The words and gestures of the Sign of the Cross mark the beginning of our Mass, as well as virtually all other moments of good Catholic prayer. It is something so very basic to our “style” of prayer, and quickly becomes “second nature” to us when we pray. (Don’t you sometimes giggle when you see someone who’s not Catholic – say, an actor on a television program – make the Sign of the Cross in a very wooden, obviously uncomfortable manner?)
Familiar as the Sign of the Cross is, however, we want to make sure that it never becomes so hasty or heedless that it’s irreverent. Its words are a rather formal dedication of prayer and life to God. Its external gestures serve both to heighten our own awareness of our Faith and demonstrate it to others
After all, despite its simplicity it expresses two central truths of our Faith: the Divine Trinity and Christ’s death on the cross. Jesus Himself commanded us to “go forth … in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Given the journey that He was willing to endure in order for us to be saved – unto the very end of His life on the cross – the “small beginning” we make in the Sign of the Cross seems easy.