Why make the sign of the cross? Fr Chris gives an answer in the next in our series explaining some of the things we do at St Chrysostom’s.
Many people at St Chrysostom’s “make” the sign of the Cross, at the beginning of Mass, in our prayers and at other times. We touch first our foreheads, then our left and right shoulders, and lastly our chests – tracing the shape of the cross on our bodies. Why do we do this?
The Christian life is about living out a faith. Making the sign of the cross allows our actions to speak as well as our words.
In Baptism the candidates are marked with the cross by people tracing a simple cross shape on their forehead, accompanied by the words “Christ claims you for his own. Receive the sign of his cross.”
The Cross has since the earliest time been a symbol of both shame, and, also of triumph. Without the Cross there can be no resurrection. St Paul remarks that this was a stumbling block for early believers, but also a symbol of God’s power and wisdom of God.
When we make the sign of the cross we are showing ourselves and others how important the cross is. We make a sign which sums up our belief, we renew our commitment to Christ, we show our willingness to “take up our own Cross” to follow Christ, and we demonstrate to the world that we are Christians.
The cross is our Christian sign and symbol – it is our ‘badge.’ Our churches have many different forms of the cross in them and we may have crucifixes or crosses displayed in our homes. Many people wear a cross around their necks.
Our Christian faith is not merely a matter of words or prayers. Of course it is those things, and it is more. After we are signed with the Cross in Baptism we are encouraged “not to be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified. Fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ against sin and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life.”
Martin Luther recommended people to remind themselves of all this by signing themselves with the Cross in the morning and in the evening. We often see athletes and football players publically making the sign of the Cross and it is good to think of them offering all their talents to God in this way.
So too may we be prepared to have the courage to confess our Christian faith in the crucified Lord in this public and open way.