Thursday, February 12, 2009

Book Review: The Sign of the Cross

The Sign of the Cross: Recovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer
by Bert Ghezzi
Chicago: Loyola Books, 2004

The Sign of the Cross is one of those prayers and gestures that we use so frequently, we rarely stop to think about it. It has become an automatic way to begin and end prayer. In “The Sign of the Cross: Rediscovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer,” Bert Ghezzi invites us to take a closer look at this long-standing sign of our Christian faith. He offers a fascinating short history of the Sign of the Cross, exploring the many ways it has been performed and used from the earliest days of Christianity to today. Ghezzi then examines six ways the Sign of the Cross can help us in our lives, devoting one chapter to each of these ways: an opening to God, a renewal of Baptism, a mark of discipleship, an acceptance of suffering, a defense against the devil, and a victory over self-indulgence. Who knew such a simple prayer could do so much? When we make the Sign of the Cross in public, we are announcing to the world that we are Christian and that in itself is a counter-cultural act in our secular world. The Sign of the Cross is a powerful prayer and one that we should pay more attention to and make more use of. Many thanks go to Bert Ghezzi for helping to show us the way.

Some quotes from “The Sign of the Cross: Rediscovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer”

“No empty gesture, the sign of the cross is a potent prayer that engages the Holy Spirit as the divine advocate and agent of our successful Christian living. When we trace it on our body, it stirs up the new life of the Spirit that we received in baptism and vitalizes our prayer by drawing us closer to God.”

“As the condition of accepting us as followers, Jesus requires us to surrender control of our lives to him. Here Jesus, our Lord and teacher, is following the practice of rabbis of his day, who demanded total submission of their pupils. This is the true meaning of self-denial: Jesus expects us to deny that we belong to ourselves and to declare that we belong to him.”

“Jesus not only promised suffering; he also made bearing personal crosses a daily requirement for all of his followers. Making the sign of the cross proclaims our yes to this condition of discipleship.”

“The sign of the cross still maintains its power over Satan. He continues to cower and turn tail at the sight of it. So making the sign still protects us from our most dangerous enemy.”

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