There are exceptionally strong encouragements directed at the Christian laity, in regards to that laudable behavior which traces out the "sign of the cross." Not laws, mind you, but encouragements. Oh, I know. Those spiritual Jews and Greeks among some collections of Lutherans may see the "sign of the cross" as something of a stumbling block, or as foolishness; somehow seeing lip-work as enough for the worshiping creature, or perceiving any action beyond the moving of the mouth, as a mark of rank Romanism. But there are catechetical, historical and indeed Divine reasons for having the honoring ... and believing ... heart (cf. Mt 15:8; Mk 7:6) pump some measure of hemoglobin into your upper extremities, and thus move the fingers.
Why, even the General Rubrics of
The Lutheran Hymnal (CPH, 1941; p. 4), that product
of a "conservatively" united Syndodical Conference,
openly advocated its use. Blessed Martin Luther championed its use
in the course of the Office prayers of the Morning and Evening
hours, inside Confessional documents. This, before they were eventually air-brushed
away to protect its youth, by certain offended "conservative" Lutherans
once belonging to the 1941 Conference.
The blessed Reformer also more
informally encouraged little Lutherans to its use, in all times of
danger and emotional distress; not as a piece of medieval superstition or rabbit's foot, but
instead as a reminder, I think, of their Baptism, which blessing grants entrance to the
Kingdom of the Savior. There in the Kingdom's arms, safety
and Peace truly prevail, and the evil Foe has "no power over us"
whatsoever. Dear little children, inside a hostile and
overbearing and perverse world, need to know and remember that
they are empowered by the cross and that the ultimate victory is thus theirs,
through such means. Since St. John gently addresses all Christians
as little children, the reminder is accordingly useful to all sheep of the
Good Shepherd's pasture. Gestures, after all, can help and discipline the body,
so as to remind the mind and soul. It is why we lovingly teach our children to fold their
hands. Look at all the little crosses, the tiny fingers make.
So should we stop folding our hands, then, o ye "conservatives" of little logic?
There is also that
witnessing example recorded by Lactantius, about 320 A+D. The
emperor Diocletian (ruled 284-305) is responsible for the Great
Persecution, through the issuance of a series of proclamations which re-ignited an
intense harassment of the Church after an abeyance of some
forty years. For Diocletian, this was to be a death-match struggle to the end; the
frustrated "conservative" emperor sought no less than the total extirpation of Christ and His
people from the lands of the Romans, through means of four imperial
edicts. All Christian holy books and edifices for worship were to
be destroyed; and those clergy of the eastern Empire, who refused to sacrifice to the gods, were subject to arrest. What happened next was entirely up to the local jailers and the mobs. Eventually and inevitably,
in 304, the heel (and dungeon) of the state was extended to all Christians, of
whatever stripe or vocation. So Lactantius recalls that Diocletian
was sacrificing to his gods, one fine day, "and some attendants
of his, who were Christians, stood by and they put the immortal sign on their
foreheads. At this, the demons were chased away, and the holy rites were
interrupted." I'm not sure quite what to make of
this, except that in my own anecdotal experience, the demons do
seem to fly away at the sign of the cross, when used while
thanking God for His mercy, at a public restaurant.
See, I have never been arrested and clapped into irons by a demon for so quiet, yet so powerful,
At least, not yet.
Now in truth,
I must warn of the "danger" of being accosted by
endearingly sweet, elderly Roman Catholic ladies on occasion, who spy and then express
tears of joy and admiration that there are still faithful Catholics around.
This has happened. But this gives the cheeky the grand opportunity to
say "Thank you, my dears. Yes, yes, I've been discovered! I
am indeed of the Lutheran variety, still preaching Christ
rites" may not be interrupted, by this riposte, but the restaurant
conversation sometimes can be. Or not. Usually the exchanges which follow are rather heart warming, let me tell you, and not because I'm being put to the staves like stalwart Robert Barnes.
Finally, the last and
finest piece of evidence supporting the use of the sign of the cross, is our
dear Lord Christ Himself. Now I suppose He who freed the leper
of his dermatologic deficiencies, could easily have banished completely and
forever His nail-puncture and spear-thrust wounds. But He didn't .
Instead, He appears to have reveled in them; in fact, He asked His
stunned disciples to touch and thrust their hands in them (Lk 24:39;
Jn 20: 27).
"conservative" Christian folk are made aghast by
the ancient sign of the cross, within the vale of this
transient earth, then consider the angst emerging when they are confronted with a Sign
of the Cross, one which never ends, in the new heaven and earth to
Your (unworthy) servant,