I use the Sign of the Cross. I make it to bless myself. To do this well I need often enough to refresh my mind by recalling aptly what I have always known, and what, maybe, I have grown too familiar with. I need to stimulate my will with the hope of things to come. I need to enkindle my charity so that, as I make the sacred sign, I really look closer at God and at my fellows, and grow spiritually toward them all. And so I can renew my knowledge of my Faith and its dogmas and history. How, then, do we so frequently talk with one sign? Why do we bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross? We really do it because there is something in our minds and hearts to which we wish to give expression with our hands, with our faces, with our bodies. We humans are that way. If we feel something, we show it; or, if we do not show it, we are somehow restraining ourselves, disciplining ourselves, “under wraps.” Of course, we can render exterior acts meaningless by routine. But this dampening of our feelings, this admitting to our actions of the dullness of routine, ought really not be permitted ourselves when we make the Sign of the Cross. That blessing is too live an action. It involves too much feeling, too much thought, to be sunk into the lethargy or the apathy of a religious symbol allowed to decay. We just cannot afford to allow the supremely urgent Trinity to see us talk with a sign that is lifeless, to hear us talk without meaning in the Sign of the Cross. Indeed, in blessing ourselves, we are really addressing the Trinity. The Trinity! Is there anything we do not owe the Trinity? God, our Father, Who created us; and God, the Son, Who redeemed us; and God, the Holy Spirit, Who sanctifies and energizes us!
We Call on God.
“In the name of . . .” we say. That is an invocation. We call up someone, that is an evocation. We call up the very God of all. Men invoke, they call upon; men evoke, they call out “spirits” when they do this; men tremble at their audacity. We Christians can hardly let this invocation, this calling on, this evocation, this calling up and calling out be a mere formality. In the dark and tremulous memories of men - so say anthropologists - the name is continually found standing in the sense of person. And St. Thomas Aquinas says it more happily, we think: “The cause which confers the fullness of spiritual strength is the holy Trinity . . . . We call on, we call up that cause when we say: “In the name of . . . . .”
Catholic nations used to preface treaties “In the name of the Holy Trinity” to show their good faith and trembling hopes of peace under the name of God. Some Catholic nations, such as Ireland, still do. “In the name of . . . . .” personalizes; it calls on the living and energizing person.Naming is serious business. We “name” a baby; and, forever after, that baby has become for us a definite, labelled person. Gangsters “put the finger on” another; they “name” him. And he is in for something indeed. And everyone knows how effective it is to remember the name of the one we address.
Be Thoughtful Here.
We go on, then, “In the name of . . . . .”
Somehow we make contact with the person and the power of the one named. In this case, we make contact with the power of God, the Three-in-One “. . . . The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
I am God’s creature, God’s child, God’s son and I go forward calling Him up with this evocation, at His command and under His direction, with His protection. I am Christ’s member and I go forth at this invocation to do in my way what He does stupendously in His. I am one who “in the Spirit” speaks and acts. I exercise and I work. Alone, I might never turn my thoughts or my actions to such mighty things as spiritual realities, such as my God, my Redeemer. Alone, I might be frightened too much, awed too thoroughly, silenced too utterly by the profundity of God, mysterious, the Three-in-One. I might even not want to think of this God, so real, so personal, so intimate, so actual.
But I am bidden to start everything “In the name of . . . . .”
And I do. I almost smother myself with the Sign of the Cross — that is, I bless myself so often — and I continually express myself “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” I sign my heart, my lips, my forehead, I sign the book. I sign others and I sign things. It ought not strain my imagination to wake to my mind’s eye the instances when I daily and routinely make the Sign of the Cross. And always “In the name of . . . . .”