The Power of the Cross
I am reminded of my daughters’ mortality these past several days as they struggle with colds and illnesses. While we’ve taken them to see the doctor, and they’ve gotten some antibiotics, I also sign the cross on and over them each night. Last night, when I got home from teaching logic, they were already in bed asleep. As I made my way to bed myself, I signed the cross over them as they slept, giving my fatherly blessing and praying for their healing. This morning, Delaina awoke early, seeing the light on in the office, and called for me. I rocked her back to sleep, and as I did so, signed the cross over her.
Many, myself once included long ago, view the making of the sign of the cross as mere superstition, something one does in vampire movies. But the signing of the cross on oneself is an ancient symbol and practice, as Tertullian writes, at the beginning of the third century:
At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our 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.
For the signing of the cross invokes its power, the power by which Christ destroyed our mortality. By signing on them the symbol of our Lord’s passion, how by death he destroyed death, I am praying for them, that the death in them might be overcome in the Lord’s death. When they are baptized in the name of the Trinity and chrismated with the Holy Oil, this cross will be signed on them again, and in this sacrament they will know the Resurrection of the Lord.
For now, I mark them as Christ’s and invoke his healing protection.