Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi . . .
There were some instances in the recent past when two close family members and a friend joined us, each one on a separate occasion, for a meal and did not make the Sign of the Cross with us to start the prayer before meals. They, of course, did this when they were still Catholics and before they joined one of those Evangelical Protestant or similar denominations. They just bowed their heads or did nothing while everybody else joined in the prayer.
While I recognized it is perfectly their right not to do this anymore, I could not help but wonder why such former Catholics in their new denomination found it problematic to continue doing what I thought was clearly a beautiful gesture for believers in Christ and the Blessed Trinity.
Someone admitted in a Facebook comment replying to my question, thus: "When I left the church I stopped making the sign of the cross because it is associated with being Catholic."
It is a consolation though that a Protestant, a former Catholic, confessed: "I never thought about this at all. I sometimes do the sign of the cross still. Don’t see any issue with it. I’ve never met any Protestant that was opposed to it. Ever." However, another former Catholic said they were not encouraged to do so, and another one said it was not commanded in the Bible and so it should be rejected.
What is common among Catholics and other Christians, though, is the belief that it is through the sufferings of Christ and His death on the Cross and His resurrection that God chose to accomplish our redemption. Thus the Cross has through the ages become the symbol and the single most succinct expression of our Catholic Faith and of Christianity in general.
Writing about the Sign of the Cross, Pope Benedict XVI said:
"The most basic Christian gesture in prayer is and always will be the Sign of the Cross. It is a way of confessing Christ crucified with one’s very body, in accordance with the programmatic words of Saint Paul: “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Cor 1:23f). Again he says: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (2:2).
"To seal oneself with the Sign of the Cross is a visible and public Yes to Him who suffered for us; to Him who in the body has made God’s love visible, even to the utmost; to the God who reigns not by destruction but by the humility of suffering and love, which is stronger than all the power of the world and wiser than all the calculating intelligence of men."
Historically, Catholics have made the Sign of the Cross on themselves since the early years of Christianity as a prayer and practice that expresses their Faith. Even Martin Luther urged his followers to use the sign. In his Catechism of 1529 he instructed fathers to teach their households the following: “In the morning, when you rise from bed, sign yourself with the holy cross and say, ‘In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.’…At night, when you go to bed, sign yourself with the holy cross and say, ‘In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.'” (Source: Catholic Answers)
There is a Catholic maxim "Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi." This basically says that the way we pray or worship is a reflection of what we believe, and what we believe and the way we worship is translated into the way we live.
Last Easter Monday, the world saw the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris in flames, and smoke billowing into the sky. It was a heartrending scene to watch to many Catholics and other Christians alike.
Amid the raging blaze the golden Cross over the altar was glowing, and the burned rafters of the roof which fell over the new altar left the Cross unscathed and intact.
To many, the conflagration that destroyed a huge part of the Cathedral is symbolic of the crisis of division and secularism afflicting France, Europe, and persecution of the Church and Christians in many countries of the world. But the Cross will prevail. (Mt. 16:18)
Similarly, the persecution of the Church in China and the efforts of the Chinese regime to eradicate it in that country are vividly portrayed by the destruction of churches. The demolition teams start with the Cross mounted prominently on church steeples that proclaims the Christian faith.
The Cross is the cherished symbol of our salvation in Christ and of our faith in God, the Holy Trinity. Not only bishops but also many of the faithful wear the cross on their persons.
Making the Sign of the Cross is a beautiful prayer in itself and a meaningful personal gesture.
When we make the Sign of the Cross on ourselves, it is a proclamation of our Faith. It is a way we pray and worship. It determines and encourages us on how we should live our lives.
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. #