Why do Catholics sign themselves..
Why Do Catholic’s Sign themselves with the Cross?
Catholic’s make the sign of the cross because we are recalling that historical fact when Our Lord and God died on the cross for the sins of the world. It is our identity mark that separates us from non-believers. It is our sign as was circumcision was for the Jews.
In making the sign of the cross, we recall that act of salvation for mankind obtained by the death of Jesus on the cross. We Catholics reaffirm with every act of signing ourselves the Trinity –The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.
Each time Catholics sign themselves they are expressing belief in the Trinity and in the salvation of Jesus Christ. It is such a holy act of devotion to ‘sign oneself’ that it drives away the devil and not only that but gives us Catholics the chance to preach our belief in Jesus to the world.
In ancient Israel the Jews circumcised to give witness to the world of who they were. Catholics mark themselves by making the sign of the cross and this distinguishes us from non-believers and shows the world we are children of that God-man who came died and rose from the dead.
As St. John of Damascus beautifully wrote:
“This was given to us as a sign on our forehead, just as the circumcision was given to Israel: for by it we believers are separated and distinguished from unbelievers. “
St Cyril of Jerusalem calls us to be proud of the cross and not be ashamed at signing oneself:
"Let us not then be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow and in everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are in the way and when we are still. Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the poor's sake; without toil, for the sick, since also its grace is from God. It is the Sign of the faithful and the dread of evils; for He has triumphed over them in it, having made a shew of them openly; for when they see the Cross, they are reminded of the Crucified; they are afraid of Him, Who hath bruised the heads of the dragon. Despise not the Seal, because of the freeness of the Gift; but for this rather honor thy Benefactor."
Sometimes here in Sydney and in most Catholic countries you will see people make the sign of the cross when passing a Catholic Church or when they hear sirens. Such practices have fallen away somewhat and we encourage all to rekindle this holy practice. At some churches or at some catholic ceremonies or after some talks at your local parish when the Priest or Bishop raises their hands to bless the people, some kneel to receive that blessing of the cross. This shows our profound love and respect for that act of salvation.
One also must remember that making the sign of the cross is a sacramental-that is each time we do it we are drawing down upon ourselves blessings and graces. That is what sacramentals are: prayers and objects that bring us closer to God such as Scapulars and rosaries.
Do you notice some Eastern rite Catholics such as Greek Catholics and Orthodox who sign themselves two fingers and their thumb? The thumb and two fingers symbolize the Trinity for them while the remaining two fingers symbolize the two natures of Jesus Christ. In the Roman Latin rite, the thumb symbolizes God the Father, middle finger-God the Son and the index finger-the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Both ways are rich and beautiful in meaning.
Let us remember to sign ourselves when we eat and when we finish, when we are studying for an exam or when we are tempted! Let us never be ashamed to make the sign of the cross.
In Hoc Signo Vinces-In this cross you shall be made victorious.
Amen and God Bless