Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Sign of the Cross

It is a simple thing that Catholics and other Christians do all the time. The Sign of the Cross, blessing yourself. For Catholics, I'm not sure about others, we take our right hand and go to our forehead (in the name of the Father), down past the sternum (and of the Son) and then to the left and right shoulders (and of the Holy Spirit, Amen).

I know that some groups hold their hands in specific fashions. Eastern Orthodox hold the three fingers from and including the thumb in a point and bend the other two down (this is for the trinity and the two natures of Christ), and I believe they go right to left.

But my point is not the how, but the why and what it is.

The sign of the cross was recently the subject of a speech by Pope Benedict XVI (link).

This sign, affirms our faith in the Trinity and is a weapon against evil. As the Pope said:

"The new weapon that Christ puts in our hands is the cross – the sign of reconciliation, the sign of love that is stronger than death."

First, Christ is "a poor man among the poor and for the poor." The pope explained that the poverty Jesus advocates is, first and foremost, an inner "freedom from greed for possession and craving for power." He continued that this "inner freedom" is the prerequisite "for overcoming the corruption and greed that has already devastated the world." People can gain such freedom only "if God becomes our wealth," and it requires "the patience of daily renunciations in which true freedom is developed." Secondly, as "the prince of peace," Christ destroys the instruments of war and announces peace through the cross, which is "the new weapon," the "sign of reconciliation, the sign of love, which is stronger than death," the pope continued. "Every time we make the sign of the cross," he said, "we must remind ourselves not to oppose injustice with injustice, violence with violence." He stressed, "We can only conquer evil with good, and never by doing evil for evil." Thirdly, Christ's kingdom is not tied to any one land, the pope said. Rather, it is "universal," incorporating the whole world and "overcoming every limit, creating unity in the multiplicity of cultures," as happens through the Eucharist.

Such a simple and easy thing to do, make this sign. Such a sacrifice for our Lord to institute it. To affirm our faith and to put ourselves under the protection and guidance of Christ and His love, we make this sign.

To be Christian we must live this sign. So simple to make, so hard to live.

It sould not be a quick motion, or a mechanical motion. But the Sign of the Cross, is statement that says, "This is what I am, this is who I am... claimed and love by Christ. He has called me by name, and I respond with love."

It says I believe. It says I love. It says I forgive. And it says that good will triumph over evil, love over hate and fear.

We can do it every day. We can do it anywhere and at anytime.

It is the sign of who we are called to be, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

1 comment:

erudit said...

Wonderful reminders, thanks!

The Copts actually make the sign of the cross from left to right shoulder. I didn't realize this for the longest time, as I'd first learned it in the Byzantine manner. It's taken a while to retrain myself! :)