The sign of the cross can be an integral part of our spiritual life, especially if we make it devoutly, frequently and openly.
Making the sign of the cross is an ancient devotion that began with the early Christians and continues to this day in the Church. Yet it’s relatively easy to lose sight of its purpose and to make the sign of the cross carelessly, without it being a prayer at all.
Here are three basic tips from The Catholic prayer book and manual of meditations that can help us evaluate our use of the tradition and allow it to have a greater effect on our spiritual life.
“You should make it devoutly, that is, with gratitude for the blessings which you enjoy through that Passion, and with sincere sorrow for your sins. Remember that a…half method of signing yourself with the sign of the Cross, is in reality to dishonor it, and to liken yourself to those who professedly deride and condemn it.”
How many of us make the sign of the cross quickly and without any thought? Try slowing down and making the sign of the cross in a more deliberate manner, remembering the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.
“Next, you should make the sign of the Cross frequently. This is inculcated by the example of the primitive Christians, who by this sacred sign, consecrated themselves to God, and implored his blessing in every action. It is also strongly recommended by all the great saints and fathers of the Church; among the rest by the devout St. Ephraim, who says, speaking on this subject: ‘Cover yourself with the sign of the Cross, as with a shield, signing with it your limbs and your heart. Arm yourself with this sign at your studies, and at all times, for it is the conqueror of death—the opener of the gates of paradise — the great guard of the Church. Fail not to carry this armor about with you in every place, every day and night, every hour and moment. Whether you are at work, or eat or drink, or travel, or whatsoever else you do, sign and arm yourself with the saving sign of the Cross.”
The sign of the cross can become part of our daily routine, not only when we set aside time for prayer, but also when we go about our daily duties. This can help us sanctify every moment of the day and offer it to God.
“Lastly, you should make the sign of the Cross openly, because it is by this sign that you show yourself a Christian, and prove that you do not blush at the Cross and humiliations of your God and crucified Savior. ‘While others,’ says a pious author, ‘boast of ribbons and stars, which are worn and gazed on because they are badges of worldly honor, conferred by the great ones of the earth, you should think it the greatest happiness, the greatest honor, to bear that holy ensign of the King of kings, which is expressive of his greatest mysteries.’ Therefore, far from refraining from this sacred sign, which would point you out as a Christian to utter strangers in the furthest quarter of the globe, you should always make it openly and without hesitation.”
Making the sign of the cross can bring attention from others and we may be hesitate to do so, especially at a restaurant. However, we should be bold and not afraid to profess our Christianity, no matter where we are.