I wish to encourage all Christians to begin their day, prayer and all activities, with the sign of the Cross; praying in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen! We should make this sign unhurriedly and with full awareness of what we are doing. This means that we must really compose ourselves to an attitude of prayer so that we are not careless in doing it. We must recognize that the sign of the cross is not a ritual imposed upon the Catholic faithful. It is in itself a complete prayer when it is made with due reverence and a determined faith. By this sign, you dedicate the day to the glory of God and call on the grace of Christ, which allows you to act in the Spirit as a child of God (Galatians 3:26).
As St. John says, it is a great love that the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1). And such we truly are, so that we should no longer live separated from God. We are with Him, walking and talking with Him in every moment. We should use the sign of the cross to set the Lord always before you and have Him at your right hand. Be not shaken, and be confident in making the sign of the cross (cf. Psalm 16:8).
The sign of the cross invokes the presence of the Trinitarian God, who encourages us to call on Him at all times. We are assured that at every moment and in every place, God draws close to us. He calls each of us to seek him, to know him, and to love him with all strength. He also calls together all men, even though we are scattered and divided by sin and sinfulness. He desires that we come into the unity of his Family under the arm of the Church (John 17:21).
Through Prophet Jeremiah, God promises to answer when you call to Him. He promises to tell you great and mighty things which are way beyond your knowledge (cf. Jeremiah 33:3). In the Psalms, He adds that He will answer whoever calls to Him; and be with this one in his troubles, to rescue and honour him (cf. Psalm 91:15 & 50:15).
For this, Prophet Jeremiah encourages us to call upon God. He extends an open invitation to come and pray to Him so that He listens to us (cf. Jeremiah 29:12). We have the confidence that He hears us, and that He delights in our coming to Him for help (cf. 1 John 4:14-15). If we are to come freely and openly, we must cultivate a loving and trusting relationship with Him.
Your reverent signing with the cross is, therefore, a confident knock on the door of heaven, which you know to always be open for you. It is a moment of rediscovery and renewal of your relationship with God and the Church.
Thus you watch for that moment when the Lord God answers, which He always does; make certain that you to take pleasure in it. Be sure to enter through this narrow gate to heaven, trusting that the constricted road you find ahead will lead you to Life. Then you will be counted one of the few who are lucky to have found and gone through it (Matthew 7:14 & Luke 13:24).
Therefore, sign your acceptance of this invite with all your heart, and receive the power which makes you His child (John 1:12). Repeatedly claim your divine identity by declaring, “I am a Child of God, I am. I am a Child of God, I am.”
Declare in your heart who you are and know that you really have come home; for heaven will truly come down to earth simply because you have called to God. When you cross this threshold, you are ushered into the life of communion with God and are offered entry into His whole Church.
All of heaven is here for you – God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Blessed Mother, all the angels and the saints – all have come to meet you, to welcome you, to be with you, to listen to you, to help you, to support you, and to bless you.
This is the time of fulfilment, and the Kingdom of God is truly at hand (Mark 1:15). You must allow yourself to enter into this common union with all of Heaven by signing with the cross, convincingly and with abundance.
You must treat it as the celebration that it sure is. And you must recognize in it the Cross of Jesus Christ, which is the source of all blessings. So, make the sign of the cross with a conviction that you do believe that which you profess.
Touch your forehead and symbolically draw your mind and intellect into the moment. Move your hand to the chest and symbolically include your heart in this sharing. Now touch the shoulders – first the left and then the right – symbolically including your entire physical being in this fellowship.
Complete this invocation by joining your hands together at the breast, clearly symbolizing how seriously you take this business of praying. You must orient everything – your mind, heart, body, actions, spirit, and soul – to God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Through this sign of the cross, you acknowledge that everything belongs to God and therefore everything carries the seal of God, the seal of truth (Ephesians 1:13). And you too are part of all that belongs to God. It is on this solid foundation of bearing His inscription that you stand firm ( 2 Timothy 2: 19a). This is the reason why you bring your all to Him, beginning with acknowledging that you belong to God and that you are of God. Your trust is fully in God.
Ask the Lord God to grant you grace to remain alert in order to be able to listen and learn from Him. Ask Him to prepare your mind so that you hear and heed His holy Word. Ask that He may fill your longing heart with His mysterious presence. Have the disposition that is fit to receive whatever enlightenment the Lord wills to give you at this time. Be quick to acknowledge and receive what God wills to give. Be responsive to the movements of His presence.
The sign of the cross thus professes your belief in the Father, and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. Saying the words unites you and your prayers with the unity of the Holy Trinity of God. It is also a renewal of the sacrament of baptism, in which you effectively declared that you died with Christ and rose in Him to a new life. You are now a new creation, joined to the Church as the Body which has the Lord Jesus Christ as the Head. In signing with the cross, you participate in this communion. It is a Holy experience which brings you closer to being of one mind and heart with God.
The sign of the cross is your mark of discipleship to the Lord Jesus, who you can only come after if you deny yourself and take up your cross daily, and follow Him. By signing with the cross you declare that you belong to Christ Crucified. And to be His disciple, you must be under His leadership. You, therefore, cannot and do not belong to yourself.
Signing with the cross effectively says that you want to obey the Lord God, to whom you belong and who directs all your decisions. It affirms that you will always be obedient to God‘s law, to Christ’s teachings and to the Church’s authority. Yet signing with the cross is also a sign of acceptance of whatever comes your way in your quest to follow Christ.
If it comes in the form of suffering, the cross will remind you that the Lord Jesus became man and suffered for you (and us) and you can now participate in Christ’s suffering. Signing with the cross is an admission that you are willing to embrace suffering as your share in the sufferings of Christ. When suffering comes and you begin to feel as though God is not there, just remember to reverently make the sign of the cross. He will come and declare His presence, whether you feel it or not.
Therefore, make signing with the cross your way of acknowledging His Presence with you in that moment of trial. Remember also that the early Church Fathers have proclaimed the sign of the cross to be a declaration of defence against the wiles of the devil. It commands the devil and his agents to keep off since you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Signing with the cross is both an offensive and defensive tool that broadcasts the Lord God as your protection. It clothes you in the armour of God, that you may be able to withstand and hold your ground (Ephesians 6:13-17).
The sign of the cross which you make before praying helps to put an order in your spirit. It helps to concentrate your thoughts, words, desires, passions and actions to the Will of God. Your life and your day are thus put in good order by reverently signing with the cross. Then, in the course of the day, you will desire with ardent faith to do all that is pleasing to God.
You will search with prudent patience for that which will praise and glorify the Name of God. You will recognize truly what is from what is not of God and from His loving Hand. And you will bring to perfect completion whatever God will ordain that you carry through this day.
You must also remember to make this sign of the cross at the end of the prayer so that it acts as God’s seal upon you. Having received spiritual graces from your time spent in the presence of the Lord God, the seal will have them remain in you; until you come again for your next portion. And you will walk away filled with grace, and ready to face the world as God’s representative in it.
So, when you make the sign of the cross, do make it well. There should be no rush, no limitations, and no absent-mindedness. You must be fully aware of what you are doing. Your movements should be slow, wide, abundant, and in full awareness of everything that you do and every word that you speak, embracing your whole self. You must get engrossed in it to be able to gather all your thoughts and all your soul into it. And then you will feel it wrapping you up and gathering you into a unity of body, mind and soul. It will make you wholesome!
By the sign of the cross, you are wholly consecrated to the Lord God and are sanctified in His Spirit because it is a sign of our redemption in the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Excerpted from Living the Common Prayers: Turning Basic Catholic Prayers into Living Prayers.