The Sign Of The Cross
The Mark Of The Letter
Fundamentalist often speculate about the Mark of the Beast, Revelation
13:16-17, and they usually speculate that it refers to an actual physical
mark, not just something symbolic. Yet, they do not like to think
about its anti-type, the mark of Christ.
"… they were told not to harm the grass
of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind
who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads" RSV
The Sign of the Cross is associated in idea with certain references
"Then he called to the man dressed in linen …
saying to him: Pass through the city (through Jerusalem) and mark an X
on the foreheads of those who moan and groan over all the abominations
that are practiced within it." NAB
The "X" in the above quote is the Hebrew letter "taw"
which in its present form looks like an upside-down "U."
However, the primitive form of that letter is the "North Semitic
taw" which is the common ancestor of both that Hebrew letter and our own
letter "T," and it looked like a plus sign. (See This Rock,
September 1990, page 4, article by Don Schenk.)
(Note: The quotation above from Ezekiel is probably alluding to
a man who is a priest since they wore linen vestments.)
When the Israelites fought in a battle in the Seventeenth chapter
of Exodus Moses prayed for God’s help. However, Moses prayers were
only heard when he prayed with his hands extended making a cross or a "T"
shape similar to the form of Christ when He was crucified. Exodus
17, 9-14. Moses who was a Old Testament prefigurement, or type of
Christ demonstrated, probably unknowingly, the symbol by which we would
"Do not damage the land or the sea or
the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our
When a Catholic is Baptized, the priest makes the sign of the cross
on the person's forehead three times. One for each Person of the
"Then I looked, and lo, on Mount Zion
stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had
his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads."
A persons name represents the very essence of who that person is.
The name "Jesus" in Hebrew means God saves. Since Jesus
Redeemed us by suffering for our sins on the Cross, it is appropriate that
we bless ourselves by that sign.
Catholics are encouraged to renew their
commitment to accept and to follow Jesus with the sign of the cross.
They do this each time they enter a church by blessing themselves with holy
water in the sign of the cross. When they do this they
remind themselves of how much Jesus Christ loves them that He even died
on the Cross for them. They also renew their personal and family
relationship with Him and God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
(Cf. Matthew 28:19)
Fr. William Saunders writes :
“ … the gesture should be made consciously and
devoutly. The individual must be mindful of the Holy Trinity, that
central dogma that makes Christians “Christians.”
Also, the individual must remember that the cross is the sign of our
salvation: Jesus Christ, true God who became true man, offered the
perfect sacrifice for our redemption from sin on the altar of the cross.
This simple yet profound act makes each person mindful of the great love
of God for us, a love that is stronger than death and promises
everlasting life. For good reason, a partial indulgence is
granted to a person who devoutly signs himself with the sign of the
cross, saying, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
Holy Spirit” (Enchirdion of Indulgences, No. 55). Therefore, may
each of us make the sign of the cross with purpose and precision, not
hastily or carelessly.”
The Sign of the Cross
The Catholic Church does not claim that making the sign of the cross
is an explicit teaching of the Bible, however we can see how this practice
did develop out of a reading of the Bible.
"This sign [of the cross] is prescribed in our rituals to be frequently
used … to signify, that all grace is derived from the Passion of Christ…
On the altar is raised a cross with the figure of our crucified Savior
placed upon it, to bring to our minds that it was He who died for the sins
of the world, and that there is no other name under heaven whereby we must
be saved." From The Faith of Catholics
QUOTATIONS FROM EARLY CHURCH WRITERS
Tertullian (160- 225 AD): (De cor. Mil., iii),
"in all our coming in and going out, in putting of our shoes, at the bath,
at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down,
whatever employment occupieth us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of
Origen (185- 284 AD):
"This (the letter Tau) bears a resemblance
to the figure of the cross; and this prophecy (Ezek. ix. 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" (T. iii. Select. in Ezek. c. ix).
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-86 AD):
"Let us not, therefore, be
ashamed of the cross of Christ, but even though another hide it do thou
openly seal it on thy brow, that the devils beholding that royal sign may
flee far away trembling. But make thou this sign when thou eatest and drinkest,
sittest or liest down, risest up, speakest, walkest; in a word, on every
occasion, for He who was here crucified is above in the heavens" (Catech.
iv. n. 14).
St. Cyril of Jerusalem:
"Many have been crucified throughout the
world but none of these do the devils dread, but Christ having been crucified
for us, when they see but the sign of the cross the devils shudder" (Catech,
xii. n. 22).
St. Augustine (354-430 AD):
"What is the sign (or seal) of Christ,
but the cross of Christ ?" (T. iii. Tract. cxviii. in
Toan. n. 5).
St. Macarius of Egypt ( 300- 390 AD):
"After the sign of the cross,
grace immediately thus operates, and composes all the members and the heart,
so that the soul from its abounding gladness seems as a youth that knows
not evil" (Rom. ix. p. 481).
How can a person tell that Jesus died on a cross and not on a straight
up and down torture stake without a crossbeam ?
" … ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he [Thomas]
said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails,
and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his
side, I will not believe.’ " RSV
If Jesus's hands had been nailed together on top there would have been
only one nail, but notice that "nails" is plural because His
hands were spread apart at either side.
MARY MORAL ISSUES
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