There is a gesture that we do every day, and maybe multiple times a day that I know for me happens without much thought. I am sure you are familiar with it. If there were holy water in the church, you would have made it entering the church. We all made this sign as we began the Mass. If you prayed the rosary today, you likely made this sign as you started and finished that prayer. I could go on and on, but simply put, I’m talking about the sign of the cross. Probably one of the most distinctive Christian gestures we know, and in some ways, the most Catholic gesture we know. But why do we make this sign so often? Why do we make this motion from our foreheads to our chest or heart, to our shoulders so often?
There are many possible explanations for why we do this and why we do it so often. When we make the sign of the cross, we remind ourselves of some essential aspects of our faith, such as Our Lord’s death and resurrection on the cross and how he frees us from sin. It reminds us of our baptisms, and finally, in this act of making the sign of the cross, we acknowledge the central truth of our faith. That God is one God and three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I know for me the sign of the cross says it in the name itself. If you follow the path, your arm makes it makes a cross shape. Starting from the top of your forehead to the heart and our shoulders, we make a cross. This reminds us of how Jesus died and rose again for our sins, and by the cross by his death on the cross and resurrection, we have been saved.
The words we used to make the sign of the cross are the same words we were baptized. I don’t remember my baptism, but I know what it looks like because of the baptisms I’ve done. We pour water over the babies’ or adult’s heads while saying I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. While again right now, we don’t have the symbol, we are too reminded of our baptisms when we make the sign of the cross with holy water.
Those words, too of the sign of the cross, involves us proclaiming the greatest mystery of our faith. That mystery is that God is one but somehow still three persons. Ultimately when we acknowledge the trinity with the sign of the cross, we do it from a place of faith. However, one of my favorite quotes from a Saint is Saint Anselm, who told us that faith seeks understanding. While our faith tells us God is three in one, we should still try and understand it. But, we should remember that we can never fully understand how God is three in one.
I could spend hours explaining to you what the trinity is and why the trinity is the way he is. But I hope we can understand something about the trinity, something we profess every Sunday when we come to Mass. That the one God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and even though there are three persons, they are still one God. We profess in our faith that we believe in One God, the Father Almighty creator of heaven and earth. We, too, believe in Lord Jesus Christ, who is consubstantial with the Father. We profess that The Father and the Son are both God. We can, too, say the same for the Holy Spirit as the Holy Spirit to is God, as well as God the Father and God the Son.
The sign of the cross also reminds us of our baptism and how we were saved in the name of the trinity. We were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit. When we echo those words at Mass in our prayer, we are giving ourselves a quick reminder of our baptism. While right now, we don’t have the holy water; hopefully, when that returns to our churches, we too are reminded by the holy water of our baptisms.
I would like to leave everyone with a challenge this Trinity Sunday. There are many moments in our lives when we make the sign of the cross. At the beginning of Mass, when we enter and exit the church, and so many other times. Our challenge is to be aware of what prayer we are making every time we make the sign of the cross. I know for me it is easy to let prayers and gestures become second nature that I do not have to think about them as I pray them. However, these prayers we all pray are central to our faith and express great mysteries and great truths of our faith. I hope from now on all of can remember that we proclaim that we believe in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and that the Son of God died for us on the cross so that through the grace of the Holy Spirit we can be united with the Father in heaven for all eternity.