Why don't Evangelical Christians make the sign of the cross before praying?
Here are a few of the most common objections given by Evangelical Christians to making the sign of the cross:
- It’s a "Catholic" practice
- It's a man-made rule
- It’s an empty, superstitious gesture
- The Bible didn’t instruct early believers to make the sign of the cross
To all those who believe that the ‘Catholic’ practice of making the sign of the cross is a man-made rule steeped in empty ritual, I say read the writings of the early Christians. One quickly discovers that the early Christians did not view this gesture as an empty man-made invention. It was a prayer. It was a symbol of redemption and a profession that they belonged to Christ. It also spoke to their belief in the Incarnation, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the Trinity. It was a sign that everything they did in life was for Jesus. It was a summary of their faith. This beautiful gesture still holds the same meaning for Catholics today as it did in the early Church.
"In all our coming in and going out, in putting of our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupieth us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross" (de Corona).
St. Cyril of Jerusalem:
Let us then not be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the cross our seal, made with boldness by our fingers on our brow and in every thing; over the bread we eat and the cups we drink, in our comings and in goings; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are travelling, and when we are at rest (Catecheses, xiii, 36).
It may also surprise many to know that the ancient Christian practice of tracing a sign of the cross on their body has biblical roots.
According to Rev. Joseph A. Jungmann, S.J.:
The original idea of this signing of oneself is probably indicated in the scriptural text frequently cited in this connection, the quotation about the wicked enemy who is anxious to take the seed of the word of God away from the hearts of the hearers (Luke 8:12). But another explanation takes over by degrees; an ever-increasing stress is placed on the readiness to acknowledge God’s word with courage in the sense of St. Paul’s assertion: "I am not ashamed of this gospel" (Rom. 1:16). . . . The meaning is this: For the word which Christ brought and which is set down in this book we are willing to stand up with a mind that is open; we are ready to confess it with our mouth; and above all we are determined to safeguard it faithfully in our hearts" (The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Development, vol. I, 453-454).