We do it every day. We do it when we get up and say our Morning Offering. We do it before meals. We do it when we enter a church. We do it at the beginning and end of Holy Mass, of the Rosary, of countless devotions.
The Sign of the Cross is one of the most frequently used prayers in the Church. But when did Christians begin this practice?
While it’s hard to pinpoint the exact time, we know for sure that some form of it was in use in the earliest centuries of the Church. Tertullian (early 3rd century) speaks of crossing ourselves on the forehead. St. Basil (4th century) reported that the Sign of the Cross originated in apostolic times.
So it goes way, way back.
We make the Sign of the Cross so frequently and habitually that it’s easy to forget how important and powerful a gesture it is. This sign marks us out as belonging to Christ; it reminds us of our baptism, when it first marked us as Christians; it is a profession of faith in Christ and His saving Passion, accomplished through the Cross; and it is an incredible weapon against the attacks of the devil.
And that’s just a brief summary of the profound significance of this Sign!
You can learn more about this ancient and powerful prayer in The Sign of the Cross – The Fifteen Most Powerful Words in the English Language. Written by a young St. Francis de Sales to reconvert the Calvinists who rejected the Sign, this book explores the history of this prayer, delves into its immense spiritual significance, and includes the words and wisdom of many saints on the subject. Available today at The Catholic Company!