent post, thank you.

Many people will be quite surprised when they meet the Lord at their Particular Judgment at the moment of death and they are questioned about why they questioned the Holy Trinity.

Even in the Baptism of Christ, we have the voice of the Father, the Baptism of the Son, and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. All this — at the very beginning of Jesus Christ’s public life!

There IS a message here!

Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now,
and ever shall be.
Amen!


15 posted on 08/11/2007 9:13:18 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: doc1019
as a personal unction

I don't understand this use of "unction".

16 posted on 08/11/2007 10:30:24 AM PDT by Mad Dawg (Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.)
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To: Iscool

Disbelief in the Trinity will surely lead to hell.

Creation of one’s own church will surely lead to hell.

Privately interpreting Scripture will surely lead to hell.

This is a public service message.


17 posted on 08/11/2007 11:34:50 AM PDT by MarkBsnr (V. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae. R. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.)
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To: Iscool

If you don’t understand Christianity, you’re unlikely to be able to be a Christian, Iscool.

The Trinity is part of Christianity.


18 posted on 08/11/2007 12:17:25 PM PDT by AlaninSA (In tabulario donationem feci.)
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To: Iscool
Belief in the Holy Trinity will not save anyone...Being mindful of the Trinity DOES NOT make Christians, Christians...

Jesus giving His life as the last Sacrifice and accepting that sacrifice for your sin is what makes a Christian, Christian...

You can make the sign of the cross a million times a day...It surely won't save you...

You are right in principle. The act of making the sign of the cross can in no way save anyone from the mere act of making it. However, the idea is that when Catholics make the sign of the cross it is supposed to be a reminder to them that they need to accept Christ and submit to the sacrifice which the sign of the cross represents. By making this sign often it is hoped that an individual will remind himself how much he must rely upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and thus make the internal changes in their life which the Lord requires of them for their own salvation. You are right, belief alone will save no one. The Epistle of James says, Faith without works is dead being alone. there just saying that we accept Jesus Christ does not mean that we are saved. In order to work out our own salvation we must not only believe but go beyond mere belief. Once we have faith in Jesus Christ we must strive for the rest of our lives to live in harmony with Him.

19 posted on 08/11/2007 2:04:03 PM PDT by old republic
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To: MarkBsnr
Disbelief in the Trinity will surely lead to hell.

I believe in the One who revealed himself as Trinity to the Church, the body of His incarnate Son.

I don't know about "surely leading to Hell" in the terms of your helpful public service announcement, but I think the "royal road" to a deeper faith in the God who reveals Himself and His love to us is found in the Church.

20 posted on 08/11/2007 4:35:33 PM PDT by Mad Dawg (Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.)
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To: doc1019

It sounds like Tertulian was doing it (250 AD) even as the Church was still putting the Bible together in its final form.


21 posted on 08/11/2007 6:37:36 PM PDT by bboop (Stealth Tutor)
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To: Iscool

I thought there were crosses in Protestant churches.


22 posted on 08/12/2007 10:05:04 AM PDT by D-fendr
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To: D-fendr
I thought there were crosses in Protestant churches.

Some...Not all...

23 posted on 08/12/2007 3:45:41 PM PDT by Iscool (OK, I'm Back...Now what were your other two wishes???)
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To: Iscool

Thank goodness there’s some Biblical churches left.

Do they put their hands together when they pray?


24 posted on 08/12/2007 4:00:27 PM PDT by D-fendr
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To: MarkBsnr
Disbelief in the Trinity will surely lead to hell.

Nonsense...People are saved by accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior...Understanding the process often comes later...

Creation of one’s own church will surely lead to hell.

More nonsense...I two or more are gathered together, Jesus is in the midst of the bunch...

When a person gets saved, he/she is the church...The Body...Has nothing to do with a religious organization of sinners, some possibly saved and some not...

The 'church' is spiritual...It is NOT physical...It doesn't matter how big and expensive your church is, or even if you have one... If you are not in the 'spiritual' church, you aren't in the church at all and you are not a Christian...

Privately interpreting Scripture will surely lead to hell.

As your church should well know since it is the King of private interpreters...But alas, you are wrong again...

Fortunately, you don't have to be right about too many things in the scripture other than the way to salvation...If you got THAT right, you'll still make it to Heaven, and lucky for you guys...

25 posted on 08/12/2007 4:08:04 PM PDT by Iscool (OK, I'm Back...Now what were your other two wishes???)
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To: AlaninSA
If you don’t understand Christianity, you’re unlikely to be able to be a Christian, Iscool.

I don't agree at all...All you need to know is that you are a sinner and that a God exists that can save you...And all you have to do is ask Him...

The Trinity is part of Christianity.

Yes, it certainly is...But knowing that will not save you...And not knowing that will not prevent you from getting saved...

26 posted on 08/12/2007 4:15:02 PM PDT by Iscool (OK, I'm Back...Now what were your other two wishes???)
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To: old republic
You are right, belief alone will save no one. The Epistle of James says, Faith without works is dead being alone. there just saying that we accept Jesus Christ does not mean that we are saved.

You start twisting things like that, someone's going to think you are a Catholic...

I did NOT say belief in Jesus Christ as your Saviour would not save you...I said belief in the Trinity as 1 in 3, and 3 in 1 will not save you...

Nice try though...

27 posted on 08/12/2007 4:19:16 PM PDT by Iscool (OK, I'm Back...Now what were your other two wishes???)
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To: Mad Dawg
but I think the "royal road" to a deeper faith in the God who reveals Himself and His love to us is found in the Church.

Can't be...Your church would be nothing without the scripture, even tho it's (the scripture) severely abused...

There are plenty of folks that have a very 'deep faith' in God who never set foot in one of your churches but are fed directly thru the word of God, the scripture...

28 posted on 08/12/2007 4:24:42 PM PDT by Iscool (OK, I'm Back...Now what were your other two wishes???)
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To: Iscool

Yep, just say the sinner’s prayer. All ya gotta do. One time. It’s in the Bible.


29 posted on 08/12/2007 4:33:34 PM PDT by D-fendr
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To: Iscool

That’s right. You can believe God is four-in-twelve if you want and Jesus and The Father are cousins if you want. Don’t matter.

Trinity is just another of those traditions of men.


30 posted on 08/12/2007 4:43:34 PM PDT by D-fendr
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To: Iscool

I don’t see how your post contradicts mine — except for the “Can’t be” part. You put some other controversial statements in there, but while I disagree with them to some extent, they don’t have anything to do with what I said.


31 posted on 08/12/2007 4:44:40 PM PDT by Mad Dawg (Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.)
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To: Iscool

OK, good. I thought you were denying the Trinity. My apologies. I fully agree with you that (a) “All you need to know is that you are a sinner and that a God exists that can save you...And all you have to do is ask Him...” and (b) “But knowing that will not save you...”

But you’re wrong on this point:

“And not knowing that will not prevent you from getting saved...”


32 posted on 08/12/2007 5:18:42 PM PDT by AlaninSA (In tabulario donationem feci.)
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To: AlaninSA
But you’re wrong on this point:

“And not knowing that will not prevent you from getting saved...”

Knowing that God is a Trinity in Unity will not save you. Satan knows that. (He may even understand it better than I do, which ain't hard.)

Not knowing it will not damn you, I think. You could not know it through invincible ignorance or other incapacity. You could have been given the grace to say the sinner's prayer and know as little about the Catholic Church and what she teaches as some of our antagonists here know (or even less), and not have their opportunities to learn. "A broken and contrite heart He will not despise." Willful ignorance on the other hand could prove to be mortal.

I think the "means of grace" provide immeasurable assistance, and sound doctrine is better and more useful than no or wrong doctrine.

33 posted on 08/12/2007 5:40:42 PM PDT by Mad Dawg (Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.)
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To: Iscool
whoa.....slow down there. The sign of the cross is nothing more than an acknowledgment of that persons acceptance of the Holy Trinity and Yeshua.

No, the sign of the cross won’t save you....the faith that causes one to cross himself in honor of the Lord is what saves him.

Belief in the Holy Trinity is indeed belief in G_d in three distinct persons. Jesus himself breathed on them (the apostles) and began the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

34 posted on 08/12/2007 5:54:40 PM PDT by servantboy777
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To: Salvation

Excellent post, thank you...

...agreed...post #13 was an excellent response, albeit no doubt unheeded, to an insolent previous post...


35 posted on 08/13/2007 7:40:12 AM PDT by IrishBrigade
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To: Iscool

Your church would be nothing without the scripture, even tho it’s (the scripture) severely abused...

...a litle bit of detailed explanation of the above inane utterance would be of benefit...to us beknighted, uncool children of the papacy...


36 posted on 08/13/2007 7:52:31 AM PDT by IrishBrigade
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To: doc1019
And the “sign of the cross” as a personal unction, is found where in the Bible?

Doesn't the Bible tell us that it does not contain all of the works of Jesus Christ?

If it cannot contain all of His works, how could it contain all of the works of His Church?

37 posted on 08/13/2007 9:36:43 AM PDT by FormerLib (Sacrificing our land and our blood cannot buy protection from jihad.-Bishop Artemije of Kosovo)
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To: Iscool
You can make the sign of the cross a million times a day...It surely won't save you...

And denying the Cross will? I think not.

38 posted on 08/13/2007 9:38:22 AM PDT by FormerLib (Sacrificing our land and our blood cannot buy protection from jihad.-Bishop Artemije of Kosovo)
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To: Iscool
...but are fed directly thru the word of God, the scripture...

Good thing the Church you disdain assembled those New Testament books for you.

Or did they get that part wrong, too? Oh, dear!

39 posted on 08/13/2007 9:42:03 AM PDT by FormerLib (Sacrificing our land and our blood cannot buy protection from jihad.-Bishop Artemije of Kosovo)
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To: D-fendr
Trinity is just another of those traditions of men.

What!? How can a church claim to be a "Biblical church" if it doesn't believe in the Trinity?

40 posted on 08/13/2007 9:51:48 AM PDT by Pyro7480 ("Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus" -St. Ralph Sherwin's last words at Tyburn)
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To: Pyro7480; Iscool

I’ll defer to Iscool on that question.


41 posted on 08/13/2007 10:40:12 AM PDT by D-fendr
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To: FormerLib
Good thing the Church you disdain assembled those New Testament books for you.

Or did they get that part wrong, too? Oh, dear!

Well, yes...Your church is wrong...And you are wrong for quoting your church...

Your church did compile a bible...In fact, most every bible out there in the English language is a Catholic bible...

However, the Bible I know to be the word of God is not a Catholic Bible...It is the KJV and is not based on your Catholic bibles...

So no, your church did not create nor give me my Bible...

42 posted on 08/13/2007 11:02:57 AM PDT by Iscool (OK, I'm Back...Now what were your other two wishes???)
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To: D-fendr
I’ll defer to Iscool on that question

You making stuff up again or are you quoting someone else??? You certainly aren't quoting anything I said...

43 posted on 08/13/2007 11:04:28 AM PDT by Iscool (OK, I'm Back...Now what were your other two wishes???)
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To: FormerLib
And denying the Cross will? I think not.

Does your statement have anything to do with the topic at hand???

44 posted on 08/13/2007 11:07:31 AM PDT by Iscool (OK, I'm Back...Now what were your other two wishes???)
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To: Iscool
It is the KJV and is not based on your Catholic bibles...

So no, your church did not create nor give me my Bible...

Except that I'm not Roman Catholic, but the New Testament books of the Bible that you use was compiled by the Ecumenical Councils that were conducted and recognized by the Catholic Church.

By the way, are you asserting that the KJV did not translate from any Latin Bibles but only the Greek ones?

If so, what I said about the Ecumenical Councils still applies.

Ok, so you think they got all of the books of the Bible correct, at least!

45 posted on 08/13/2007 11:16:08 AM PDT by FormerLib (Sacrificing our land and our blood cannot buy protection from jihad.-Bishop Artemije of Kosovo)
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To: Iscool
Does your statement have anything to do with the topic at hand???

Absolutely!

Perhaps you should read the referenced article again.

46 posted on 08/13/2007 11:17:17 AM PDT by FormerLib (Sacrificing our land and our blood cannot buy protection from jihad.-Bishop Artemije of Kosovo)
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To: Iscool

It is the KJV and is not based on your Catholic bibles...

...I see...the KJV was based on something totally different and just happened to come up with the same NT books as our Catholic Bibles...just happenstance, I guess...coincidence is an amazing thing, isn’t it...


47 posted on 08/13/2007 11:19:13 AM PDT by IrishBrigade
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To: Iscool

Me? I’m just passing along the question.

“How can a church claim to be a “Biblical church” if it doesn’t believe in the Trinity?”


48 posted on 08/13/2007 11:22:08 AM PDT by D-fendr
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To: FormerLib

By the way, are you asserting that the KJV did not translate from any Latin Bibles but only the Greek ones?...

...he can assert no such thing...of course the KJV was translated using primarily Greek and Hebrew texts, but the Vulgate was used as a secondary source to resolve certain translation difficulties in the Textus Receptus...


49 posted on 08/13/2007 11:34:07 AM PDT by IrishBrigade
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To: IrishBrigade
...the Vulgate was used as a secondary source...

That's how I understood my history of the KJV as well so the statement that no "Catholic Bible" was used is simply incorrect.

50 posted on 08/13/2007 11:35:54 AM PDT by FormerLib (Sacrificing our land and our blood cannot buy protection from jihad.-Bishop Artemije of Kosovo)
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