“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

I am often asked by my Evangelical friends, “Why are Catholics always “crossing” themselves?”  Here is my answer.

Each time we begin prayer, as we make the sign of the cross, we evoke the Trinity.  We call to mind that by accepting the work of Christ upon the cross we have placed ourselves under the authority of the Triune Godhead.  The phrase, “in the name,” is an expression of authority, such as when a police officer shouts, “Stop in the name of the law!”  It is not in his own name that the police officer halts the criminal, but it is in the name or in the authority of the law; the government that he represents.  By making the sign of the cross, we are saying that we have been arrested by the grace of Christ; we are being held captive by the love of the Spirit; we are placing ourselves under the direct orders of the Father.

When we make the sign of the cross we are also recognizing that as Christians we have been given a share in the Triune authority.  We are commissioning ourselves as missionaries to go forth into the world, a community of chaos, to bring order by baptizing, immersing, orienting all nations into the ways and designs of the Triune Community.  We go forth, with courage, knowing that we have been authorized, given the authority, the power, to bring light where there is darkness; love where there is hate; peace where there is strife; justice where there is oppression.  With the sign of the cross upon us we remember that God is with us wherever we may journey.

“Crossing” ourselves also reminds us that through the cross of Christ it has been made possible for us to join this Blessed Triune Community of Love which is, and was, and always will be.  The sign of the cross, therefore, is not only a call to discipline and to work, it is a call to celebration.  The Early Christians, when trying to describe the activity of the Trinity, the kind of relationship the Father, Son, and Spirit have together, used a Greek word, perichoresis, a word which evokes an image of dancing.  With a joyful, harmonious melody of love, they dance together throughout eternity.  When we make the sign of the cross, we are saying ‘yes’ to their invitation to join in the dance!

Trinity Sunday Dt 4: 32-40, Rom 8: 14-17, Mt 28: 16-20

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Peace Connections: Making the connection between the Sunday Readings and issues of peace and justice. * Copyright 1995, by Thomas L. Garlitz. “Not for profit” permission to reprint granted.