SIGN OF THE CROSS
By Steve Ray

The Sign of the Cross is a ritual gesture by which we confess two important mysteries: the Trinity and the centrality of the Cross. It is the most common and visible means by which we confess our faith. The Sign of the Cross is made by touching the forehead with the fingers of the right hand, then the breast and then the left and right shoulders.

The sign was originally placed upon the forehead with the thumb and later extended to the whole upper body. This is not only a personal gesture, as a form of prayer but also a public witness and a sign of participation in the life of Christ and the Church. It is used as an integral part of many actions (e.g., at Baptism, Confirmation, prayer, to begin and end Mass, etc.).

 The Church has given us wonderful customs and traditions to mark ourselves and to acknowledge our participation in the whole continuity of the Church and the work of Christ. Miracles have been performed with this simple gesture and parliaments and councils have opened under its sign. Though Protestantism jettisoned this practice, along with the crucifix during the Reformation, the Catholic and Orthodox traditions faithfully continue this age old practice handed down from the age of the Apostles.

 The Catholic Church has always seen outward gestures as means of expressing and actuating internal spiritual realities. Sacramentals, such as the Sign of the Cross, are not superstitious practices but are sacred signs by which various things in life are rendered holy through the effectual and sacramental grace of God. By the Sign of the Cross we pledge allegiance to Christ and invite the Holy Spirit to apply the cross to our lives—to take up our cross and follow Christ.

 Though the NT does not specifically mention the “Sign of the Cross”, there is scriptural warrant for such a gesture. St. Paul writes, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2), and “may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).

Ezekiel provides precedence for a sign upon the forehead of believers (Ezek 9:4; 17:9–14) as does Revelation (Rev 7:3; 9:4; 14:1). Ezekiel provided a support for the early Christians to use it as a “sacramental” (CCC 1235, 1668) to display their devotion to Christ and His Cross. There is reason to believe that the Jewish Christians used the Sign of the Cross prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in ad 70.

 In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we learn: “The Christian begins his day, his prayers and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’ The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father. The Sign of the Cross strengthens us in temptations and difficulties” (CCC, no. 2157; see also CCC, no. 786).

 The writings of the Fathers, as authentic witnesses to the apostolic teaching in the early Church, are replete with references to the Sign of the Cross. The practice is already well established in the 2nd century as attested to by Tertullian (ad c. 160-c. 225). He writes of the wife who “signs” her bed and body (To His Wife 5).

He also writes, “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. If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of them, custom as their strengthener, and faith as their observer” (The Chaplet 3, 4).

 Origen (ad c. 185-c. 284) wrote, “This [letter Tau] bears a resemblance to the figure of the cross; and this prophecy [Ezek 9:4] is said to regard the sign made by Christians on the forehead, which all believers make whatsoever work they begin upon, and especially at the beginning of prayers, or of holy readings” (Selections in Ezekiel. c. ix).

 St. Augustine (354–430 AD) wrote: “What else is the sign of Christ but the cross of Christ? For unless that sign be applied, whether it be to the foreheads of believers, or to the very water out of which they are regenerated, or to the oil with which they receive the anointing chrism, or to the sacrifice that nourishes them, none of them is properly administered” (Tractates on John 118).

 There has never been a time in the flow of historic Christianity that the Sign of the Cross has not been devoutly practiced. Only recently, since the Reformation, has the Sign of the Cross (along with the Crucifix, holy water and other visible signs) been rejected as idolatrous by many Protestant traditions. However, even Martin Luther in his Taufbuechlein retained the Sign of the Cross in the baptismal service and used the Sign of the Cross as one of his last gestures before death (H. Grizar, Luther, 3:435).

 Quotations:

Tertullian: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Philip Schaff, ed., Eerdmans, 1980, vol. 3, p. 94–95.

Origen: The Faith of Catholics, Rev. Chapel, ed., Fr. Pustet & Co., 1885, vol. 3, p. 424.

St. Augustine: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1st series, Philip Schaff, ed., Eerdmans, 1983, vol. 7, p. 432.

Grizar citation: Luther, Hartmann Grizar, B. Herder Book Co., 1919, vol. 3, p. 435.

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From Mexico City, over the Volcanic Range to Puebla

by Steve Ray on August 31, 2015

Janet and I, with our encyclopedic guide Roberto left Mexico City, past the active volcano and down into the valley of Puebla. I am just showing you a few snapshot and video clips of an amazing country and two spectacular days. 

We are preparing for upcoming pilgrimages we will be leading to Mexico City, Guadalupe and out into the countryside and mountains of Mexico to see the devout local people, their traditions and their amazing churches. Enjoy!

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Cut off His Head! John the Baptist

by Steve Ray on August 30, 2015

Beheading of John the Baptist
August 29

Beheading sm.jpgWhy was John so special? He was the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the New. He was the first to proclaim the news that Jesus was the Messiah, the Lamb of God. He was 100% from the lineage of Aaron the High Priest.

Where was he born and what do we know about him? He was born in Ein Kerem west of Jerusalem. Prior to birth he was sanctified in the womb by the Holy Spirit when the Blessed Virgin Mary arrived for the Visitation. He later left for the wilderness where he probably associated with the Essenes at Qumran. Jesus probably met him in the Wilderness. He ate locusts and wild honey so he was a manly man!

Why was John beheaded–getting mixed up in morality and politics John did not get beheaded for preaching Christ, per se, but for criticizing the King. It is similar to us today criticizing and immoral government that requests we deny our consciences to follow their laws. John lost his head for criticizing the powers that be in government. 

What sources do we have outside the Bible? The Jewish historian Josephus tells us about John, especially his death which took place in Herod’s Fortress of Machareus on the east side of the Dead Sea in modern country of Jordan

Where is the head of John the Baptist today? There is a lot of controversy on this matter and many have claimed to have his skull. I would not be willing at this point to vouch for any of them.

To learn more about John, see my DVD Jesus, the Word Became Flesh and see where he was beheaded — filmed on location.  Click here.

Below: The remains of Herod’s Fortress of Machaerus where John was beheaded and what it looked like at the time of Christ.

As it was in the time of Christ

How Marchareus looks today

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Our 1st Two Days in Mexico City

August 29, 2015

Below Janet and I are here in Mexico City exploring, touring and setting up for future pilgrimages to this marvelous city. Guadalupe is amazing and exceeded our expectations as has the whole city here. Below is a video to share a bit of what we’re seeing and doing. Below that video is a 2nd short [...]

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On our Way Guadalupe…

August 28, 2015

A lot of our pilgrims have asked us about Guadalupe as a pilgrimage destination. Janet and I are on our way down now to investigate hotels, agents and guides, restaurants and sites. We are going to make this pilgrimage more than just a few days at Guadalupe. We’re also going to include some wonderful cultural [...]

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Planned Parenthood & Pontius Pilate

August 27, 2015

  Planned Parenthood and Pontius Pilate by Dr. Edward Peters The first Station of the Cross, “Jesus is condemned to death”, recalls one of Western history’s most iconic acts of antinomianism, Pontius Pilate washing his hands of Jesus’ blood (Matthew 27: 24). Pilate’s cowardly and contemptuous abandonment of an innocent man to death stands—and will stand [...]

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Updated List of All Steve’s Talks for Conferences and Missions

August 25, 2015

We just updated the list of all the talks Steve gives at events, missions, conferences, etc. Check it out here.  If you’d like Steve to speak at your event – or to recommend him for an event – visit InviteSteve.com.

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Interesting Insight: Abortion, the Annunciation and the Visitation

August 24, 2015

After a talk I gave at the Cathedral in Gaylord Michigan on Saturday, an insightful man named Richard Grammens and his wife Mary Jean approached me. He told me to think about the “size  and condition” of Jesus in the womb when John the Baptist recognized the Person and Personhood of Jesus in hte womb. [...]

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He Circumcised Himself! Ouch!

August 21, 2015

I received this e-mail from a priest friend of mine. Not sure what to think about it :-) “I have to share a short  inspirational story.  My brother has been involved in a prison ministry for many years in our home parish area.  They recently watched the Footprints of God program on Abraham.  “One of [...]

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A Letter that Brought Tears of Joy to my Eyes. Hope you enjoy it too.

August 21, 2015

UPDATE: I was able to stop at ave Maria Radio today and meet Erik. What a handsome gentle giant. We hugged and talked for a while and I was delighted. ************************ “I’m sure you get tons of emails about how you’ve touched peoples lives. I would have liked to tell you this story in person, [...]

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Funnest Homily on the Beatitudes – EVER!

August 20, 2015

Hang on to your hats and get ready to make hand gestures. This no average homily. Fr. Scott Courtney has been our pilgrimage chaplain many times and everyone loves his homilies. Enjoy this homily on the Beatitudes delivered at the Mount of Beatitudes on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

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The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church: Article by Steve Ray

August 19, 2015

The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church, by Steve Ray The word “Eucharist” was used early in the Church to describe the Body and Blood of Christ under the forms of bread and wine. Eucharist comes from the Greek word for “thanks” (eucharistia), describing Christ’s actions: “And when he had given thanks, he broke [...]

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On Relevant Radio at 9 AM Eastern – “Rivers of the Bible”

August 18, 2015

You can listen to the archived show of Rivers in the Bible here. It starts at 03:00 minutes into the show. It is a fun show with a lot about the geography and meaning of the Holy Land. Click here to see Steve eat the grasshopper at the Jordan River as mentioned today on Relevant [...]

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There are Two Seas in Palestine – Which One are You Like?

August 17, 2015

I am doing a show on Relevant Radio about the “Rivers of the Bible” at 9 AM Eastern at RelevantRadio.com. I will soon post the link to listen to the archived show. We mentioned on the show when Steve at a grasshopper at the Jordan Rive like the John the Baptist did You can see [...]

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Me Preparing for the Coming Persecution :-)

August 17, 2015

Our documentary on King David-Solomon and our DVD on Apostolic Fathers who were martyred for the truth of Christianity required that I rent a lion for some of the scenes. I was so close I could smell the lion’s breath. What a terrifying thing to fall into the jaws of such a powerful beast. I [...]

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Countdown to Persecution in America

August 17, 2015

Two excellent articles (Part I and Part II and Part III). There is no doubt our society is rapidly moving away from it foundations and turning into an intolerant, secular society. When that happens Christians are the first to suffer. Over the last few years I have been giving a talk entitled “Swimming Upstream: Living a [...]

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