My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE SIGN OF THE CROSS: ITS POWER, MEANING AND MIRACLES (Part III)
Saint John of Kronstadt is correct when he writes: "The Cross is the icon of the crucified Christ, the Son of God. That is why also its sign and even its shadow alone causes terror to the demons because it is the sign of Christ, because it is the protection of the Crucified. For this it is enough for someone to dip the Cross into the water to sanctify it (Holy Water). After this the water becomes therapeutic and expels demons.
The value of the Sign of the Holy Cross and the need for its very frequent use by the faithful.
With everything we briefly expounded on this point it is fully self explanatory and understandable why our Holy Church bestows to the Sign of the Cross such a great honor as well as its very frequent use, both during the Divine Liturgy as well as in the daily life of the faithful.
In all the movements of the officiator during the performance of the Divine Liturgy from the "Blessed is the Kingdom..." to the "Through the blessings" the Sign of the Cross" be made by the Priest.
Whenever one turns his gaze, inside or outside of the Orthodox Church, he will see the Sign of the Cross impressed: on the building of the church, in the iconography, in the ecclesiastic décor, in the architecture of the church, in the liturgical books, on the sacred vestments and utensils...
But also in our daily life all the faithful keep as a valuable spiritual and sanctifying heritage, the same holy habit of the use of the Sign of the Cross.
The pious Christians make the sign of the Cross very frequently: in the morning when one wakes up from sleep; during the duration of all their prayers; when they leave their house; when they pass outside churches; when they finish their work; before drinking water or other drinks; before food; after eating; before retiring to bed; when they hear good news or bad news.... At every occasion, the sign of the Cross! ..The day of the faithful begins - and must begin with the Cross and ends with the Cross! But also vise-versa his night begins and ends with the Cross!
Many times also Christians go to the church, asking the Priest, to "Cross" them, namely to bless them with the Cross (either with the Cross, or with another holy vessel or vestment) with the intention to be strengthened against the temptations or to be relieved of some sickness.
So great is the power of the Sign of the Cross, the Sign of the Almighty Son of God. So great is the grace that it envelops mystically within it! As briefly and vividly Saint Makarios of Moscow (+ 1563) notes "Oftentimes, one single sign of the Cross that is made with faith and intense experiences is more powerful than many words of prayer in front of the Throne of the Most High God. In it exists the light that illuminates the soul, the healing power that heals the sicknesses of the souls and bodies, the mystical power that acts against all harm. Do unclean thoughts double and triple this wall and the unclean thoughts will be tamed. Is your heart surrounded by temptations? Do you feel the wiles of invisible enemies? Run to this power of the Cross, and the peace of your soul shall return, the temptation will go away, the consolation of the grace of God and spiritual joy will flood your heart."
Why do we always repeat the blessing of the sign of the Cross?
After the above, however, the question justifiably is raised: If the Sign of the Cross has so much grace and so much power, why can't we all enjoy its blessings and gifts always?
The answer is simple: Because we do not use it properly, as we should, as God and the Holy Church wants to. We shall refer indicatively to only four reasons:
A) Perhaps because we are a of little faith and lukewarm. We do not make the Sign of the Cross with living faith t the Crucified Lord and in the power of the grace of His Cross.
B) Perhaps because we have no humility. Thus because if the Lord, activates the power of the Sign of the Cross, there is a danger of falling in pride, believing the results of this Divine Power as our own accomplishment.
C) Perhaps because of our hardheartedness, sinfulness and our unrepentance. As Saints Cosmas the Aetolian characteristically says, "we should have our hand clean of sins and uncontaminated and then, as make the sign of the Cross, the devil gets burnt and departs. Seeing that we are contaminated with sins, the sign of the Cross is not valid when we Cross ourselves (and so) the demons are not afraid."
D) Finally, perhaps we do not make the sign of the Cross correctly, according to the Tradition of the Church has delivered to us, offending this way both the sanctity of the Cross and the Lord Himself.
This last one we must pay a lot of attention to it. A lot of attention. All of us - clerics, monks, nuns and lay people - are guilty, some a little and others a lot, for a careless or mechanical or even impious execution of the Sign of the Cross on our body.
Some move their hand hurriedly over their chest or in the air, without touching their body at all, other times they make a triangular sign or an X and other times one could say are playing the guitar. How could one characterize such a pointless and mindless movement, that reaches the limits of blasphemy? Heavy but true is the word of Saint John Chrysostom who wrote that sometimes the devil himself moves the hand of these inattentive Christians to mock the most holy symbol of the Holy Cross and to damn themselves.
Some Christians again fall into another error. They are those who come to the church, who usually stand in prominent spots and there, in front of everybody, with hollow exhibitionism, bend their waist in deep prostrations, extend their hands uncontrollably here and there, crossing themselves with excessive indiscreet and sometimes ridiculous movements...
There is a third category of Christians who completely avoid making the sign of the Cross and especially in public. It is those who are ashamed to confess their faith in Christ and to his Cross. They are afraid of the irony, contempt, the mocking of the people of the world. As the holy Evangelist John writes: "They love the glory of the people over that of God." If we belong to them, let us remember the instruction of the holy Apostle Paul, "And be not conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2) as well as the serious warning of the Lord Himself "Whosoever does not confess Me in front of the people I too will deny him in front of My Father in heaven". And beyond these let us be conscious that we deprive ourselves from yet another almighty weapon against temptations, the passions, the sicknesses and the demons. Let us be careful what Saint Cyril of Jerusalem advises us" "Let us not be ashamed of the Cross of Christ. And if someone else is ashamed and hides it, you make your Cross visibly so that the demons may see the Sign of the King Christ and depart far, trembling. In fact make the Sign of the Cross often, whether you eat or sit, or rest, or rise or speak or walk, in other words at every situation. Because whoever Crosses himself here on earth, he noetically is up in heaven...The protection is great! Freely do the poor receive it and without toil by the sick because the grace derives from God. It is the Sign of the faithful and the fear of the demons.
(To be continued)
Please note: I have observed some of our brothers and sisters in Christ during the divine services of our Church and how some of them never make the sign of the Cross, others that make the Sign of the Cross mechanically, and still others as though they are playing a musical instrument. How can one be blessed, inspired, protected and hope to receive the grace of the Holy Cross under those circumstances? How can one who makes the Sign of the Cross without faith and reverence drive away the demons?
Unfortunately when parents are not making the sign of the Cross properly, i.e., respectfully, with faith and true conviction, their children who imitate them will inevitably make the sign of the Cross exactly the same and wrong way. Only one cannot even honestly say that what they are making is the Sign of the Cross.
I recently observed a mother making the sign of the Cross the wrong way, and then looked over to her adult son, and imitating his mother, made the sign of the Cross exactly the same way.
Please take time to teach your children how to make the sign of the Cross and to know the purpose, significance and meaning.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God