Catholics have a super short prayer that sums up SO much of what we believe. Can you think of what it is? You’ve probably “performed” it several times already today; it’s The Sign of The Cross. Because it’s called a sign, and because of the active gestures that accompany it, we may have never stopped to think of it as a prayer. Yet, it is – in fact, it’s (at least partially) a special kind of prayer called a statement of belief, or creed, prayer.
I surmise that more than any other kind, a creed prayer just may be the one that falls most tenderly upon our Lord’s ears. Allow this analogy: If a beloved child (or grandchild!) approached to speak to you, would you deep-down rather hear a complaint, a request, a (not quite adequate) praise, a (typically incomplete) apology, or a sincere acknowledgement of the child’s belief in you and in your relationship?
What also really strikes me about this prayer is the underlying significance of the physicality of it — not so much in the evident cross delineation itself as in the illustrative end-placement of the motions on our own bodies. Consider where our hand pauses:
- “In the name of the Father:” At the head … the source of leadership, creativity, wisdom, thoughtfulness, and imagination; the point from which all growth and motion become possible; the mysteries of which are, despite centuries of scientific and philosophical study, still largely unplumbed.
- “And of the Son:” At the heart … the way we come to fully understand love; the place where the truest, most profound decisions are made; the final leap between logic and hope; the beat in which generosity and surrender become possible. And at the stomach … where Christ in the Eucharist begins to infiltrate our every cell; the seat of ever-fulfilled, ever-yearning hunger; the center of the original instinct we have to feast on abundant life.
- “And of the Holy Spirit:” At the shoulders … the resting place for little ones in need of tenderness; the muscle behind our commitment and courage; the path that takes work from our heart out to our hands and back again; the turn of which can repel temptation; the platform for bearing redemptive burdens; the stretch that opens arms wide – in welcome, and mercy, and sacrifice.
This coming Thursday, September 14, is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: a day to especially ponder the wonder of what God has done for us, how He chose to rescue each one of us from sin, death, and hell on His cross. Perhaps this year it will be a day to pray some extra Signs of the Cross.