The sign of the cross is regularly used to start prayer; at the absolution; at a blessing at the end of a service. Many are signed with a cross in ash on foreheads on Ash Wednesday. The sign is there at the beginning and end of a service; the beginning and end of a life; …
The sign of the cross marks out – this time, this person, this money, this place, this community,…
There does not appear to be any Christian period when there was not some reference to making the sign of the cross.
The sign of the cross is most often done: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. So it is not just marking ourselves with the cross, but also in the name of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
As with all great rituals and symbols and gestures – there’s a lot more going on:
When you make the sign of the cross, you are crossing the centre line.
A baby cannot cross the centre line of her/his body until s/he is about 6 months old. The left side of your body, as you know, is controlled by the right side of your brain; the right side of your body is controlled by the left side of your brain. To cross the centre line of your body you have to have left and right sides of your brain working together. A baby cannot do that when they are just born.
A baby has an asymmetric tonic neck reflex. This means you can turn over if you are stuck, as a baby, without needing to cross your centre line. You still do it when you are tired – you revert to your baby state.
When you sing you use the left and right of your brain together. Part of religious experience, spiritual insight, is the left and right side of your brain working together. Singing helps that. Making the sign of the cross is spiritual brain gym.
A final point: when you make the sign of the cross you start with your head. That’s where we often start. Ideas. Beliefs in our head. And often that’s where many people stop. Where many people get stuck. Religion, spirituality is just a head trip. Something they accept in their head – yes God exists. So…?! The longest journey, some people say, is from my head to my heart. That’s how the sign of the cross begins: drawing the head – into the heart.
And then from the heart into my limbs. Not just staying in my heart – but doing something about it. Acting it out in my life. Living it out through my limbs.
I make the sign of the cross – in the name of the Holy Trinity – and commit myself to a journey from my head, into my heart, and lived out in my life.