Q. 1. What can you tell me about the Sign of the Cross?
A. 1. Three of the most popular signs of the cross, a sign, ceremonial gesture or movement in the form of a cross by which a person confesses faith in the Holy Trinity and Christ, and intercedes for the blessing of himself, other persons, and things are:
- In the Roman-Rite practice, a person making the sign touches the fingers of the right hand to his forehead, below the breast, left shoulder and right shoulder while saying: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
- The sign is also made with the thumb on the forehead, the lips, and the breast. This sign of the cross is done before the reading of the Gospel during Holy Mass.
- For the blessing of persons and objects, a large sign of the cross is made by movement of the right hand.
[Source: "Catholic Word Book" by the catholic Information Service, Knights of Columbus, P. O. Box 1971, New Haven, Conn. 06521, USA.]
In the sign of the cross, the forehead symbolizes Heaven; the breast/stomach symbolizes the earth; the shoulders, the place and sign of power. Also, the hand to the forehead may be seen as a prayer to the Father for wisdom; the hand to the stomach as a prayer to the Son who became incarnate; and the hand to the shoulders as a prayer to the Holy Spirit.
There are some variations: for example a person may first place the right hand in holy water. After moving the hand from one shoulder to the other, it may be returned to the stomach. It may also be accompanied by the recitation of a prayer e.g. the Jesus Prayer, or simply "Lord have mercy". In some cultures it is customary to kiss one's hand or fingers at the conclusion of the gesture.
Crossing one's self recalls this seal, and the invocation that is said while making this holy sign calls on our God - the Father, His Son, and the Holy Ghost -- and is a sign of our of belief; it is both a "mini-creed" that asserts our belief in the Triune God, and a prayer that invokes Him. The use of holy water when making this sign, such as we do when we enter a church, also recalls our Baptism and should bring to mind that we are born again of water and Spirit, thanks be to God.
Because of what the Sign indicates -- the very Cross of our salvation -- Satan hates it, and our using it makes demons flee. Make the Sign in times of temptation and confusion for great spiritual benefit!