The following is from the fourteenth installment of my bulletin insert series:
Sign of the Cross - this topic was brought up in our worship class, and I thought I might cover it in this series.
Often times, the use of the sign of the cross is thought (by those who are not used to using it) to be . . . Roman Catholic. Roman Catholics do, of course, use the sign of the cross, but so do others (e.g., Lutherans, Anglicans/Episcopalians, Orthodox, etc.). In fact, you may occasionally even see United Methodists using the sign of the cross!
The sign of the cross is done in a few different ways. There is the signing of one’s self (forehead, breast, left shoulder, then right shoulder). This is simply a devotional expression of faith in Christ and our redemption through the cross of Christ. It is often done when the Holy Trinity is invoked, or when one is receiving the Holy Sacrament of Communion.
The pastor may make the sign of the cross over the Holy Sacraments during consecration and over the people of God during the Trinitarian benediction or blessing.
Ashes are used to “sign” our foreheads on Ash Wednesday. When anointing with oil, the sign of the cross is used. John Wesley instructed that infants be “signed” with the cross on their foreheads during baptism. This use of the sign of the cross, at least, is quite “Methodist.”
Finally, people in liturgical churches make the sign of the cross on their forehead, mouth and heart when the gospel is announced. By this, they are saying, “May the gospel be in my mind, upon my lips, and in my heart.”
The sign of the cross really is not just a Roman Catholic thing. It is a devotional act that many Christians in many denominations (even some Methodists!) may find to be a meaningful, devotional expression of faith.