Fun Stuff

SIGN OF THE CROSS
By Steve Ray

The Sign of the Cross is a ritual gesture by which we confess two important mysteries: the Trinity and the centrality of the Cross. It is the most common and visible means by which we confess our faith. The Sign of the Cross is made by touching the forehead with the fingers of the right hand, then the breast and then the left and right shoulders.

The sign was originally placed upon the forehead with the thumb and later extended to the whole upper body. This is not only a personal gesture, as a form of prayer but also a public witness and a sign of participation in the life of Christ and the Church. It is used as an integral part of many actions (e.g., at Baptism, Confirmation, prayer, to begin and end Mass, etc.).

 The Church has given us wonderful customs and traditions to mark ourselves and to acknowledge our participation in the whole continuity of the Church and the work of Christ. Miracles have been performed with this simple gesture and parliaments and councils have opened under its sign. Though Protestantism jettisoned this practice, along with the crucifix during the Reformation, the Catholic and Orthodox traditions faithfully continue this age old practice handed down from the age of the Apostles.

 The Catholic Church has always seen outward gestures as means of expressing and actuating internal spiritual realities. Sacramentals, such as the Sign of the Cross, are not superstitious practices but are sacred signs by which various things in life are rendered holy through the effectual and sacramental grace of God. By the Sign of the Cross we pledge allegiance to Christ and invite the Holy Spirit to apply the cross to our lives—to take up our cross and follow Christ.

 Though the NT does not specifically mention the “Sign of the Cross”, there is scriptural warrant for such a gesture. St. Paul writes, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2), and “may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).

Ezekiel provides precedence for a sign upon the forehead of believers (Ezek 9:4; 17:9–14) as does Revelation (Rev 7:3; 9:4; 14:1). Ezekiel provided a support for the early Christians to use it as a “sacramental” (CCC 1235, 1668) to display their devotion to Christ and His Cross. There is reason to believe that the Jewish Christians used the Sign of the Cross prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in ad 70.

 In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we learn: “The Christian begins his day, his prayers and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’ The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father. The Sign of the Cross strengthens us in temptations and difficulties” (CCC, no. 2157; see also CCC, no. 786).

 The writings of the Fathers, as authentic witnesses to the apostolic teaching in the early Church, are replete with references to the Sign of the Cross. The practice is already well established in the 2nd century as attested to by Tertullian (ad c. 160-c. 225). He writes of the wife who “signs” her bed and body (To His Wife 5).

He also writes, “At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign. If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of them, custom as their strengthener, and faith as their observer” (The Chaplet 3, 4).

 Origen (ad c. 185-c. 284) wrote, “This [letter Tau] bears a resemblance to the figure of the cross; and this prophecy [Ezek 9:4] is said to regard the sign made by Christians on the forehead, which all believers make whatsoever work they begin upon, and especially at the beginning of prayers, or of holy readings” (Selections in Ezekiel. c. ix).

 St. Augustine (354–430 AD) wrote: “What else is the sign of Christ but the cross of Christ? For unless that sign be applied, whether it be to the foreheads of believers, or to the very water out of which they are regenerated, or to the oil with which they receive the anointing chrism, or to the sacrifice that nourishes them, none of them is properly administered” (Tractates on John 118).

 There has never been a time in the flow of historic Christianity that the Sign of the Cross has not been devoutly practiced. Only recently, since the Reformation, has the Sign of the Cross (along with the Crucifix, holy water and other visible signs) been rejected as idolatrous by many Protestant traditions. However, even Martin Luther in his Taufbuechlein retained the Sign of the Cross in the baptismal service and used the Sign of the Cross as one of his last gestures before death (H. Grizar, Luther, 3:435).

 Quotations:

Tertullian: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Philip Schaff, ed., Eerdmans, 1980, vol. 3, p. 94–95.

Origen: The Faith of Catholics, Rev. Chapel, ed., Fr. Pustet & Co., 1885, vol. 3, p. 424.

St. Augustine: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1st series, Philip Schaff, ed., Eerdmans, 1983, vol. 7, p. 432.

Grizar citation: Luther, Hartmann Grizar, B. Herder Book Co., 1919, vol. 3, p. 435.

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He Circumcised Himself! Ouch!

by Steve Ray on August 21, 2015

I received this e-mail from a priest friend of mine. Not sure what to think about it :-)

“I have to share a short  inspirational story.  My brother has been involved in a prison ministry for many years in our home parish area.  They recently watched the Footprints of God program on Abraham

“One of the inmates told my brother that one of the others really took the story to heart.  He had a cheap razor that he had modified to do some specialty cutting in the kitchen.  When his friend noticed that he was walking gingerly one day, he asked him what had happened and he responded that he had circumcised himself with his special razor tool. 

“He thought that if Abraham went through it that he could too.  ~  Steve Ray never fails to inspire!”

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Funnest Homily on the Beatitudes – EVER!

by Steve Ray on August 20, 2015

Hang on to your hats and get ready to make hand gestures. This no average homily. Fr. Scott Courtney has been our pilgrimage chaplain many times and everyone loves his homilies.

Enjoy this homily on the Beatitudes delivered at the Mount of Beatitudes on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

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There are Two Seas in Palestine – Which One are You Like?

August 17, 2015

I am doing a show on Relevant Radio about the “Rivers of the Bible” at 9 AM Eastern at RelevantRadio.com. I will soon post the link to listen to the archived show. We mentioned on the show when Steve at a grasshopper at the Jordan Rive like the John the Baptist did You can see [...]

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Me Preparing for the Coming Persecution :-)

August 17, 2015

Our documentary on King David-Solomon and our DVD on Apostolic Fathers who were martyred for the truth of Christianity required that I rent a lion for some of the scenes. I was so close I could smell the lion’s breath. What a terrifying thing to fall into the jaws of such a powerful beast. I [...]

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The Literacy and Spirituality of a Day Gone By; A Tattered Yellowed Page; A Poem I Found from my Great-Grandmother

July 1, 2015

I never knew my Great Grandmother Frances Picard. She was originally an O’Grady. They had a deep spirituality and she converted to the Catholic Church later in her life. (By the way, this was all new to me since I never knew – in my childhood – that I had several lines of Catholic ancestors.)  [...]

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Meaning of Sacred and Immaculate Hearts

June 11, 2015

A non-Christian friend found two paintings at an art show and asked me, “What in the world are these? They seem to have pagan elements. What do they have to do with Jesus and Mary?” Here is my explanation. If you readers have anything to add, please post it in the Comments below. Thanks. Thanks. [...]

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Crap, Castration & Two Creations – Colorful New Testament Wording

May 30, 2015

We miss a lot when reading the English Bible. We’re at a great disadvantage. The early Christians read the writings of the apostles in the original language – they understood the words and expressions must better than we do. The original language of the Bible is full of rich imagery, stark reality, and colorful terminology. [...]

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Reading the Bible

May 28, 2015

A Little Poem about Bible Context I supposed I knew my Bible, Reading piecemeal, hit or miss, Now a bit of John or Matthew, Now a snatch of Genesis, Certain chapters of Isaiah, Certain Psalms (the twenty-third), Twelfth of Romans, first of Proverbs — Yes, I thought I knew the Word! But I found that [...]

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Technical Problems for First Christians

May 26, 2015

Yes, the first Christians had a difficult time with the technical transition – from scrolls to books. You will certainly appreciate the need for the first “tech guys.” Enjoy! I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

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Cartoon on Protestantism and the Bible

May 21, 2015

When I look back on my experience I find this cartoon has a ring of truth. There were many verses of the Bible that I either didn’t realize existed (though that may seem strange) or that we just ignored. We virtually cut them out of the Bible in the sense that we ignored or reasoned [...]

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A Limerick for a Questioning Grandson – Did Jesus Really Exist?

May 21, 2015

My grandson Josh asked, “Did Jesus really live? Maybe he didn’t and it was just a good story someone made up.” So I sat down and wrote him this limerick and gave him a stack of books from my library. The topic has not come up again since. Was there really a man named Jesus? [...]

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How Big was Noah’s Ark

May 11, 2015

It was a big boat at a time when big boats did not exist. It was a feat of genius ingenuity. You can read the instructions for building in Genesis 6:14-22. We are also told that the ark is a picture of the Church and salvation. In the ark Noah passed through the waters which [...]

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Riddle of a Mystery – Where’s Judas?

May 10, 2015

We saw this painting in Jerusalem today. “Ah ha,” said my wife, “can you find Judas the Betrayer?” Also, what is the source of the light?  

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SUNDAY IS COMING! A New Kind of Church!

April 17, 2015

Aren’t we all tired of old liturgies from the first centuries? Shouldn’t we update our church services? The time has come to compete with Hollywood and the new generation! Announcing!  Here is the NEW model of church — for the new generation who’s tired of the same old, same old, same old…. This Sunday, join [...]

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New Convert Holds His Ground with a Street Preacher

April 15, 2015

I was so delighted to receive this e-mail that I had to share it with everyone! Hi Steve, Just had to share this…I was visiting San Antonio this weekend and as I walked around the riverwalk section of town, a gentleman approached me with a gospel tract. When he asked, “Are you sure you are [...]

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