The History and Significance of the Sign of the Cross

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

If you’ve always been Catholic, you might think nothing of the Sign of the Cross. As something you’ve always known, it might be an afterthought to your prayer. Perhaps you rush through it and mutter the words. But that’s not the way it should be.

Douglas in Los Angeles recently saw people making the Sign of the Cross when a well-known celebrity passed away. He was curious and called Relevant Radio® wondering what this meant.

Father Richard Simon of Father Simon SaysTM explained the history of the prayer, saying, “It’s a very ancient symbol and used to just be made by crossing your forehead with the right hand.”

Its Biblical basis can be found in Ezekiel. “An angel is told to go out and mark everyone with a sign of the taw, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. But the way that the Hebrew alphabet was written then was closer to ours than it is now, and the taw was a cross, just like a T.”

Fr. Simon explains to Douglas that a Sign of the Cross is a mark for Christians and a triumph over death. It’s one of the first prayers that Catholic children learn and it’s a basic but powerful prayer that we say on a regular basis.

Douglas wondered how to make the Sign of the Cross so that he might mark himself as well. See below for a quick guide.

Sign of the Cross

The Sign of the Cross varies in different countries, explained Fr. Simon. We start from forehead to waist, but the West crosses themselves from left shoulder to right shoulder, and the East goes from right to left. We do as the priest does and the East reflects the way the priest crosses himself. In some places, the faithful still make a small cross on their forehead or a series of small crosses on their forehead, lips, and heart.

Listen to the full answer:

Tune in to Father Simon SaysTM weekdays at 1-2pm CT only on Relevant Radio®.

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.