On the Sign of the Cross

The venerable Sign of the Cross is an ancient practice utilized by all apostolic churches. It is the “prayer of the hand”, a liturgical action that mystically participates in the reality of the Life-Giving Cross of the Savior. By making use of the sign ancient Christians declared their fidelity to Christ, worked miracles, healed diseases and cast out demons. The Sign proclaims the Orthodox Christian faith and it demonstrates a piety with Christ and His Cross at its center. It is a Tradition of the one Church of Christ and is not to be dismissed or taken as a matter of indifference.
 
Eze 9:4 And the Lord said to him: Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem: and mark Tau upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and mourn for all the abominations that are committed in the midst thereof.
 
Gal 6:14
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.
 
Rev 9:2-4
And he opened the bottomless pit: and the smoke of the pit arose, as the smoke of a great furnace. And the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke of the pit. And from the smoke of the pit there came out locusts upon the earth. And power was given to them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth nor any green thing nor any tree: but only the men who have not the sign of God on their foreheads.
 
Tertullian ca. 160-220
 
Premising, therefore, and likewise subjoining the fact that Christ suffered, He foretold that His just ones should suffer equally with Him— both the apostles and all the faithful in succession; and He signed them with that very seal of which Ezekiel spoke: The Lord said unto me, Go through the gate, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set the mark Tau upon the foreheads of the men. Now the Greek letter Tau and our own letter T is the very form of the cross, which He predicted would be the sign on our foreheads in the true Catholic Jerusalem, in which, according to the twenty-first Psalm, the brethren of Christ or children of God would ascribe glory to God the Father, in the person of Christ Himself addressing His Father; I will declare Your name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise unto You…Now, inasmuch as all these things are also found among you, and the sign upon the forehead, and the sacraments of the church, and the offerings of the pure sacrifice, you ought now to burst forth, and declare that the Spirit of the Creator prophesied of your Christ. (Against Marcion, Book III: Chap. 22)
 
At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign. (De Corona 3)
 
St. Hippolytus ca. 170-236
 
But imitate him always, by signing thy forehead sincerely; for this is the sign of his Passion, manifest and approved against the devil if so thou makest it from faith; not that thou mayest appear to men, but knowingly offering it as a shield. For the adversary, seeing a its power coming from the heart, that a man displays the publicly formed image of baptism, is put to flight; not because thou spittest, but because the Spirit in thee breathes him away. When Moses formed it by putting the blood of the Paschal lamb that was slain on the lintel and anointing the side-posts, he signified the faith which now we have in the perfect Lamb. (The Apostolic Tradition 37)
 
Origen ca. 185-254
 
This (the letter Tau) bears a resemblance to the figure of the cross; and this prophecy (Ezek. 9:4) is said to regard the sign made by Christians on the forehead, which all believers make whatsoever work they begin upon, and especially at the beginning of prayers, or of holy readings. ( Select. in Ezek. c. ix)
 
St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258
 
The Lord prophesies that the aliens shall be burnt up and consumed; that is, aliens from the divine race, and the profane, those who are not spiritually new-born, nor made children of God. For that those only can escape who have been new-born and signed with the sign of Christ, God says in another place, when, sending forth His angels to the destruction of the world and the death of the human race, He threatens more terribly in the last time, saying, Go and smite, and let not your eye spare. Have no pity upon old or young, and slay the virgins and the little ones and the women, that they may be utterly destroyed. But touch not any man upon whom is written the mark. Ezekiel 9:5 Moreover, what this mark is, and in what part of the body it is placed, God sets forth in another place, saying, Go through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. Ezekiel 9:4 And that the sign pertains to the passion and blood of Christ, and that whoever is found in this sign is kept safe and unharmed, is also proved by God’s testimony, saying, And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses in which you shall be; and I will see the blood, and will protect you, and the plague of diminution shall not be upon you when I smite the land of Egypt. Exodus 12:13 What previously preceded by a figure in the slain lamb is fulfilled in Christ, the truth which followed afterwards. As, then, when Egypt was smitten, the Jewish people could not escape except by the blood and the sign of the lamb; so also, when the world shall begin to be desolated and smitten, whoever is found in the blood and the sign of Christ alone shall escape. (Treatises V.22)
 
St. Anthony the Great ca. 251-356
 
We Christians therefore hold the mystery not in the wisdom of Greek arguments, but in the power of faith richly supplied to us by God through Jesus Christ. And to show that this statement is true, behold now, without having learned letters, we believe in God, knowing through His works His providence over all things. And to show that our faith is effective, so now we are supported by faith in Christ, but you by professional logomachies. The portents of the idols among you are being done away, but our faith is extending everywhere. You by your arguments and quibbles have converted none from Christianity to Paganism. We, teaching the faith on Christ, expose your superstition, since all recognise that Christ is God and the Son of God. You by your eloquence do not hinder the teaching of Christ. But we by the mention of Christ crucified put all demons to flight, whom you fear as if they were gods. Where the sign of the Cross is , magic is weak and witchcraft has no strength. (St. Athanasius, The Life of St. Anthony, Chap. 78)
 
St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 297-373
 
This, then, after what we have so far said, it is right for you to realize, and to take as the sum of what we have already stated, and to marvel at exceedingly; namely, that since the Saviour has come among us, idolatry not only has no longer increased, but what there was is diminishing and gradually coming to an end: and not only does the wisdom of the Greeks no longer advance, but what there is is now fading away: and demons, so far from cheating any more by illusions and prophecies and magic arts, if they so much as dare to make the attempt, are put to shame by the sign of the Cross. (On the Incarnation of the Word, Chap. 55)
 
St. Ephrem of Syria ca. 306-373
 
“And mark a sign upon the foreheads of the men that sigh”,
(Ezek. 9:4) he says, for the circumcision of the flesh sufficed not unto salvation, and therefore has it been set aside, and the sign of the cross is substituted in its place. (Syr. Comm. in Ezek).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386
 
Let us, therefore, not be ashamed of the Cross of Christ; but though another hide it, do thou openly seal it upon your forehead, that the devils may behold the royal sign and flee trembling far away. Make then this sign at eating and drinking, at sitting, at lying down, at rising up, at speaking, at walking: in a word, at every act. (Catechetical Lectures 4:14)
 
Let us not then be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still. Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the sake of the poor; without toil, for the sick; since also its grace is from God. It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of devils: for He triumphed over them in it, having made a show of them openly Colossians 2:15; for when they see the Cross they are reminded of the Crucified; they are afraid of Him, who bruised the heads of the dragon. Despise not the Seal, because of the freeness of the gift; out for this the rather honour your Benefactor. (ibid., 13:36)
 
St. Martin of Tours ca. 316-397
 
Now, it came to pass some time after the above, that while Martin was going a journey, he met the body of a certain heathen, which was being carried to the tomb with superstitious funeral rites. Perceiving from a distance the crowd that was approaching, and being ignorant as to what was going on, he stood still for a little while. For there was a distance of nearly half a mile between him and the crowd, so that it was difficult to discover what the spectacle he beheld really was. Nevertheless, because he saw it was a rustic gathering, and when the linen clothes spread over the body were blown about by the action of the wind, he believed that some profane rites of sacrifice were being performed. This thought occurred to him, because it was the custom of the Gallic rustics in their wretched folly to carry about through the fields the images of demons veiled with a white covering. Lifting up, therefore, the sign of the cross opposite to them, he commanded the crowd not to move from the place in which they were, and to set down the burden. Upon this, the miserable creatures might have been seen at first to become stiff like rocks. Next, as they endeavored, with every possible effort, to move forward, but were not able to take a step farther, they began to whirl themselves about in the most ridiculous fashion, until, not able any longer to sustain the weight, they set down the dead body. Thunderstruck, and gazing in bewilderment at each other as not knowing what had happened to them, they remained sunk in silent thought. But when the saintly man discovered that they were simply a band of peasants celebrating funeral rites, and not sacrifices to the gods, again raising his hand, he gave them the power of going away, and of lifting up the body. Thus he both compelled them to stand when he pleased, and permitted them to depart when he thought good. (Sulpitius Severus: Life of St. Martin, Chap. XII)
 
St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389
 
She, (his mother, St. Nonna) who had always been strong and vigorous and free from disease all her life, was herself attacked by sickness. In consequence of much distress, not to prolong my story, caused above all by inability to eat, her life was for many days in danger, and no remedy for the disease could be found. How did God sustain her? Not by raining down manna, as for Israel of old or opening the rock, in order to give drink to His thirsting people, or feasting her by means of ravens, as Elijah or feeding her by a prophet carried through the air, as He did to Daniel when a-hungered in the den. But how? She thought she saw me, who was her favourite, for not even in her dreams did she prefer any other of us, coming up to her suddenly at night, with a basket of pure white loaves, which I blessed and crossed as I was wont to do, and then fed and strengthened her, and she became stronger. The nocturnal vision was a real action. For, in consequence, she became more herself and of better hope, as is manifest by a clear and evident token. Next morning, when I paid her an early visit, I saw at once that she was brighter, and when I asked, as usual, what kind of a night she had passed, and if she wished for anything, she replied, “My child, you most readily and kindly fed me, and then you ask how I am. I am very well and at ease.” Her maids too made signs to me to offer no resistance, and to accept her answer at once, lest she should be thrown back into despondency, if the truth were laid bare. (Oration 18: On the Death of His Father, 30)
 
St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379
 
Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us in a mystery by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching. (On the Holy Spirit 27:66)
 
St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-394
 
O Thou Who hast power on earth to forgive sins, forgive me, that I may be refreshed and may be found before Thee when I put off my body, without defilement on my soul. But may my soul be received into Thy hands spotless and undefiled, as an offering before Thee.”
As she said these words she sealed her eyes and mouth and heart with the cross. And gradually her tongue dried up with the fever, she could articulate her words no longer, and her voice died away, and only by the trembling of her lips and the motion of her hands did we recognise that she was praying. (The Life of St. Macrina)
 
St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397
 
Therefore read that the three witnesses in baptism, the water, the blood, and the Spirit, are one, for if you take away one of these, the Sacrament of Baptism does not exist. For what is water without the cross of Christ? A common element, without any sacramental effect. Nor, again, is there the Sacrament of Regeneration without water: “For except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Now, even the catechumen believes in the cross of the Lord Jesus, wherewith he too is signed; but unless he be baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, he cannot receive remission of sins nor gain the gift of spiritual grace. (On the Mysteries Chap. 4.20)
Each individual commander designates such ensigns and gives orders that they be followed… But one who is a loyal soldier follows his own ensigns and does not recognize those of a stranger. Let us consider with some care and attention what thèse strange ensigns are. Christ has set His sign on the forehead of each one; the Antichrist sets his sign there also, that he may recognize his own…The devil and his servants set up their ensigns, but I did not know them because I was not a party to their deceits and I did not agree to their dominion. (The Prayer of Job and David 7.26-7.27. Ambrose: Seven Exegetical Works, trans. Michael P. McHugh, Fathers of the Church séries, vol. 65 {Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1975}, 409-410)
 
Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420
 
I cull these few flowers in passing from the fair field of the Holy Scriptures. They will suffice to warn you that you must shut the door of your breast and fortify your brow by often making the sign of the cross. Thus alone will the destroyer of Egypt find no place to attack you; thus alone will the first-born of your soul escape the fate of the first-born of the Egyptians; thus alone will you be able with the prophet to say: my heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise. Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp. For, sin stricken as she is, even Tyre is bidden to take up her harp Isaiah 23:15-16 and to do penance; like Peter she is told to wash away the stains of her former foulness with bitter tears. (Letter 130.9)
 
St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407
 
Let no man therefore be ashamed of the honored symbols of our salvation, and of the chiefest of all good things, whereby we even live, and whereby we are; but as a crown, so let us bear about the cross of Christ. Yea, for by it all things are wrought, that are wrought among us. Whether one is to be new-born, the cross is there; or to be nourished with that mystical food, or to be ordained, or to do anything else, everywhere our symbol of victory is present. Therefore both on house, and walls, and windows, and upon our forehead, and upon our mind, we inscribe it with much care.
For of the salvation wrought for us, and of our common freedom, and of the goodness of our Lord, this is the sign. For as a sheep was He led to the slaughter. Isaiah 53:7 When therefore you sign yourself, think of the purpose of the cross, and quench anger, and all the other passions. When you sign yourself, fill your forehead with all courage, make your soul free. And ye know assuredly what are the things that give freedom. Wherefore also Paul leading us there, I mean unto the freedom that beseems us, did on this wise lead us unto it, having reminded us of the cross and blood of our Lord. For you are bought, says he, with a price; be not ye the servants of men. Consider, says he, the price that has been paid for you, and you will be a slave to no man; by the price meaning the cross.
Since not merely by the fingers ought one to engrave it, but before this by the purpose of the heart with much faith. And if in this way you have marked it on your face, none of the unclean spirits will be able to stand near you, seeing the blade whereby he received his wound, seeing the sword which gave him his mortal stroke. For if we, on seeing the places in which the criminals are beheaded, shudder; think what the devil must endure, seeing the weapon, whereby Christ put an end to all his power, and cut off the head of the dragon.
Be not ashamed then of so great a blessing, lest Christ be ashamed of you, when He comes with His glory, and the sign appears before Him, shining beyond the very sunbeam. For indeed the cross comes then, uttering a voice by its appearance, and pleading with the whole world for our Lord, and signifying that no part has failed of what pertained to Him.
This sign, both in the days of our forefathers and now, has opened doors that were shut up; this has quenched poisonous drugs; this has taken away the power of hemlock; this has healed bites of venomous beasts. For if it opened the gates of hell, and threw wide the archways of Heaven, and made a new entrance into Paradise, and cut away the nerves of the devil; what marvel, if it prevailed over poisonous drugs, and venomous beasts, and all other such things. (On Matthew, Homily 54.7)
 
Are you one of the faithful? Sign the Cross; say, ‘This I have for my only weapon; this for my remedy; and other I know none’. (Homilies on Colossians 8)
 
Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430
 
Why do sign yourself with the cross? If you don’t act the cross, you don’t in fact sign yourself with it. Recognize Christ crucified, recognize Him suffering, recognize Him praying for His enemies, recognize Him loving those at whose hands He endured such things and longed to cure them. If you do not recognize Him repent, and if ever you entertained bad wishes see to it that you have good ones from now on. (Sermons: Newly Discovered Sermons. John E. Rotelle, Edmund Hill)
 
St. John Cassian ca. 360-435
 
Why also need I mention the acts of Abbot Abraham the simple, from the simplicity of his life and his innocence. This man when he had gone from the desert to Egypt for the harvest in the season of Quinquagesima was pestered with tears and prayers by a woman who brought her little child, already pining away and half dead from lack of milk; he gave her a cup of water to drink signed with the sign of the cross; and when she had drunk it at once most marvellously her breasts that had been till then utterly dry flowed with a copious abundance of milk. (Conference 15.4)
 
St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444
 
Isa 19:19
In that day there shall be an altar to the Lord in the land of the Egyptians, and a pillar to the Lord by its border.
 
He, in this place, calls the sign of the holy cross, with which it is the custom of believers to be fenced round, a pillar. For this we have ever used ; overthrowing every assault of the devil, and repelling the attacks of evil spirits. For an impregnable wall is the cross unto us, and our glorying in it is truly salutary. God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ. (Gal. 6:14)(Comm. in. Isa. Bk. 2)
 
Pope St. Leo ca. 400-461
 
To deny the true flesh of Christ, to subject the very essence of the Word to suffering and death, to make our nature different from His who repaired it, and to reckon all that the cross uplifted, that the spear pierced, that the stone on the tomb received and gave back, to be only the work of Divine power, and not also of human humility? It is in reference to this humility that the Apostle says, For I do not blush for the Gospel Romans 1:16, inasmuch as he knew what a slur was cast upon Christians by their enemies. And, therefore, the Lord also made proclamation, saying: he that shall confess Me before men him will I also confess before My Father Matthew 10:32 . For these will not be worthy of the Son and the Father’s acknowledgment in whom the flesh of Christ awakens no respect: and they will prove themselves to have gained no virtue from the sign of the cross who blush to avow with their lips what they have consented to bear upon their brows. (Letter 124.9)
 
St. Dionysius the Aeropagite ca. 5th cent.
 
The sign of the cross indicates the renunciation of all the desires of the flesh. It points to a life given over to the imitation of God unswervingly directed toward the divine life of the incarnate Jesus, Who was divinely sinless and yet lowered Himself to the cross and to death and who, with the sign of the cross, that image of His own sinlessness, marks all those imitating Him. (The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 5.III.4)
 
St. Benedict of Nursia ca. 480-543
 
Having now taken upon him the charge of the Abbey, he took order that regular life should be observed, so that none of them could, as before they used, through unlawful acts decline from the path of holy conversation, either on the one side or on the other: which the monks perceiving, they fell into a great rage, accusing themselves that ever they desired him to be their Abbot, seeing their crooked conditions could not endure his virtuous kind of government: and therefore when they saw that under him they could not live in unlawful sort, and were loath to leave their former conversation, and found it hard to be enforced with old minds to meditate and think upon new things: and because the life of virtuous men is always grievous to those that be of wicked conditions, some of them began to devise, how they might rid him out of the way: and therefore, taking counsel together, they agreed to poison his wine: which being done, and the glass wherein that wine was, according to the custom, offered to the Abbot to bless, he, putting forth his hand, made the sign of the cross, and straightway the glass, that was holden far off, brake in pieces, as though the sign of the cross had been a stone thrown against it: upon which accident the man of God by and by perceived that the glass had in it the drink of death, which could not endure the sign of life: and therefore rising up, with a mild countenance and quiet mind, he called the monks together, and spake thus unto them: “Almighty God have mercy upon you, and forgive you: why have you used me in this manner? Did not I tell you before hand, that our manner of living could never agree together? Go your ways, and seek ye out some other father suitable to your own conditions, for I intend not now to stay any longer amongst you.” When he had thus discharged himself, he returned back to the wilderness which so much he loved, and dwelt alone with himself, in the sight of his Creator, who beholdeth the hearts of all men. (Pope St. Gregory Dialogos, Second Dialogue: Chap. 3)
 
St. Brendan (the Navigator) of Clonfert ca. 484-557
 
As these sounds reached his ears, the venerable father (St. Brendan) made the sign of the victory of the Lord in all four directions and said: “Lord Jesus Christ, deliver us from this island.” (The Voyage of Brendan)
 
St. Andrew of Caesarea ca. 6th cent.
 
Just as it had been revealed to Ezekiel long ago about the one dressed in fine linen who sealed the foreheads of those who groan so that the righteous would not be destroyed together with the unrighteous — because the hidden virtue of the saints is unknown even to angels — this (is) also shown hère to the blessed one (John), the superior holy power urging the punishing holy angels to do nothing to those who committed offenses before the knowledge of those distinguished by the sealing who serve the truth. If this has partially taken place a long time ago, to the ones who had believed in Christ who had escaped the sack of Jerusalem by the Romans reckoned as many tens of thousands, according to James the Great who had shown the blessed Paul their great number. (Acts 21:20) But accordingly it is said, this will definitely happen during the time of Antichrist, the seal of the life-giving Cross separating the faithful from the unfaithful, (the faithful) without shame and having been emboldened bearing the sign of Christ before the impious. Wherefore the angel says, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” (Rev. 7:3) (Commentary on the Apocalypse)
 
St. Columba of Iona ca. 521-597
 
On another occasion also, when the blessed man was living for some days in the province of the Picts, he was obliged to cross the river Nesa (Loch Ness); and when he reached the bank of the river, he saw some of the inhabitants burying an unfortunate man, who, according to the account of those who were burying him, was a short time before seized, as he was swimming, and bitten most severely by a monster that lived in the water; his wretched body was, though too late, taken out with a hook, by those who came to his assistance in a boat. The blessed man, on hearing this, was so far from being dismayed, that he directed one of his companions to swim over and row across the coble that was moored at the farther bank. And Lugne Mocumin hearing the command of the excellent man, obeyed without the least delay, taking off all his clothes, except his tunic, and leaping into the water. But the monster, which, so far from being satiated, was only roused for more prey, was lying at the bottom of the stream, and when it felt the water disturbed above by the man swimming, suddenly rushed out, and, giving an awful roar, darted after him, with its mouth wide open, as the man swam in the middle of the stream. Then the blessed man observing this, raised his holy hand, while all the rest, brethren as well as strangers, were stupefied with terror, and, invoking the name of God, formed the saving sign of the cross in the air, and commanded the ferocious monster, saying, “Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man; go back with all speed.” Then at the voice of the saint, the monster was terrified, and fled more quickly than if it had been pulled back with ropes, though it had just got so near to Lugne, as he swam, that there was not more than the length of a spear-staff between the man and the beast. Then the brethren seeing that the monster had gone back, and that their comrade Lugne returned to them in the boat safe and sound, were struck with admiration, and gave glory to God in the blessed man. And even the barbarous heathens, who were present, were forced by the greatness of this miracle, which they themselves had seen, to magnify the God of the Christians. (St. Adamnan, The Life of St. Columba: Chap. XXVIII)
 
Pope St. Gregory Dialogos ca. 540-604
 
Floridus, Bishop of Tivoli, a man (as yourself knoweth very well) of holy life, and worthy to be credited, told me that he had dwelling with him a certain Priest called Amantius, of marvellous simplicity: who, like unto the Apostles, had such a grace given him of God, that, laying his hand upon them that were sick, he restored them to their former health; and although the disease were very great and dangerous, yet upon his touching did it forthwith depart. Moreover he said that he had also this miraculous gift, that wheresoever he found any serpents or snakes, though never so cruel, yet did he with the sign of the cross dispatch and kill them: for by virtue of the cross, which the man of God made with his hand, their bowels did break, and they suddenly die: and if by chance the snake gat into any hole, then did he with the sign of the cross bless the mouth thereof, and it wrought the same effect; for any might straightways find it there dead. (The Dialogues Bk. 3.35)
 
St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662
 
The distinctive sign of the power of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Cross that he carried on his shoulders. (Ambiguum 32, PG 91, 1284 C)
 
St. Isaac of Syria died ca. 700
 
When you desire to take your stand in the liturgy of your (night) vigil, with God as your helper do as I tell you. Bend your knees, as is custom, and rise up again, but do not immediately begin your liturgy. After you have made a prayer and completed it, and signed your heart and your limbs with the life-creating sign of the Cross, stand silently for a moment until your senses have been set at rest and your thoughts have become tranquil. Then raise up your inner vision to the Lord and beseech Him with an afflicted soul to fortify your weakness and to grant that the psalmody of your tongue and the reflections of your heart be pleasing to His will… (The Ascetical Homilies, Homily 75)
 
Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735
 
But those also, who still live abroad in the world, demand a portion of your most anxious care, as we forewarned you in the beginning of this epistle; you should furnish them with competent teachers of the word of everlasting life, and among other things instruct them by what works they may render themselves most pleasing to God; from what sins those, who wish to please God, ought to abstain; with what sincerity of heart they ought to believe in God; with what devotion to supplicate the Divine mercy; with what frequent diligence to use the sign of the Lord’s cross, and so to fortify themselves and all they have against the continual snares of unclean spirits; and how salutary it is for all classes of Christians to participate daily in the Body and Blood of our Lord, as you well know is done by Christ’s Church throughout Italy, Gaul, Africa, Greece, and all the countries of the East. (Epistle to Egbert, Bishop of York 15)
 
St. John Damascene ca. 676-749
 
Every action, therefore, and performance of miracles by Christ are most great and divine and marvelous: but the most marvelous of all is His precious Cross. For no other thing has subdued death, expiated the sin of the first parent, despoiled Hades, bestowed the resurrection, granted the power to us of contemning the present and even death itself, prepared the return to our former blessedness, opened the gates of Paradise, given our nature a seat at the right hand of God, and made us the children and heirs of God, save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. For by the Cross s all things have been made right. So many of us, the apostle says, as were baptized into Christ, were baptized into His death, and as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Further Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Lo! the death of Christ, that is, the Cross, clothed us with the enhypostatic wisdom and power of God. And the power of God is the Word of the Cross, either because God’s might, that is, the victory over death, has been revealed to us by it, or because, just as the four extremities of the Cross are held fast and bound together by the bolt in the middle, so also by God’s power the height and the depth, the length and the breadth, that is, every creature visible and invisible, is maintained. This was given to us as a sign on our forehead, just as the circumcision was given to Israel: for by it we believers are separated and distinguished from unbelievers. This is the shield and weapon against, and trophy over, the devil. This is the seal that the destroyer may not touch you, as saith the Scripture. This is the resurrection of those lying in death, the support of the standing, the staff of the weak, the rod of the flock, the safe conduct of the earnest, the perfection of those that press forwards, the salvation of soul and body, the aversion of all things evil, the patron of all things good, the taking away of sin, the plant of resurrection, the tree of eternal life. (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, On Faith and Baptism: Book IV, Ch. 9)
 
St. Symeon the New Theologian 949-1022
 
For Christians the Cross is magnification, glory and power: for all our power is in the power of Christ Who was crucified; all our sinfulness is mortified by the death of Christ on the Cross; and all our exaltation and all our glory are in the humiliation of God. Who humbled Himself to such an extent that He was pleased to die even between evil-doers and thieves. For this very reason Christians who believe in Christ sign themselves with the sign of the Cross not simply, not just as it happens, not carelessly, but with all heedfulness, with fear and with trembling and with extreme reverence. (The First-Created Man, Homily One: 4)

Comments

  1. “And if in this way you have marked it on your face, none of the unclean spirits will be able to stand near you, seeing the blade whereby he received his wound, seeing the sword which gave him his mortal stroke”

    After Death?

  2. Greetings Rodolfo,
     
    In this context I believe that St. John is referring to the living. Chrysostom says this: “God has limited conduct and action to this life; while in the next life, the examination of actions.” (excerpted from St. Nektarios of Aegina, Confession Part II) Therefore, it’s the grace that you received while alive (from faith, repentance, obeying the commandments, the mysteries, crossing oneself, etc.) that will repel the demons after death. This is evident in this quote by St. John of Karpathos:

    When the soul leaves the body, the enemy advances to attack it fiercely reviling it and accusing it of its sins in a harsh and terrifying manner. But if a soul enjoys the love of God and has faith in Him, even though in the past it has often been wounded by sin, it is not frightened by the enemy’s attacks and threats. Strenghtened by the Lord, winged by joy, filled with courage by the holy angels that guide it, encircled and protected by the light of faith, it answers the malicious devil with great boldness: ‘Enemy of God, fugitive from heaven, wicked slave, what have I to do with you? You have no authority over me; Christ the Son of God has authority over me and all things. Against Him have I sinned, before Him shall I stand on trial, having His precious Cross as a sure pledge of His saving love towards me. Flee far from me destroyer! You have nothing to do with the servants of Christ.’ When the soul says all this fearlessly, the devil turns his back, howling aloud and unable to withstand the name of Christ. Then the soul swoops down on the devil from above, attacking him like a hawk attacking a crow. After this it is brought rejoicing by the holy angels to the place appointed for it in accordance with its inward state. (Philokalia Vol I, pg. 304: Texts for the Monks of India 25)

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