The Sign of the Cross

Matt DampierCliffNotes

Dear Christ Church,

I am often asked, “When do I make the sign of the cross?” Whether you’re new to the Anglican Tradition or a Cradle-Anglican, consider today’s e-news a primer on the sign of the cross.

Why do we make the sign of the cross? 

Of all the symbols Christians have, the cross most completely sums up our core beliefs. We believe that God really came to earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He actually died upon a Roman cross receiving the judgment due for our sin. And through his death, we believe the power of death was defeated. The cross reminds us that Jesus’ death is now the entry point into life.

When we make the sign of the cross over our bodies, we are calling ourselves a people of the cross. One helpful way to think about making the sign of the cross is that it’s a prayer with your body asking God to sink the truth of the cross deep into your very being.

When should we make the sign of the cross?

There are several moments in a service when you can make the sign of the cross:

  • Whenever you hear the Triune name, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”.

  • When forgiveness of sin is pronounced, crossing yourself accepts forgiveness through the cross.

  • During the creed when we say, “We believe in the resurrection of the body” the sign of the cross reminds you that your body, wasting and decaying, will one day be restored and resurrected.

  • During communion when we pray “Sanctify us” we make the sign of the cross asking the Holy Spirit to make us holy and whole.

Do I have to make the sign of the cross? 

You don’t. But if you want to, you’re invited. One rule of thumb I follow on most of the sacramentals (those physical acts in worship) is this: All can, some should, none must. All can make the sign of the cross, some should do this, but none must do it.

Our whole self, body included, is invited to participate in the worship of God, and this is one way we use our whole self to do so.

For more information about the sign of the cross, here’s a helpful article. And for a great resource on the meaning of the cross, I recommend Fleming Rutledge’s amazing work, The Crucifixion.

Peace,

Matt+