The Sign of the Cross

Jay Forrest

In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our forehead with the sign of the cross. - Tertullian

Although not mentioned in the Bible, the sign of the cross is very ancient. There are stories in the Middle East that it was the Apostle Paul who first used the sign of the cross. This makes sense, since it symbolizes that one is “crucified with Christ” (Gal 2:19). For the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus symbolizes that “our old self was crucified with him” (Rom 6:6).

It might be good to explain this. Sin is selfishness, it is placing the good of self above the good of God and neighbor. In order to be united to God, the old self has to die, be buried, before one can be united with God. 

The sign of the cross is actually a prayer. One begins their day and activities with the Sign of the Cross: “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” It is a dedication of one’s activity to the Source, the Teacher, and the Divine Energy to accomplish it for the highest good.

The Roman Catholic method of signing the cross with the open palm has special meaning. By using the open palm of five fingers, each finger represents one of the five parts of fallen human nature. Namely the body, the soul, the mind, the heart, and the spirit. Signing the cross with them means putting to death the sin-sick members of our being. So as you’re doing the sign of the cross, think, “the selfish inclinations of my fivefold being must die.”

Dying to self may not be a popular teaching, but it is essential if one is to be united to God. As long as you cling to the illusion that you are an independent entity, you cannot be joined to God. And as long as you are not united to God, you will continue to suffer both in this life and the next. Eliminate the self, and you can no longer have selfish desires, and once you no longer have selfish desires, you will awaken to the fact that it is God in whom "we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).

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Jay N. Forrest is a Christian mystic in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. He is the author of The Deeper Life: Finding God on the Mystic Path.

Jay N. Forrest was an ordained Pentecostal minister for over two decades pastoring churches in Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennesse, and Arizona. He did his undergraduate work at Central Bible College and Global University, and he received his Doctorate of Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Christian University. He is a Certified Meditation Teacher and a full-time hospice chaplain.

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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition. Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scriptures marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.