The Sign of the Cross is a simple, ancient tradition that even little children are able to learn. It is an outward act of faith that simultaneously affirms the Holy Trinity and the sacrifice of Christ's Cross. In beginning and ending prayer with the Sign of the Cross, we can meditate on these attributes of God while reflecting "My mind belongs to God. My heart belongs to God. My actions belong to God." as we cross ourselves. It also serves as a visible witness to those around us, for example, when we do the Sign of the Cross before praying for our meal at a restaurant.
Possible Scriptural Basis for the Sign of the Cross
Genesis 4:15, Ezekiel 9:4, and Revelation 14:1 and 22:4
Usage of the Sign of the Cross in the Early Church
"And how long shall we draw the saw to and fro through this line, when we have an ancient practice, which by anticipation has made for us the state, i.e., of the question? If no passage of Scripture has prescribed it, assuredly custom, which without doubt flowed from tradition, has confirmed it. For how can anything come into use, if it has not first been handed down? . . . . 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." (Tertullian, De Corona Chapter 3)
Along with other writings by Church Fathers, we can understand that the Sign of the Cross was commonly used throughout the Early Church and is rooted in Scripture and Tradition.
- Catholic Answers: Common Prayers
- New Advent Encyclopedia Entry: Sign of the Cross
- 21 Things We do When we do the Sign of the Cross
- EWTN: The Sign of the Cross (specifically discusses the Jewish roots of the sign of the cross)
- Catholic Answers: Sign of the Cross
- Should Protestants Make the Sign of the Cross? (a very thorough history and analysis from an Orthodox viewpoint)