21 Benefits of Making the Sign of the Cross

The Sign of the Cross is a simple gesture yet a profound expression of faith for both Catholic and Orthodox Christians. As Catholics, it’s something we do when we enter a church, after we receive Communion, before meals, and every time we pray. But what exactly are we doing when we make the Sign of the Cross? Here are 21 things:

  1. Pray

We begin and end our prayers with the Sign of the Cross, perhaps not realizing that the sign is itself a prayer. If prayer, at its core, is “an uprising of the mind to God,” as St. John Damascene put it, then the Sign of the Cross assuredly qualifies. “No empty gesture, the sign of the cross is a potent prayer that engages the Holy Spirit as the divine advocate and agent of our successful Christian living,” writes Bert Ghezzi.

  1. Open ourselves to grace

As a sacramental, the Sign of the Cross prepares us for receiving God’s blessing and disposes us to cooperate with His grace, according to Ghezzi.

  1. Sanctify the day

As an act repeated throughout the key moments of each day, the Sign of the Cross sanctifies our day. “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,” wrote Tertullian.

  1. Commit the whole self to Christ

In moving our hands from our foreheads to our hearts and then both shoulders, we are asking God’s blessing for our mind, our passions and desires, our very bodies. In other words, the Sign of the Cross commits us, body and soul, mind and heart, to Christ. (I’m paraphrasing this Russian Orthodox writer.) “Let it take in your whole being—body, soul, mind, will, thoughts, feelings, your doing and not-doing—and by signing it with the cross strengthen and consecrate the whole in the strength of Christ, in the name of the triune God,” said twentieth century theologian Romano Guardini.Read More »

The Glorious Mission

If you knew you were about to die, what wisdom would you impart to your loved ones in your final moments? What’s most important for them to learn from you?

In the Gospel reading (John 13:31-35), Jesus knows that his time is short. The first thing he says to his friends is words of praise for God (the Father) while equating himself with God. He even calls his friends “children” as if he himself is God the Father! In so doing, he makes it clear that he is one with the Father — so totally that the lines between Father and Savior are blurred. And he does it humbly. He could have said, “Hey guys, in case you’re not sure, I am divine. I am God. Worship me.” But instead, he focuses on the glory of God.

Glory is the radiating light of God’s presence: his love, his joy, his holiness, his peace, his wisdom, his creativity, and everything else that he imparts on those who want to bathe in his glory. When we glorify God, we are reflecting back to him this same glory. How much of this glory is illuminating your life?

After describing the exchange of glory between Father and Son, Jesus imparts to his disciples the highest wisdom of the universe: The key to successfully joining Jesus in the glory of God is to love as he loves.

Love is not love unless it unselfishly gives itself to others. Jesus unselfishly gave himself to us completely, even in death. Followers of Jesus are not true followers, disciples are not true disciples, priests are not true priests, lay leaders are not true leaders, unless they serve with love, in love, and through love.

The glory of God is love that gives itself completely, even sacrificially. Why does the Gospel reading give us a scene from the Passion of Christ while we’re celebrating the season of Easter? The other readings are full of Easter: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5a). And yet here is Jesus preparing for betrayal, torture, and death. Why?

This Gospel reading is Jesus imparting to us today the key to continuing the mission of sharing God’s glory, which Jesus began and now calls us to do. By loving one another in a spirit of sacrifice, we are showing the world that Jesus is real, he is risen, and he is alive in us.

© 2016 by Terry A. Modica

Love in Action

By Fr Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

The way to arrive and remain within “the force field of the Holy Spirit”, which is one way of describing consciousness–is both very simple and very hard: you’ve got to remain in love, with a foundational yes to every moment. You can’t risk walking around with a negative, resentful, gossipy, critical mind, because then you won’t be in the force field. You will not be a usable instrument. That’s why Jesus commanded us to love. It’s that urgent. It’s that crucial.

That love, as contemplatives learn, can begin in the mind or can be inhibited by the mind. You may have heard this quote–sometimes attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Contemplation nips negativity, hatred, and violence in the bud. It begins by retraining your initial thoughts, because if you let the mind operate in a paranoid, angry, and resentful way, you aren’t going to get very far. You’re not going to see clearly. At the same time, if you spend your time only in contemplation without moving toward positive engagement, you end up with what many call spiritual constipation. I am afraid it is quite common.

Contemplation AND Action

By Fr Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

I used to think that most of us must begin with contemplation or a unitive encounter with God and are then led through that experience to awareness of the suffering of the world and to solidarity with that suffering in some form of action. I do think that’s true for many people, but as I read the biblical prophets and observe Jesus’ life, I think it also happens in reverse: first action, and then needed contemplation.

No life is immune from suffering. When we are in solidarity with pain, injustice, war, oppression, colonization–the list goes on and on–we face immense pressure to despair, to become angry or dismissive. When reality is split dualistically between good and bad, right and wrong, we too are torn apart. Yet when we are broken, we are most open to contemplation, or non-dual thinking. We are desperate to resolve our own terror, anger, and disillusionment, and so we allow ourselves to be led into the silence that holds everything together in wholeness.

The contemplative, non-dual mind is not saying, “Everything is beautiful,” even when it’s not. However, you do come to “Everything is still beautiful” by facing the conflicts between how reality is and how you wish it could be. In other words, you have to begin–and most people do in their adult years–with dualistic problems. You’ve got to name good and evil and differentiate between right and wrong. You can’t be naive about evil. But if you stay focused on this duality, you’ll go crazy! You’ll become an unlovable, judgmental, dismissive person. I’ve witnessed this pattern in myself. You must eventually find a bigger field, a wider frame, which we call non-dual thinking.Read More »

#ShortNews: Foreigners vacate Brunei, where Christmas is banned

Foreign workers are gathering their families, packing their bags and leaving Brunei, where a ban on celebrating Christmas has been enforced since 2014 by an authoritarian regime happy to impose stiff penalties for any breaches of the law. Fearing Muslims would be led astray and convert to Christianity, the sultan of Brunei imposed full Sharia law in April, a culmination of an all-imposing Islamic legal system that was introduced step by step over the last six years.

In a move that bears striking similarities to Biblical stories from the Roman occupation of the Holy Land, Christians are only allowed to celebrate Christmas within the privacy of their own homes and only after they have notified authorities.

“The people in Muslim-dominated Brunei are quite tolerant and very easy to get along with, but the government is fearful of outside religions,” said one Western expatriate who fears Brunei’s harsh defamation laws and declined to give his name. Increasingly, foreign Christians working in Brunei spend Christmas time outside the Islamic country and return only in the new year.”

Source: https://www.ucanews.org/news/foreigners-vacate-brunei-where-christmas-is-banned/86872

Post-Christmas Reflection: Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

[The angel said to [the shepherds], “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”] ~  Luke 2:10-14

Glory to God in the highest!  The celebration of the glorious birth of Christ the Lord has begun…Merry Christmas!

Try to put yourself in the shoes of these shepherds.  Little excitement would have regularly come their way.  They were poor, simple shepherds who spent their days and nights tending the sheep of the fields.  That night, a group of them had gathered together for camaraderie.  It’s easy to imagine the scene of normal talking, laughing and being together.  Little did they realize what was about to happen.

As they were gathered, an angel of God appeared to them announcing “good news of great joy!”  They must have been stunned.  But that’s only the beginning.  The angel announced that the Savior of the World had been born and then, much to their surprise, they witnessed the whole host of heavenly angels singing praises: “Gloria in excelsis Deo!”  “Glory to God in the highest!”

These humble shepherds were the first to be called by God to go and greet the newborn King.  What’s amazing is that God did not first call the “important” of the age to come worship.  He called these poor shepherds.Read More »

Herod and The Wise Men

As a newborn, Jesus was placed in a manger because there was no room in a proper shelter. And He was in that manger when the shepherds visited.

Not so with the Wise Men, however.

We’re introduced to the Wise Men (or Magi) in the Gospel of Matthew:

[After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”] ~ Matthew 2:1-2

Now, that word “after” at the beginning of verse 1 is kind of ambiguous. How long after? A day? A week? A few years?

Fortunately, we can infer from two pieces of evidence in the text that the Wise Men visited Jesus at least a year after His birth, and probably closer to two years. First, notice the details of Jesus’ location when the Wise Men did show up bearing their gifts:

[After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.] ~ Matthew 2:9-12 (emphasis added)Read More »

Advent Week-4 (2019): The Candle Of Love

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

When Jesus came to this earth, He brought a special kind of love. This love is unselfish, compassionate, unconditional. He loves us just as we are. Our condition is irrelevant to His love. It is a love that picks us up just where we are in life and carries us further than we could ever go on our own.

He gives us His love so we can give it away in the same unselfish, compassionate, unconditional way He gave it to us. He tells us this love will be our trademark. It will distinguish us as followers of Jesus.

Your actions reflect Jesus to the world around you. You can choose to offer love or to hold it back. In situations where it is hard to offer love, ask Him to give you an abundance of His own in your heart so you are able to give it away.

As you move into Christmas this week, be reminded of the distinguishing mark you carry as a follower of Jesus. Ask for His love to be evident in your words and actions as you interact with others. Seek to bring unity and balance into relationships or situations. Listen to people with sincerity and interest. Ask for a graciousness that comes from His Spirit as you mingle with those in your circle.

Wear the love of Jesus as your distinguishing mark as His follower.

A PRAYER FOR LOVE

Heavenly Father,

The whole meaning of Christmas can be explained in one little four letter word…LOVE. You sent your gift of pure love to us that first Christmas. Love descended from heaven to be born of a virgin. Love lay in the scratchy hay of a manger in a meager barn in Bethlehem. All of your love, God, was robed in the delicate skin of a baby and wrapped in swaddling clothes. This final week of Advent, help us to reflect on the magnitude of love that was made manifest in Jesus.

Your word became flesh and you made your dwelling among us when Jesus was born. You set aside all of the glory and splendor of heaven and chose the most humble way to enter into your kingdom. Beneath the stars, surrounded by all of the hosts of heaven, Love came. Welcomed by an earthly mother and father, shepherds and wise men, Love came. 

You are King and King and Lord of Lords, Messiah and Ruler of All, yet you came not as a lion but as a lamb. You came as an innocent baby whose purpose was walk this earth in complete love, and then to sacrificially give his life as an atonement for the sins of His children. Emmanuel. God with us. Love in the form of a man.

That was your plan. From beginning to end, you knew every minute of Jesus life. You knew that the cross of Calvary was waiting for Jesus, yet you still sent your only Son so that our sin debt could be paid and we could walk blameless because of the shed blood of Jesus.

There is no greater gift then this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends. You willing gave the gift of your life because of your love. Your righteous blood covered our sin. You redeem and restore us when we confess you as Lord and Savior of our life. In that moment you give us the gift of your love for all eternity. We receive grace upon grace and mercy upon mercy in that moment.

The greatest gift of all came that first Christmas. It wasn’t wrapped in a beautiful package and set under a decorated tree. The greatest gift came wrapped in the flesh of baby Jesus and laid in the rough wood of a manger. Our perfect gift would later be rewrapped in the scars of our sin and nailed to the rugged wood of a cross on Calvary, all because of love.

Father, this final week of Advent, fill our hearts and minds with the significance of that truth. Thank you, Lord, for loving us enough to send Jesus.

In Jesus’ precious name we pray.

Amen

 

Many thanks and blessings to Gail Rodgers and Bobbie Schaeperkoetter

A Visit and a Song (Part 04/04)

A Blessing Called Sanctuary

You hardly knew
how hungry you were
to be gathered in,
to receive the welcome
that invited you to enter
entirely—
nothing of you
found foreign or strange,
nothing of your life
that you were asked
to leave behind
or to carry in silence
or in shame.

Tentative steps
became settling in,
leaning into the blessing
that enfolded you,
taking your place
in the circle
that stunned you
with its unimagined grace.

You began to breathe again,
to move without fear,
to speak with abandon
the words you carried
in your bones,
that echoed in your being.

You learned to sing.

But the deal with this blessing
is that it will not leave you alone,
will not let you linger
in safety,
in stasis.

The time will come
when this blessing
will ask you to leave,
not because it has tired of you
but because it desires for you
to become the sanctuary
that you have found–
to speak your word
into the world,
to tell what you have heard
with your own ears,
seen with your own eyes,
known in your own heart:

that you are beloved,
precious child of God,
beautiful to behold,
and you are welcome
and more than welcome
here.

~finished.

by Debie Thomas

Advent Week-3 (2019): The Candle Of Joy

As I re-juggled my “to do” list of Christmas preparations, my thoughts bounced around the changes that have come and how Christmas will be somewhat different this year — good changes, challenging changes, hard changes — the interesting mosaic of life. It’s different for all of us, yet we all share in that changing landscape of life. Sometimes finding joy in the changes is easy. Other time it’s very challenging.

As I pondered the changes in my life, and in our world, I thought about Christmas and the birth of Baby Jesus. Sometimes that manger scene seems so irrelevant and so far removed from day-to-day life. Yet an old verse in the Bible brought freshness to my soul this week as I pondered how the Baby Jesus impacts my life today. It truly gives new cause for joy — to stop and listen again.

“For unto us a child is born …and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Any need you have in life and in the changing landscape of your mosaic can be answered by Jesus. If you need wisdom or strength, He will be your Counselor. If you need a mountain moved, He is your Mighty God. If you need comfort, forgiveness and gentle healing, He is your everlasting Father; and if your heart is anxious and troubled, He will be Peace to you. Jesus is our rock and our hope — our cause for joy!Read More »