General Question

iphigeneia's avatar

Why do Christians make the sign of the cross?

Asked by iphigeneia (6224points) April 13th, 2010

I’m mostly interested in situations outside of church, as well as specifically the Roman Catholic tradition.

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51 Answers

DarkScribe's avatar

The Cross is the symbol used to represent Christianity. Using it isn’t hard to understand – it is a blessing.

(Or maybe they forgot which pocket they put their bus ticket in?)

ucme's avatar

I’m no christian but isn’t it the holy trinity, father son & the holy ghost.I thought that was common knowledge.

bob_'s avatar

More specifically, it represents how “Jesus died for our sins”.

Blackberry's avatar

You mean when they touch their hands to their head and shoulders? It’s just religious mumbo-jumbo. It doesn’t mean anything except to them.

Facade's avatar

@Blackberry I’m pretty sure he/she’s asking what it means to those who do it.

jfos's avatar

I guess they use it to ensure good luck or protection before doing something.

MrItty's avatar

When the gesture is made, the accompanying invocation is “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. It’s a symbolic gesture. It symbolizes the act that you are asking for help/protection from their deity.

JLeslie's avatar

I think it is simply a habit or ritual. I only know Catholics who do it. They seem to do it when someone is going to travel, or when they are going to pray, or when they are saying goo bye to a loved one who they may not see for a while. Seems to me it is kind of like ensuring God is watching over you or themselves, whoever is being crossed at the time.

earthduzt's avatar

They are making the sign of the zodiac calender and the sign for the “crux” constellation. Oh waitn nvm they would never admit that. I suppose its the sign for blessing someone or something.

iphigeneia's avatar

Would it ever be done in thanks or simple acknowledgement, rather than when asking for something?

Blackberry's avatar

@Facade Oh..oops, sorry.

JLeslie's avatar

@iphigeneia When my mother-in-law crosses my husband (her son) I don’t think she is specifically asking for something, she just loves him.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

It’s just a common OCD outlet for Catholics – we all have strange habits, theirs just holds religious meaning.

Pandora's avatar

Acknowledgment of the Holy Trinity and that you accept in your belief that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. And asking for blessing from all. Who are one and the same.
The Father (God)
The Son (Jesus)
The Holy Spirit (Soul)

MrItty's avatar

@JLeslie Interesting. I’ve never seen anyone other than a priest during Mass cross someone else. Only themselves.

SomeChristianGuy's avatar

Only Catholics do it. It’s probably more of traditional rather than scriptural (the actual practice of doing the sign of the cross and not the symbolization of it).

Nullo's avatar

It’s mostly the Catholics (and maybe a couple of the other old denominations) that cross themselves.

Less ecclesiastically, making the sign of the cross worked its way into superstition, where it became yet another tool for keeping away forces like evil spirits and bad luck.

kevbo's avatar

According to my Catholic doctrine book from the 1950s it is a “confession” of belief in the mystery of the trinity—that the father, son, and holy ghost/spirit are three distinct, divine persons who are not each other yet all one God, a mystery that cannot be understood by reason but only by faith. It is used to start and end certain rituals or segments of rituals as well as during times requiring prayer (crisis, temptation, etc).

Greek Orthodox patrons cross themselves three times.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

I would guess it’s in the catechism somewhere.

CMaz's avatar

Jesus was murdered on the cross.

DarkScribe's avatar

@ChazMaz Jesus was murdered on the cross.

Jesus was put to death by due process as a punishment for a crime. The Bible recommends that we obey the civil laws.

gasman's avatar

Spectacles, testicles, wallet, watch. Iisn’t that the punchline—er, mnemonic—that accompanies that maneuver?

CMaz's avatar

“Jesus was put to death by due process as a punishment for a crime.”
So should I have said killed?

If that works for you, go with it. :-)

He was an agitator, and handled the way agitators were in that time. In some cases we still do that today.

But then again. It was prophecy fulfilled.

MrItty's avatar

@gasman I’ve never heard that in my life. And it makes 0 sense. You don’t wear your glasses on your forehead, the bottom of the cross isn’t in your groin, you don’t keep your wallet in your shirt pocket, and even if you do still have a pocket watch, you generally don’t have a pocket on your right side of your shirt.

Pazza's avatar

So they can keep track of their ‘specticles, testicles, wallet and watch’........

EDIT: Damb, I’m always late!......
(note to self, always read previous comments!........)

gia's avatar

im sorry..i think you are reffering to a catholic..christian is a bit diffrent…we dont practice that..tnxs..

MrItty's avatar

@gia I’m sorry, I think you’re confused about what Catholics and Christians are. Catholics are one denomenation of Christian. They are not a separate and distinct religion.

gia's avatar

Here in philly its diffrent..

MrItty's avatar

@gia No. It’s not. You’re simply misinformed, sorry.

JLeslie's avatar

@MrItty It always seems to me that Catholics know they are Christian, I mean they do accept Christ as their savior, but other Christians do not accept Catholics as Christian. I find it annoying. But, I too use the term Christian and Catholic to separate the two, because every Catholic I know has always been tolerant of other religions, and rarely wears their religion on their sleeve, and is accepting of science, and the Christian’s I have met that is not always the case.

JLeslie's avatar

@MrItty Also, about the crossing, now I question my memory. When we visit, usually when we are leaving I can picture her standing in front of my husband making the sign of the cross and kissing her cross charm, and in my memory she is crossing him. We are going to be visiting soon I’ll have to watch for it. I don’t think she always does it, because her son converted to Judaism, maybe she feels uneasy, but sometimes does it out of habit? Which does not bother me at all, I just think of it as a ritual she does with her children, no matter what religion my husband is, she is still Catholic.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

Christianity encompasses about a zillion denominations Catholicism is one of the major divides in the faith, but it is neither the first division nor is it free of further division. All that’s needed to say someone is Christian is a belief that Jesus is God, further arguments stem from there, hence all the divisions of the faith.

Judi's avatar

During Baptism my pastor says, “Receive the sign of the Holy Cross, on your forehead and on your heart, to mark you as one REDEEMED by Christ who was crucified.”
So I guess it is a reminder of our redemption. I’m not Catholic, I’m Lutheran.

AstroChuck's avatar

@kevbo- Also, Orthodox Catholics (Greek, Armenian, Russian, etc.) make the sign of the cross going from right to left, unlike Roman Catholics who sign left to right.

JLeslie's avatar

@AstroChuck I thought it was Europe VS. Americas thing, not the different groups of Catholicism? But, I think I think that because I assumed it. Always bad to make assumptions.

Always_Right_Ken99's avatar

As long as i can remember, Catholics believe they are the only christians that are true christians, To me that makes them false. And as far as I know they are the only ones that practice the crossing. I was raised up Methodist and married into a catholic family. It was a nightmare between our families so my wife and I eloped and said this is our decision between us and God. Its too bad that they have to be so brainwashed to believe they are the only sinners as we all have sinned in our lives and God will forgive us our sins is we ask.

dbtrueheart's avatar

Christians, in general, do NOT make the sign of the cross.

MrItty's avatar

@dbtrueheart Seeing as Catholics make up roughly half of all branches of Christianity ( and the sign of the cross is used by Cathlolics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox (, that’s simply not true.

Nullo's avatar

@MrItty By Protestant reckoning, most Catholics and lookalikes do not adhere very well to Scripture, and so may not entirely qualify. Like the Mormons.

MrItty's avatar

@Nullo something tells me Catholics say the same thing about Protestants. And it’s hard to see how you can say they don’t “qualify” as Christians, given that they are the original Christians. The Protestant reformation broke away from what was at the time the only Christian church.

CMaz's avatar

Believe in Jesus = Christian

No matter what “club” you belong to.

jaRedhuGhes's avatar

To those that said that we Christians use the Cross symbol on our chests, that is NOT us. Catholics do that. Christians and Catholics are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT! The Cross represents the Death of JESUS CHRIST and his sacrifice for all sinners. The Cross is Christianity. Jesus’ Death is what saves us.
(I am a Christian, in case I wasnt clear)

Judi's avatar

Uh, Catholics ARE Christians. Study your history. Chances are, if you’re a western Christian, somewhere along the line of history, a Catholic Christian influenced your denomination.

JLeslie's avatar

@jaRedhuGhes that makes me crazy not acknowledge Catholics as Christians. They accept Christ as their savior. I tend to separate out the Catholics from other Christians when I make generalizations, but I definitely consider them Christians.

MrItty's avatar

It cracks me up that anyone doesn’t consider Catholics Christians. It shows just a shocking lack of understanding of their own religion’s history. Folks, Catholics are the original Christians. Every other denomination of Christianity broke off from Catholicism. They have more of a claim to the label of “Christian” than anyone else.

JLeslie's avatar

I think maybe the answer is to stop using Christian and Catholic, and be more specific. Baptist, methodist, Catholic, Jehovah, Mormon, Lutheran…grouping all Christians together is just to broad. Already generalizing about anything can be dangerous, but then generalizing about a group as large as all Christians definitely doesn’t work well, and obviously many Christians do not include the Catholics (which again I find ridiculous) so I am all for clarifying what religion someone is from specifically when they are talking about their beliefs or religious rituals.

MrItty's avatar

(for what it’s worth, Catholics themselves acknowledge all non-Catholic Christians as “Christians”, albeit under the catchall term “Protestants”, as they are Christians who “protested” the Catholic Church and broke off from it)

terryr51's avatar

By the way, Catholics aren’t the only Christians who make the sign of the cross..Orthodox and Anglicans do too. When we Orthodox Christians make it, we are declaring we are Christians and asking for a blessing from our heavenly Father. We are remembering Christ’s crucifixion for our sakes, first and foremost. Just fyi…

MrItty's avatar

@terry51 This was all covered back when this conversation actually happened, 6 months ago

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