No doubt that the year 2020 has been a year of tremendous hardship. As we reach the last days of this year, we look forward to 2021 with great hope. As we look with hope for a better year to come, let us also mark it with the sign of the cross.
As Catholics, whenever we pray, we always begin it with the words: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” This ritual of beginning our prayer with the sign of the cross marks our intention of bringing ourselves to God. It is a sign of dedication to God of ourselves, our minds, and of our hearts. It is a sign of sacredness. As we begin the year 2021, let us mark it with a sign of sacredness, dedicating it to God. This practice of making the sign of the cross had been a ritual practiced by the early Christians as noted by Tertullian: “At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on 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.”
In marking the year with the sign of the cross, we also remember that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our salvation. In remembering the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross, we also ask God to give us the strength to persevere in the hardships we are to endure. The cross reminds us of overcoming sufferings and hardship. The cross points us to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which gives us the great hope of perseverance and endurance. Marking the year 2021, we allow ourselves to face the possible hardships we may encounter with hope and grace. We embrace the sufferings that Jesus experienced for our sake. In tracing the cross on ourselves, we embrace the passion of Jesus Christ and commit ourselves to Christ.
Lastly, the sign of the cross is also our weapon against evil. The cross is the sign of Jesus Christ’s triumph over sin and evil. In making the sign of the cross at the beginning of the year, we ask God to drive away the evil for this year. We invoke God’s power to protect us this coming year. We also ask God not to allow us to experience too much hardship this year, for in making the sign of the cross, we ask God to reverse the curse. As St. Francis de Sales noted, “from the left side of the curse to the right of blessing.” The sign of the cross reminds us of the passage from present misery to future glory. It has been noted that the sign of the cross is also considered as a minor exorcism, which is usually done during baptism. It wards off the devil. As St. Athanasius wrote: “By the signing of the holy and life-giving cross, devils and various scourges are driven away.”
The cross may have been an instrument of punishment, a sign of suffering, defeat and failure, which may describe the many sufferings that we experienced in 2020. However, because of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the cross became the great sign of hope and salvation. The cross ends all evils and brings us to the glory of the heavenly kingdom. Let us dedicate this coming year to the cross of Christ and conform our lives to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.
Br. Joshua Gatus, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE