The Catholic Defender: The Sign Of The Cross: A Catholic Identity
One of the most ancient practices of Christians exhibiting their faith has been the Sign of the Cross. Traditionally, Catholics will open and end prayer with the Sign of the Cross. It has been shown in movies at a critical point in a person's life, we see sports figures do the Sign of the Cross before and after a huge play. The Sign of the Cross is a prayer in and of itself which recognizes the Holy Trinity. Jesus died on the Cross and that has become the sign of our redemption. Jesus redeems mankind and Christians internalize the Sign of the Cross in this outward sign. At the Gospel, we place the Sign of the Cross on our forehead, our lips and our hearts.
Our minds think the truth, our mouths speak the truth, and our hearts love the truth. The cross reminds us the physical way of the Paschal Mystery. We celebrate the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Cross is a sign of victory over death. The early Christians recognized the cross as a liberation for those who are held captive to the bondage of sin. The following is an Old Testament writing that shows Gods anger towards those who worship idols:
"Son of man, he (the angel) ordered, dig through the wall. I dug through the wall and saw a door. Enter, he said to me, and see the abominable evils which they are doing here. I entered and saw that all around upon the wall were pictured the figures of all kinds of creeping things and loathsome beasts (all the idols of the house of Israel). Before these stood seventy of the elders of the house of Israel, among whom Jaazaniah, son of Shaphan, each of them with his censer in his hand, and the fragrance of the incense was rising upward. Then he said to me: Do you see, son of man, what each of these elders of the house of Israel is doing in his idol room? They think: 'The Lord cannot see us; the Lord has forsaken the land'. He continued: You shall see still greater abominations that they are practicing. Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the temple, and I saw sitting there the women who were weeping for Tammuz. Then he said to me: Do you see this, son of man? You shall see other abominations, greater than these! Then he brought me into the inner court of the Lord's house, and there at the door of the Lord's temple, between the vestibule and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the Lord's temple and their faces toward the east; they were bowing down to the sun. Do you see, son of man? He asked me, Is it such a trivial matter for the house of Judah to do the abominable things they have done here, for they have filled the land with violence, and again and again they have provoked me, that now they must also put the branch to my nose? Therefore I in turn will act furiously: I will not look upon them with pity nor will I show mercy" (Ezekiel 8:9-18). God viewed such abominations as adultery against him. Ezekiel reveals that because of this rebellion, God's presence will leave the Temple.
Ezekiel 9:3-6 gives a foreshadow of the Sign of the Cross in a spectacular way. Ezekiel writes, "Then he called to the man dressed in linen with the writers case at his waist, saying to him: Pass through the city (through Jerusalem) and mark an X on the foreheads of those who moan and groan over all the abominations that are practiced within it. To the others I heard him say: Pass through the city after him and strike! Do not look on them with pity nor show any mercy! Old men, youths and maidens, women and children, wipe them out! But do not touch any marked with the X; begin at my sanctuary". The "X" is placed on the faithfuls forehead, it is a mysterious mark that protects them from Judgment. The mark is represented by the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet (tahv), it had the form of the cross. At Baptism, a Sign of the Cross is placed on the forehead of each person. Revelation 14:1-5 states, "Then I looked and there was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of rushing water or a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. They were singing what seemed to be a new hymn before the throne, before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn this hymn except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been ransomed from the earth. These are they who were not defiled with women; they were virgins and these are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been ransomed as the first fruits of the human race for God and the Lamb. On their lips no deceit has been found; they are unblemished".
In Baptism, we are given a mark sealed by the Trinity. Jesus instructs the Church to Baptize the nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The Sign of the Cross reflects this mark given to us at our Baptism. Just as in the time of Ezekiel, we have a choice to follow God or follow the way of the world. The book of Revelation also speaks of another mark on the forehead of those who reject God. We definitely do not want this mark! Through the Sacraments, we are made clean so that before the Lord, we are made innocent (Rev 14:4-5). Just as it was in the day of Ezekiel, we have a mark that is like the original "X" and it is made into a "+".