I have always made the sign of the Cross on my whole body when I passed by churches and sometimes when I passed by cemeteries. I have not always known, though, why I did it and why I should do it. Yet, even in these ‘childlike’ mentality (i.e., accepting things without proof), I have made a connection (however flimsy that may be) between my reverence for God and my concern for the dead.
Then I grew up.
Yes, I still made the sign of the Cross – out of habit, for most of the time. I may have thought that this gesture separate me from the rest. I am, in my own way, a ‘practicing’ Catholic. I may have felt, at times, hesitant for fear of being tagged as ‘too religious’. But, I kept at it.
Then I grew up some more.
It was during my stay at De La Salle University that something ‘snapped’ within me and I started to question ‘things’. Among these ‘things’ that I sought answers for is the making of the sign of the Cross. So, I asked the question to myself : Why am I doing this?
Fortunately, I first sought the answer from the Church herself – of what is her reason for commending this practice, of the history behind it and of the witness of the early Christians (especially the Fathers and Doctors of the Church). Fortunately again, the answer is easy to find (what with the internet access and all). My black-and-white understanding of the sign of the Cross was changed to full-color understanding of its roots and apostolicity. I was hooked.
If you read the writings of the early Christians, you will find that they have more use of the sign of the Cross than we modern Christians do. Some would make the sign of the Cross over their beds before they retire for the day. Some would make the sign of the Cross over the food they are about to eat as a blessing. Some would make the sign of the Cross before leaving their home. Some would make sign of the Cross over a member of the household who is about to leave on a journey.
But one thing is common on all these practices. The sign of the Cross is always made reverentially – never hurried, never hesitant. They know what it is they are doing. They know why they are doing it. They know how it is to be done. They know when and where it needs to be done.
I have grown up.
Every once in a while, I remember what I have read. Whenever I passed by a church, I make the sign of the Cross reverentially – taking and understanding every gesture, every word – for, at this instant, I am in prayer.
God bless you and all that is yours.