The Meaning of the Sign of the Cross to the Christian

Saint John Chrysostom: “When therefore thou signest thyself, think of the purpose of the Cross, and quench anger, and all the other passions. When thou signest thyself, fill thy forehead with all courage, make thy soul free. And ye know assuredly what are the things that give freedom. Therefore, also Paul leading us there, I mean unto the freedom that beseems us, did on this wise lead us unto it, having reminded us of the Cross and blood of our Lord. ‘Ye were bought with a price; cease making yourselves slaves of men [1 Cor. 7:23].’ It is as if he were saying, ‘Consider, the price that has been paid for thee, and thou wilt be a slave to no man’; by the price meaning the Cross.

“Since not merely by the fingers ought one to engrave it, but before this by the purpose of the heart with much faith. And if in this way thou hast marked it on thy face, not one of the unclean spirits will be able to stand near thee, seeing the blade whereby he received his wound, seeing the sword which gave him his mortal stroke. For if we, on seeing the places in which the criminals are beheaded, shudder, then think what the devil must endure, seeing the weapon, whereby Christ put an end to all of his power, and cut off the head of the dragon!

“This, therefore, do thou engrave upon thy mind, and embrace the salvation of our souls. For this Cross saved and converted the world, drove away error, brought back truth, made earth heaven, fashioned men into angels. Because of this, the devils are no longer terrible, but contemptible; neither is death, death, but a sleep; because of this, all that warreth against us is cast to the ground, and trodden under foot.

“This sign, both in the days of our forefathers and now, has opened doors that were shut up; this has quenched poisonous drugs; this has taken away the power of hemlock; this has healed bites of venomous beasts. For if it opened the gates of Hades, and threw wide the archways of heaven, and made a new entrance into Paradise, and cut away the nerves of the devil, what marvel, if it prevailed over poisonous drugs, and venomous beasts, and all other such things?” Elsewhere, he exhorts: “Art thou one of the faithful? Sign thyself with the Cross and say, ‘This I have for my only weapon; this for my remedy; and other I know none.’” Let us not forget what we heard in the Gospel reading today: “For whosoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this generation, the adulterous and sinful one, also the Son of Man shall be ashamed of him, whenever He should come in the glory of His Father with the holy angels [Mk. 8:38].”

Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church, Triodion. Holy Apostles Convent, Buena Vista, Colorado.

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