Thursday, January 30, 2014

Everyday Prayers – The Sign of the Cross

How many of you have ever said an Our Father, a Hail Mary, or a Glory Be so fast and with so little attention that you're hardly even aware that you said it? We Catholics are so familiar with these common, everyday prayers that sometimes they fly right by us, and we don't slow down to give them the consideration and devotion they deserve.

Over the next few weeks, we're going to explore some of our most common Catholic prayers. We'll spend some time digging into their meanings, reflecting on their words and phrases, and discovering how these prayers help us grow in our relationship with God. 

We'll begin with what is perhaps the simplest and most powerful prayer of all, the Sign of the Cross.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

1. As we say this prayer, we trace a cross over our bodies, touching our forehead, chest, and shoulders. In doing this, we literally accept the cross. We tell Jesus that we are taking up our crosses, mentally and physically, in our minds, in our hearts, and on our shoulders. We are ready to bear the cross with Him and join our crosses to His.

2. In the Bible, a name is something far more than a word used to call or identify someone. A name refers to a person's character, who he is in the depths of his being. So when we say that we are going to do something in the Name of God, we mean that we are going to do it in His character. We are going to imitate His traits: His love, His mercy, His faithfulness, His attention, His goodness, and His holiness.

3. When we use the Sign of the Cross to begin a prayer or activity, then, we promise that we are going to pray and/or act in God's character.

4. The Sign of the Cross also reminds us that God is the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is one God in three distinct Persons. This is a key dogma of our Catholic faith, and it is an awesome mystery for contemplation.

5. We were baptized using this very prayer, so when we pray the Sign of the Cross, we remember our baptism. We recall that when we were baptized, God came to dwell in our souls. When we are in a state of grace, God's very presence is within us, and we are temples of the Holy Spirit.

6. The Sign of the Cross is a powerful prayer, for it calls on the Blessed Trinity, inviting Him into our lives, our words, our thoughts, and our actions. We should use it often and in all situations.

7. The Sign of the Cross is a prayer with both words and gestures, and we must be careful to to say the words (out loud or silently) and make the gestures slowly and deliberately. Because the prayer is so familiar, we tend to rush through it, but this obscures its beauty and the depth of its meaning and significance. We must remember that, just like any other prayer, the Sign of the Cross is about connecting with God and developing our relationship with Him.

Let's end by praying with attention and devotion:

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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