Sign of the Cross
Have You Ever Wondered Why Episcopalians Make the Sign of the Cross?
While the historical origins of the sign of the cross are unclear, what has remained largely unchanged is the meaning of the gesture. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are united to his passion, death, and resurrection. We take the sign of his cross on to our own bodies. Our actual words, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” reflect this delineation of sacred time and space, and our recognition that all we are and all we do is connected to the gift and mystery of the Trinity.
And what is the great gift and mystery of the Trinity: that our God is profoundly relational. As the theologian Catherine LaCugna writes, “The very nature of God is to seek out the deepest possible communion and friendship with every last creature on this earth.” Making the sign of the cross is a tangible way we are reminded that God is always leaping towards us in love, mercy, peace, and grace!
The sign of the cross is often used at the beginning and end of prayer. Again, this is a reminder that all we do is done in relationship with God. The the Sign of the Cross is used at other times as well, for example, when receiving a formal blessing, receiving absolution, and entering a church and blessing oneself with holy water. Blessing oneself with holy water while making the sign of the cross calls to mind our baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is the sacrament in which we become a new creation and member of Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. The sign of the cross is a reminder to us that God never tires of working in and through our lives, continually making us new creations!
Generally speaking, it’s appropriate to make the Sign of the Cross any time you hear the words, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
It is important to note a very common expression in the Episcopal Church and our Anglican Tradition. That expression is: “All can, some should, none must.” Not every Episcopalian makes the sign of the cross as part of their expression of faith. Our tradition celebrates many ways to experience and express our relationship with God!