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 »