History of the Sign of the Cross

Dear Readers,

I’ve always heard since I was in grade school that the early Christians made up the sign of the cross as a secret way to let Christians recognize each other. Early Christians were killed because of their beliefs. In order to keep their Christian beliefs a secret from the authorities, they made up a sign. Making a symbol of a cross on their forehead, on their mouth, and over their heart let other people know so they were Christians. They might have also made the traditional sign of the cross by touching their forehead with their fingers, then touching their heart, and then touching the left shoulder and then the right shoulder. On Amen, their hands would be folded together facing the sky. Others might have thought they were swatting flies or something.  If the other person made the sign of the cross, too, then they knew that it was safe to talk about Jesus Christ and his beliefs without being killed.

Nowadays, Christians add the words, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.” We make the sign of the cross before beginning a prayer, and at the end of a prayer. We make the sign of the cross when we’re afraid. Perhaps you make the sign of the cross at different time that you might be willing to share in a comment below. Tell the stories you’ve heard about how and why the sign of the cross began.

I had heard that in times of the catacombs in Rome that Christians used this as a symbol to be let inside for Mass, prayer, and meetings. I didn’t find proof that this was true, although it sounds like it would have been a good idea. I think it would have worked. Perhaps no one else wrote about this. It could have been passed down by telling. Believing it doesn’t hurt anything.

I found the following links related to the sign of the cross using your hand, and the symbol of the cross itself. I hope the information in them will appeal to you. I hope it lights up your heart enough that you share it with your family and friends and those you teach.

History of the Sign of the Cross Different ways to make the sign of the cross and what it symbolizes.

Traditions of Making the Sign of the Cross

Another link to history of sign of the cross

Making the Sign of the Cross – How many times do they make the sign of the cross during Mass? Make your guess, and then read to find out the answer.

Battle of the Milvian Bridge – First Battle with soldiers wearing a cross on their shields

Finding of the Cross of Jesus by St. Helena, Mother of Constantine

Constantine and the cross

Thanks for reading. I’d be honored if you would sign up to receive an email each time I update this blog.

Check out my website for Gospel related devotionals, crossword puzzles, wordsearch puzzles, and skits: http://www.joanyedwards.com

May God bless you and keep you warm.

Joan Y. Edwards
http://www.joanschildrensliturgy.wordpress.com

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2 comments on “History of the Sign of the Cross

  1. Thanks for that history lesson, Joan! It was necessary for early Christians to use “signs” to recognize one another as believers and followers of Christ! During the reign of Emperor Nero, Christians were persecuted, tortured, and put to death because of their faith in Jesus. Another sign used was the ichthus, or the drawing of a fish. This, too, was a means of identifying or acknowledging a fellow believer in Christ without verbal communication being exchanged. The drawing of the “little fish” in the dirt, mud, or sand, let another Christian know that he also was a believer. In some parts of the world, secrecy is still needed by Christians for communication and protection.

    • Dear Ann,
      Thanks for reading my blog and adding a bit of history about the fish symbol used by early Christians. Glad we don’t have to fear death for being a Christian in America. Enjoy your day being the sweet child of God that you are.

      Remember that God made you and loves you,
      Joan Y. Edwards

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