I remember someone telling me when I was quite young, that the Sign of the Cross is the perfect expression of all the major truths of the Catholic Faith. At the time, this remark did not make a very great impression on me. I took it at face value, and accepted it, but then, I merely filed it away in my mind without actually thinking about it. Lately, though, I find that I am thinking about it quite a lot. It began, primarily, as a way of recalling myself to my prayers, when I noticed that my mind had wandered off, as it tends to do at the slightest opportunity. However, the more often I practice thinking about what exactly I am doing when I make the Sign of the Cross, the more I appreciate the powerful expression of faith it is.
For it really does express the major truths of the Faith. When I sign myself "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost" I am expressing my belief in the Blessed Trinity. By using the singular noun 'name' rather than the plural 'names' I am proclaiming by unity of the Three Persons. By making the cross as I say the prayer, I am also directly showing my belief in the Incarnation of the Son of God, and in His death upon the cross; indirectly, my belief in Original Sin, the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, and that the death of Our Lord was the cause of our redemption. I am admitting my own sinful weakness, and that, by the cross, I am now under the mercy of God, and therefore, it is an act of trust. Furthermore, I am symbolically taking the cross upon myself, and am therefore, acknowledging must follow in the footsteps of God Himself, and bear my sufferings as He did, so it is an act of immolation.
If I make the Sign of the Cross, and pray instead, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end" I am now expressing my belief in the omnipotence of God, in the reality of Heaven, in eternity. In addition, I am offering to God a simple act of adoration, placing myself, for that little moment, before His throne and adding my own voice to the unceasing praise of the angels and saints.
When I make the Sign of the Cross, I am also blessing myself, a truly remarkable thing, if you think about it. The Sign of the Cross is universally understood to be a sign of blessing. The priest makes the sign over the host, to bless it for the Consecration, over sacramentals, to bless them for our use, over his congregation, to call blessings down upon us. Traditionally, Catholic parents would bless their children by making the Sign of the Cross upon their foreheads with holy water. But when I make that simple movement over my own person, I am able bless myself as well. I am able to beg blessings on my own behalf, and that is a powerful act indeed. No wonder it is recommended that we use the Sign of the Cross in times of temptation.