Tomorrow night is my first CCD lesson of the season. I’m so excited to meet my kids and get back into the swing of teaching the Faith. One of the things I’ll be tackling tomorrow night is the Sign of the Cross.
Our Director specifically requested that we teach our children the Sign of the Cross because our visiting priest (Fr. Eucharist!) had mentioned it seemed to him that no one did it properly. Embarrassed, she made sure at our catechetical meeting that the teachers made this prayer a priority (along with genuflection) so that the next time Fr. Eucharist visited, we wouldn’t be embarrassed by our improper prayer movements at Mass.
I happily agreed to this since the Sign of the Cross and genuflection are two of the biggest things I harped on last year. I noticed right off the bat that my students were doing it improperly, plus it tied nicely into my lesson on the Trinity being One God in Three Divine Persons. So, here’s my little lesson on the Sign of the Cross for anyone who would like to know why we use this motion to open and close our prayers.
The Sign of the Cross
Using our thumb together with our fore and middle fingers, we touch our forehead while saying “In the Name of the Father.” Then, we use those same fingers to touch our abdomen while saying “and of the Son.” Finally, we touch both shoulders while saying, “and of the Holy Spirit.” Some traditions have you kiss those three fingers while saying “Amen.” Otherwise, you can fold your hands while saying “Amen.”
Now, why do we say / do these things?
Well, we open and close all of our prayers with the Sign of the Cross because we understand that God’s Sacrifice is the one and only offering we can make that bridges the divide caused by sin. In offering the infinitely meritorious Sacrifice of Christ’s Passion, we acknowledge that without God’s Love and Mercy, we are nothing. Thus, we begin and end our prayers with this acknowledgement in supplication and thanks for such love.
Plus, in marking ourselves with the Throne of His Sacrifice (the Cross) we are reminding ourselves (and others) to always unite our joys, sufferings and thanksgiving to Christ.
This is a concept I’ve described to my class repeatedly as it’s so difficult to grasp… even amongst theologians. Our humanity cannot understand the depth of Their Unity, but we try! During the Crucifixion, we weren’t just crucifying Christ. Father and Holy Spirit were present as well, which is why I love the Trinitarian Crucifix. It reminds us that though distinct, each Person was fully present and actively participating in the Crucifixion of the Son. Our most simplistic prayer is so rich in context!!! It is the backbone of our Catholicism and the truest, strongest root of our Faith.
I could happily write on this prayer for days on end.
Anyway, moving on to the separate motions of forehead, abdomen and shoulders, we have reasons for placing each Person of the Trinity in these various spots. Everything we do and say as Catholics carries incredible meaning… never forget that!
For example, the three fingers we touch to ourselves are indicative of the Trinity. The remaining two (ring and pinkie) remind us of Christ’s two-fold nature – human and Divine.
We touch our heads for the Father because He is the Source of all Wisdom. We touch our abdomen for the Son to remind us that He, springing forth from the Father of Wisdom, became Incarnate in the womb of the Virgin. Finally, we touch both shoulders for the Holy Spirit to remind ourselves that He, having been sent by the Son, surrounds and protects the Church. Finally, we kiss the three fingers that marked us in the Cross as a sign of love and reverence. We also acknowledge it as a sort of “mini-kiss” of thanksgiving to the Trinity (at least that’s what I view it as).
So the next time you make the Sign of the Cross, meditate a bit on the deeper and beautiful manifestations of our Faith that are proclaimed through our simplest form of prayer.