If you’ve ever been a part of a group prayer, you can always spot the Catholics in the crowd. They are the ones who cross themselves, at the beginning and at the end. So how did we come to mark ourselves “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” 

According to aleteia.org, writings from the third century refer to Christians making the sign of the cross over their bodies. Early Christian apologist Tertullian wrote, “We Christians wear out our foreheads with the sign of the cross,” according to the website.  

The tradition of making a mark on the body can be found in the Old Testament in the book of Ezekial in a passage that states, “and the Lord said to him: ‘Pass through the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark an X on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the abominations practiced within it’ ” (Ezek 9:4).  

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Pope Francis | Photo by CNS

 

The website notes that some translations of that Biblical verse use the word “tau” instead of “X.” The article goes on to explain, ” ‘Tau’ is a letter of the Greek alphabet that is written as a T, and so the early Christians saw in it the sign of the cross.”  

Making the sign of the cross is not meant to be an act of superstition but an act of professing faith. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’ The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the father. The sign of the cross strengthen us in temptations and difficulties” (CCC2157).  

With its historical and biblical roots, the sign of the cross is one way Catholics can not only recall the sacrifice of Jesus 2,000 years ago but to join with others in our universal church in recognizing our faith, our similarities and our one community as we pray together for an end to the current global pandemic.