Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Signing the cross

I am probably much too self-conscious to adopt the practice but Joel Miller makes a pretty good case for this physical expression of faith:
Reading Letters and Papers from Prison, I was surprised to discover Dietrich Bonhoeffer used the sign of the cross in his daily prayers. “I’ve found that following Luther’s instruction to ‘make the sign of the cross’ at our morning and evening prayers is...most useful,” he said in one letter. “There is something objective about it....”

Growing up evangelical, I always understood signing oneself to be empty superstition. It was something Catholics did, not Protestants. And yet here’s a famous Protestant pastor and theologian comforting himself with the sign while imprisoned.

Not to mention Martin Luther instructing every Lutheran since his own day to “bless yourself with the holy cross,” as he says in his Small Catechism. ....

...[S]igning oneself is more than mere symbolism. It is, as Bonhoeffer said, “objective.” There is something tangible and actual about tracing the points of the cross over one’s body. It goes back to something covered in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Christians, the senior demon informs the junior, “can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers, for they constantly forget...that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.”

What we do physically affects us spiritually. Whether it’s lowering our gaze, raising our hands, bending our knee, or crossing ourselves, physical actions have a qualitative, spiritual effect. .... [more]