Monday, January 15, 2007

The Sign of the Cross

The most basic Christian gesture in prayer is and always will be the sign of the Cross. It is a way of confessing Christ crucified with one's very body, in accordance with the programmatic words of St. Paul: "[W]e preach Christ Crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Hews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:23f). Again he says: "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (2:2). To seal oneself with the sign of the Cross is a visible and public Yes to him who suffered for us; to him who in the body has made God's love visible, even to the utmost; to the God who reigns not by destruction but by the humility of suffering and love, which is stronger than all the power of the world and wiser than all the calculating intelligence of men. The sign of the Cross is a confession of faith: I believe in him who suffered for me and rose again; in him who has transformed the sign of shame into a sign of hope and of the love of God that is present with us. The confession of faith is a confession of hope: I believe in him who in his weakness is the Almighty; in him who can and will save me even in apparent absence and impotence. By signing ourselves with the Cross, we place ourselves under the protection of the Cross, hold it in front of us like a shield that will guard us in all the distress of daily life and give us the courage to go on. We accept it as a signpost that we follow: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mk 8:34). The Cross shows us the road of life - the imitation of Christ.

One does wonder if the depth of the symbolism of such a formerly frequent act has not been lost on this generation. Cardinal Ratzinger brought out this wonderful depth in his The Spirit of the Liturgy in the above quote. It seems so many find it another aspect of Catholicism that was to be shunned along with pious devotions, something that was quaint and antiquated, something that kept us from "relating" to others in this world. I say it is an act we need to recover, something whose depth we need to rediscover, since while we are in this world, we are not of this world. It is in doing the small things that great things are accomplished, and it is God who makes this happen. So...have you made the sign of the cross today?