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Using Spiritual Disciplines

The Sign of the Cross

Making the sign of the cross is a very old practice used by Christians in different ways. It is sometimes used to mark the forehead with oil or ashes. Some people use as a ritual blessing as they cross themselves. Whether it is your practice or not, the symbolism can be powerful and the following devotion provides a helpful focus for us to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will‘ (Romans 12:2)

In the Name of the FATHER, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

At the start of the Sign of the Cross, we touch our foreheads and say “In the name of the Father.” This focuses our minds on God as our Father. It is one of the simplest statements of our faith and yet is truly mind-blowing when we consider its implications. He is our Creator, the Creator of all things, and so much more.

The word “Father” defines a relationship; our relationship with God. If He is our Father, then we can trust the words of Julian of Norwich: “All will be well, all things will be well, all manner of things will be well in the Lord.” When I trust that God truly is my Father, I can trust in his love and provision for me. I can sleep soundly knowing that he is watching over me. I can explore life, safe in the knowledge that he is with me. I can risk failing, trusting that he will help me get back on my feet. I can breathe my last breath in peace, knowing that when my eyes open again they shall see His face.

Touching our foreheads also reminds us that we are free to make a conscious choice in what we believe. Our Christian faith encourages us to explore and to think for ourselves; is robust enough to withstand challenge and exploration; is brave enough to ask the big questions of life. God longs for us to explore these questions with Him and is keen to show us where to find life’s answers.

When I touch my forehead at the start of the ‘Sign of the Cross’, I am acknowledging that I choose this faith freely and consciously; I recognise my place in my relationship with God, the creator of all.

Prayer: O my loving Father, thank you that you call me your child. Grant me the humility to submit to you and to recognise that you know what’s best for me. I love you, Father. I long for the day when I can say that face to face with you. Please help me to share the love you have for me with others, and to help them to see how much you love them too. Amen

In the Name of the Father, and of the SON, and of the Holy Spirit

As we bring our hand down from our forehead to our chest, we say ‘and of the Son’. We turn our focus on Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, and we consider two truths.

Firstly, we recall the incarnation, the amazing action of God, humbling himself to become human. Fully God and fully human, Jesus stands among us, walks with us, teaches us, touches us, cries and laughs with us. The purpose of the incarnation was to become the saviour of the world. He lives under the law and sheds his blood as the sacrifice to enable our forgiveness. The simple action of drawing our hand down in a vertical direction simply reinforces our acceptance of Jesus coming down from heaven.

The second truth that we consider is the nature of Jesus as Son of the Father. The title Son gives us a glimpse into the profound nature of our loving God. It is beyond our fullest understanding to completely grasp the nature of this relationship, but we see moments of it in our Bible. We see this, perhaps most profoundly, in Luke’s account of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus, although fully God, still takes time to explore, wrestle with and confirm the will of his loving Father. In choosing to follow the will of his father, he not only shows us the true nature of being a child of God but also enables God’s saving plan to be fulfilled. How amazing that his personal sacrifice should set us all free and by entrusting his spirit into the safe hands of His father, He is resurrected.

Prayer: O my beautiful Jesus, my best friend, my brother, my savior. You are the way to our Father, You are the way I choose to go, You are the one I choose to follow. When I think of what you did for me, the words of my response are simply, “Thank you”. Help my life to be lived in gratitude and service. Amen.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the HOLY SPIRIT

The final part of making the Sign of the Cross consists of a line being drawn from the left shoulder to the right whilst saying “and of the Holy Spirit.” By drawing the cross beam onto our own shoulders, we recall the words of Jesus to his disciples about taking up our own cross and also his comforting words about how the burden he invites us to carry is light.

By naming the Holy Spirit as we draw this cross beam, we recall that it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to carry our load and to follow our Lord. Thinking about Jesus as Son enables us to consider the nature of the relationship within the Trinity. In a similar way, thinking about the Holy Spirit enables us to consider another aspect of the nature of God. When we consider Jesus, we have an image of God in the most tangible form. He walked, talked and lived amongst us. We could touch him and listen to him. When we consider the Holy Spirit, we have nothing tangible. We have only titles that highlight what the Holy Spirit does and metaphors such as water, fire, wind and breath trying to grasp something unfathomable.

The fact that God is both understandable like Jesus and unfathomable like the Holy Spirit draws us ever deeper into the mystery of who God is. The beauty of God’s mystery is found in the fact that it is the person of the Trinity, most unknowable who breathes in us, guiding us ever closer in our relationship with the Father and the Son.

Prayer: Source of wisdom, breath of Life, comforter and guide. I love you and need you.Come breathe anew in me, please. As I breathe, open my eyes to see the world, to see your presence in the world, and to play my part in your creative life. Amen.

Catholic Bible School www.catholic-bible-school.org/youversion

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