Why do we make the Sign of the Cross? (Part 1)
Whether it’s grace before meals or spontaneous prayer, Catholics often begin and end their prayers with the sign of the cross. Because we do it so often, it’s easy to take for granted what it’s all about. It is more than just an introduction and conclusion to our formal prayers. It is a prayer itself. In the ancient Hebrew tradition, to invoke or call upon the name of another was to effectively make that person present. Jesus taught His disciples that this is particularly true when invoking His name, as He says “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20). This is one reason why the early Christians invoked the name of the Holy Trinity when making the sign of the cross. They understood that when they prayed “in the name of” the Trinity, they were effectively calling upon God to be present and opening themselves up to His action in their lives. This, too, is why we begin Mass with the sign of the cross: to effectively make God present with us as we worship. Next week, we will discuss another aspect of this significant gesture of prayer.