**The Sign of the Cross **
*“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.” *
– St. Cyril of Jerusalem, A.D. 315 - 386
Self-described “Torah-true Jews” to this day wear tefillin (“phylacteries”) on their foreheads and arms as a sign of their identity and devotion. This practice stems from Deuteronomy 6:4-8:Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength. And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart: And thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising. And thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be and shall move between thy eyes.
Compare those words with the words of St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (d. A.D. 386) Let us, therefore, not be ashamed of the Cross of Christ; but though another hide it, do thou openly seal it upon thy forehead, that the devils may behold the royal sign and flee trembling far away. Make then this sign at eating and drinking, at sitting, at lying down, at rising up, at speaking, at walking: in a word, at every act.
God speaking, through Ezechiel, to the remnant of Israel (and don’t forget that the Church is “Israel”!), tells the faithful: And the Lord said to him: Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem: and mark Thau upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and mourn for all the abominations that are committed in the midst thereof. (Ezechiel 9:4)
The Catholic Sign of the Cross is absolutely ancient, rooted not only in the Old Testament but the New (Apocalypse speaks of those who have the sign of God in their foreheads – and those who have the sign of the Beast in their foreheads). When Catholics undergo the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Bishop (sometimes a priest) seals the sign on our foreheads with holy chrism. St. John of Damascus wroteThis 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.
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!