More christians should cross themselves
Views 19 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 2 - 6 - 2019 | By: Nathan Tudor
To cross oneself is to proclaim central Christian truths. The worshipper’s body becomes a demonstration of rich symbolism, deep theology, and historic practice. But unfortunately, this act of worship is hardly found within the Westmont community. I think if more of us crossed ourselves, then our prayer and worship would receive another dimension of embodied meaning.
To worship God is to render Him glory. We usually think of this in terms of song, but that is a woefully inadequate understanding of worship. God is worshipped perhaps more so through practical actions --there is little value to words if their meaning is not inculcated in the faithful.
One of the ways the active quality of worship can be taught is bodily participation in worship. This is already common at Westmont--at chapel’s conclusion, we are often asked to raise our hands to receive the benediction. The gesture signifies openness to receiving the blessing. It is also common to see hands raised during the musical worship, which demonstrates God’s exalted nature and the desire to give Him all due glory and honor.
And yet, outside Westmont’s faithful minority of Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic students, you rarely see people crossing themselves. This is more than unfortunate--it is sorrowful.
In the third century, Tertullian--the first known theologian to use the language of Trinity--wrote, “We Christians wear out our foreheads with the sign of the cross.” Since the early church, crossing oneself was a fixture of Christian worship. It has taken different forms (for example, left-to-right versus right-to-left), but the core meaning is broadly the same.
The sign of the cross is a proclamation of salvation, for it was on the cross that Jesus won victory over death and rescued humanity. The sign of the cross is Trinitarian; the gesture is made in time with “In the Name of the Father [forehead], Son [body], and Holy Spirit [shoulders].” So when we cross ourselves, we remember our Triune God who saves through the Son’s Incarnation.
The Eastern Orthodox Church’s practice of crossing is particularly beautiful in meaning. The thumb and two forefingers fingers together represent the Three-in-One nature of God, while the two back fingers recall the union of Christ’s two natures--fully human and fully divine. The hand then moves from forehead to torso, recalling Christ’s Incarnation, moving from Heaven to Earth. From right shoulder to left shoulder--from strength to weakness. And in some variations there is then a movement from left shoulder back to right--Christ returned from weakness and is now in strength.
The sign of the cross is not an empty ritual, nor is it ‘some Catholic thing.’ It is theology embodied, and physical demonstration of devotion. We could only benefit from incorporating it into our prayers and worship.