13. Ask for support in our suffering
In crossing our shoulders we ask God “to support us—to shoulder us—in our suffering,” Ghezzi writes.
14. Reaffirm our baptism
In using the same words with which we were baptized, the Sign of the Cross is a “summing up and re-acceptance of our baptism,” according to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
15. Reverse the curse
The Sign of the Cross recalls the forgiveness of sins and the reversal of the Fall by passing “from the left side of the curse to the right of blessing,” according to de Sales. The movement from left to right also signifies our future passage from present misery to future glory just as Christ “crossed over from death to life and from Hades to Paradise,” Pope Innocent II wrote.
16. Remake ourselves in Christ’s image
In Colossians 3, St. Paul uses the image of clothing to describe how our sinful natures are transformed in Christ. We are to take off the old self and put on the self “which is being renewed … in the image of its creator,” Paul tells us. The Church Fathers saw a connection between this verse and the stripping of Christ on the cross, “teaching that stripping off our old nature in baptism and putting on a new one was a participation in Christ’s stripping at his crucifixion,” Ghezzi writes.
He concludes that we can view the Sign of the Cross as “our way of participating in Christ’s stripping at the Crucifixion and his being clothed in glory at his resurrection.” Thus, in making the Sign of the Cross, we are radically identifying ourselves with the entirety of the crucifixion event—not just those parts of it we can accept or that are palatable to our sensibilities.
17. Mark ourselves for Christ
In ancient Greek, the word for sign was sphragis, which was also a mark of ownership, according to Ghezzi. “For example, a shepherd marked his sheep as his property with a brand that he called a sphragis,” Ghezzi writes. In making the Sign of the Cross, we mark ourselves as belong to Christ, our true shepherd.
18. Soldier on for Christ
The sphragis was also the term for a general’s name that would be tattooed on his soldiers, according to Ghezzi. This too is an apt metaphor for the Christian life: while we can be compared to sheep in the sense of following Christ as our shepherd we are not called to be sheepish. We instead are called to be soldiers of Christ. As St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6, “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. … take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”