Have you ever had a new car? As in, out of the showroom new? If you have, you will probably find that, at first, you drive it very carefully, you avoid hitting the ramps too hard and, where possible park well away from other cars in the car park. But as time goes on and the months pass, we become less careful, familiar perhaps or even complacent. We might hit the ramps a bit harder, and really, the shop door is just too far away and it’s too wet to park all the way over there. The gestures of our faith can be a bit like that. Simple things like making the sign of the cross we take for granted and make them often without thinking – unintentionally. Like our new car we become used to them, familiar.
Making the Sign of the Cross may be the most common of all actions, of all prayers, that Catholics make. We make it when we begin and end prayer; we make it when we bless ourselves with Holy Water; we make it when we enter and leave a church; we start each Mass with it; we may even make it as a blessing and when we pass a Catholic church, when we pass a graveyard or even as a prayer when we see an ambulance or Fire Brigade speed past. A triple cross is made with the thumb at the reading of the Gospel on the fore-head, the lips and the heart, invoking God to enlighten our mind, be on our lips and in our heart as we hear HIS word.
When we make the sign of the cross, we take a step into the Mystery of God. It reminds us that God loves us in Jesus. It reminds us that GOD IS LOVE! In the Sign of the Cross, we profess the deepest mystery of the Christian Faith, namely the Trinity – GOD as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we remember Jesus’ selfless love in dying on the Cross. The combination of the words and the action are a creed – a statement of belief; that GOD is Trinity and loves us unto death (cf: Phil. 2:8). In saying AMEN, we are saying Yes – I/We Believe this! It is true. It is my truth!
Jesus died on the cross, so when we make the sign of the cross we are uniting ourselves with HIS death and yet by baptism we are given the gift of eternal life. So the sign of the cross unites us again with our baptism, renewing, in effect, our baptismal promises. It is also a sign of discipleship; being a follower of the crucified one. The sign of the cross marks us as Christian and gives us the promise of eternal life.
This simple gesture, that we often make carelessly, thoughtlessly, is hugely significant. It is also a deeply Trinitarian prayer, uniting us with GOD, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, drawing us into the mystery of the Trinity, which is the very nature of GOD. This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says: ‘The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith”. The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men “and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin”’ (CCC #234)
As we make the sign of the Cross – take a moment to think about we are doing, why we are doing it, what it means, and what it is asking of us? In this time when we celebrate the Holy Trinity, let’s try not to be complacent, start everyday with an intentional blessing of the sign of the Cross – In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.