Pope Francis says teaching children the ‘Sign of the Cross’ is a ‘beautiful task’ for parents–but is it?Wednesday, August 26th, 2015
Russian Orthodox making the ‘sign of the cross’ (www.kremlin.ru)
Pope Francis said that parents need to teach children how to pray and use the ‘Sign of the Cross’:
August 26, 2015
Pope Francis stressed how sometimes he goes in the cities and makes a sad observation. ”There are children who have not learned how to make the Sign of the Cross! But you mommies, daddies, teach the little ones to pray, to make the Sign of the Cross: this is a beautiful task of moms and dads!” http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-to-parents-teach-your-little-ones-to-pray-make-sign-of-cross
Teaching the “Sign of the Cross” is NOT a beautiful task for parents.
Well, it is not something that Jesus nor His original apostles did.
The first reference to any version of it being a practice among the Greco-Romans appears to be in the late second century. Here is information from The Catholic Encyclopedia:
…the marking of a little cross seems to be the most ancient….”In all our travels and movements”, says Tertullian (De cor. Mil., iii), “in all our coming in and going out, in putting of our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupieth us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross”. On the other hand this must soon have passed into a gesture of benediction, as many quotations from the Fathers in the fourth century would show. Thus St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his “Catecheses” (xiii, 36) remarks: “let us then not be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the cross our seal, made with boldness by our fingers on our brow and in every thing; over the bread we eat and the cups we drink, in our comings and in goings; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are travelling, and when we are at rest”. Thurston, Herbert. “Sign of the Cross.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 26 Aug. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13785a.htm>.
Tertullian of Carthage wrote in the late second and early third century–that is the “most ancient” Catholic-related record. Carthage was in Egypt, an area that adopted many heretical practices and attempted to combine them with a compromised faith.
As far as the more ‘modern’ “sign of the cross,” this developed later. Here is information on that from The Catholic Encyclopedia:
Epiphanius tells us (Adv. Hær., xxx, 12) of a certain holy man Josephus, who imparted to a vessel of water the power of overthrowing magical incantations by “making over the vessel with his finger the seal of the cross” pronouncing the while a form of prayer. Again half a century later Sozomen, the church historian (VII, xxvi), describes how Bishop Donatus when attacked by a dragon “made the sign of the cross with his finger in the air and spat upon the monster”. All this obviously leads up to the suggestion of a larger cross made over the whole body, and perhaps the earliest example which can be quoted comes to us from a Georgian source, possibly of the fourth or fifth century. In the life of St. Nino, a woman saint, honoured as the Apostle of Georgia, we are told in these terms of a miracle worked by her: “St. Nino began to pray and entreat God for a long time. Then she took her (wooden) cross and with it touched the Queen’s head, her feet and her shoulders, making the sign of the cross and straightway she was cured” (Studia Biblica, V, 32). It appears on the whole probable that the general introduction of our present larger cross (from brow to breast and from shoulder to shoulder) was an indirect result of the Monophysite controversy. … On the whole it seems probable that the ultimate prevalence of the larger cross is due to an instruction of Leo IV in the middle of the ninth century. “Sign the chalice and the host”, he wrote…
The Monophysite controversy was in the fifth century and it was in the ninth century that Rome somewhat officially endorsed the modern version of the ‘Sign of the Cross’ that Pope Francis wants parents to teach children.
Early faithful Christians did not make the ‘sign of the cross’ nor did they teach their children to do so. Jesus was not even killed on a cross–He was killed on a tree/stake according to the New Testament (see also What is the Origin of the Cross as a ‘Christian’ Symbol? ).
Perhaps, a few statements from the 19th century historian Alexander Hislop may also be helpful for some:
In the Papal system as is well known, the sign of the cross and the image of the cross are all in all. No prayer can be said, no worship engaged in, no step almost can be taken, without the frequent use of the sign of the cross. The cross is looked upon as the grand charm, as the great refuge in every season of danger, in every hour of temptation as the infallible preservative from all the powers of darkness. The cross is adored with all the homage due only to the Most High and for any one to call it, in the hearing of a genuine Romanist, by the Scriptural term, “the accursed tree,” is a mortal offence. …
The same sign of the cross that Rome now worships was used in the Babylonian Mysteries, was applied by Paganism to the same magic purposes, was honoured with the same honours. That which is now called the Christian cross was originally no Christian emblem at all, but was the mystic Tau of the Chaldeans and Egyptians–the true original form of the letter T–the initial of the name of Tammuz…That mystic Tau was marked in baptism on the foreheads of those initiated in the Mysteries, * and was used in every variety of way as a most sacred symbol…To identify Tammuz with the sun it was joined sometimes to the circle of the sun; sometimes it was inserted in the circle…The mystic Tau, as the symbol of the great divinity, was called “the sign of life”; it was used as an amulet over the heart; it was marked on the official garments of the priests, as on the official garments of the priests of Rome; it was borne by kings in their hand, as a token of their dignity or divinely-conferred authority. The Vestal virgins of Pagan Rome wore it suspended from their necklaces, as the nuns do now. The Egyptians did the same, and many of the barbarous nations with whom they had intercourse, as the Egyptian monuments bear witness…The cross thus widely worshipped, or regarded as a sacred emblem, was the unequivocal symbol of Bacchus, the Babylonian Messiah, for he was represented with a head-band covered with crosses…
The first form of that which is called the Christian Cross, found on Christian monuments there, is the unequivocal Pagan Tau, or Egyptian “Sign of life.” Let the reader peruse the following statement of Sir G. Wilkinson: “A still more curious fact may be mentioned respecting this hieroglyphical character [the Tau], that the early Christians of Egypt adopted it in lieu of the cross, which was afterwards substituted for it, prefixing it to inscriptions in the same manner as the cross in later times. For, though Dr. Young had some scruples in believing the statement of Sir A. Edmonstone, that it holds that position in the sepulchres of the great Oasis, I can attest that such is the case, and that numerous inscriptions, headed by the Tau, are preserved to the present day on early Christian monuments.” The drift of this statement is evidently this, that in Egypt the earliest form of that which has since been called the cross, was no other than the “Crux Ansata,” or “Sign of life,” borne by Osiris and all the Egyptian gods; that the ansa or “handle” was afterwards dispensed with, and that it became the simple Tau, or ordinary cross, as it appears at this day, and that the design of its first employment on the sepulchres, therefore, could have no reference to the crucifixion of the Nazarene, but was simply the result of the attachment to old and long-cherished Pagan symbols, which is always strong in those who, with the adoption of the Christian name and profession, are still, to a large extent, Pagan in heart and feeling. This, and this only, is the origin of the worship of the “cross.” …
It is certain that the X was the symbol of the god Ham in Egypt, and as such was exhibited on the breast of his image. Whichever view be taken, however, of Constantine’s sincerity, the supposed Divine warrant for reverencing the sign of the cross entirely falls to the ground. In regard to the X, there is no doubt that, by the Christians who knew nothing of secret plots or devices, it was generally taken, as Lactantius declares, as equivalent to the name of “Christ.” In this view, therefore, it had no very great attractions for the Pagans, who, even in worshipping Horus, had always been accustomed to make use of the mystic tau or cross, as the “sign of life,” or the magical charm that secured all that was good, and warded off everything that was evil. When, therefore, multitudes of the Pagans, on the conversion of Constantine, flocked into the Church, like the semi-Pagans of Egypt, they brought along with them their predilection for the old symbol. The consequence was, that in no great length of time, as apostacy proceeded, the X which in itself was not an unnatural symbol of Christ, the true Messiah, and which had once been regarded as such, was allowed to go entirely into disuse, and the Tau, the sign of the cross, the indisputable sign of Tammuz, the false Messiah, was everywhere substituted in its stead. (Hislop A. The Two Babylons. Chapter V, Section VI, The Sign of the Cross. pp. 197-201)
Some may question what Alexander Hislop wrote, but notice the following from The Catholic Encyclopedia:
The sign of the cross, represented in its simplest form by a crossing of two lines at right angles, greatly antedates, in both the East and the West, the introduction of Christianity. It goes back to a very remote period of human civilization…
Early in the third century Clement of Alexandria (“Strom.”, VI, in P. G., IX, 305) speaks of the Cross as tou Kyriakou semeiou typon, i.e. signum Christi, “the symbol of the Lord” (St. Augustine, Tract. cxvii, “In Joan.”; De Rossi, “Bull. d’arch. crist”, 1863, 35, and “De titulis christianis Carthaginiensibus” in Pitra, “Spicilegium Solesmense”, IV, 503). The cross, therefore, appears at an early date as an element of the liturgical life of the faithful …Tertullian says: “Frontem crucis signaculo terimus” (De Cor. mil. iii), i.e. “We Christians wear out our foreheads with the sign of the cross.” The practice was so general about the year 200, according to the same writer, that the Christians of his time were wont to sign themselves with the cross before undertaking any action. He says that it is not commanded in Holy Scripture…the custom of placing the crucifix over the altar does not date from earlier than the eleventh century. (Marucchi O. Transcribed by Wm Stuart French, Jr. Archæology of the Cross and Crucifix. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Even The Catholic Encyclopedia admits that the sign of the cross predates Christianity. In other words, it existed in paganism. It simply was a compromise with paganism. Some started to use it in the late second century A.D. and it got more acceptance after Emperor Constantine, a follower of the sun-god Mithras in the fourth century, promoted it.
While teaching about prayer is fine (see our free online booklet Prayer: What Does the Bible Teach?), no one should teach their children to adopt pagan practices (cf. Deuteronomy 12:29-32). Parents are to teach children God’s ways (cf. Deuteronomy 6:6-9; see also Five Rules for Effective Parenting).
Most who claim some tie to Roman Catholicism do not realize how much that church has changed. An article that documents this in great detail is available: Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God?
I would add that it is not just Roman Catholics that made changes that disagree with the views of the original apostles. Some details are in the free online booklets Continuing History of the Church of God and Where is the True Christian Church Today?
Perhaps I should close this with the comment that prophecy indicates that the cross could be the Mark of the Beast. This is another reason to consider the ramifications of what Pope Francis is now advocating.
Some items to assist in your studies may include:
What is the Origin of the Cross as a ‘Christian’ Symbol? Was the cross used as a venerated symbol by the early Church? A related YouTube video would be Origin of the Cross.
Mark of the Beast What is the mark of the Beast? Who is the Beast? What have various ones claimed the mark is? What is the ‘Mark of the Beast’?
The Mark of Antichrist What is the mark of Antichrist? What have various ones claimed? Here is a link to a related sermon What is the ‘Mark of Antichrist’?
Prayer: What Does the Bible Teach? This free booklet contains 28 biblically-based tips on improving the effectiveness of your prayers. This is a pdf. A related two part sermon is available: What Does the Bible Teach About Prayer? and What does the Bible Teach About Prayer (& Healing)?
Five Rules for Effective Parenting Do you know that there are five simple rules that can make you a more effective parent? Here is a link to a version in Mandarin Chinese 五条简单有效的子女养育规则. There is also a 12 1/2 minute English language YouTube video on this, also titled Five Rules for Effective Parenting.
Do You Practice Mithraism? Many practices and doctrines that mainstream so-called Christian groups have are the same or similar to those of the sun-god Mithras. December 25th was celebrated as his birthday. Do you follow Mithraism combined with the Bible or original Christianity?
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. Is telling the truth about the early church citing Catholic accepted sources anti-Catholic? This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church. There is also a YouTube sermon on the subject titled Church of God or Church of Rome: What Do Catholic Scholars Admit About Early Church History?
Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes? Who were the Nazarene Christians? What did they believe? Should 21st century Christians be modern Nazarenes? Is there a group that exists now that traces its history through the Nazarenes and holds the same beliefs today? Here is a link to a related video sermon Nazarene Christians: Were the early Christians “Nazarenes”?
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Apostolic Succession What really happened? Did structure and beliefs change? Are many of the widely-held current understandings of this even possible? Did you know that Catholic scholars really do not believe that several of the claimed “apostolic sees” of the Orthodox have apostolic succession–despite the fact that the current pontiff himself seems to wish to ignore this view? Is there actually a true church that has ties to any of the apostles that is not part of the Catholic or Orthodox churches? Read this article if you truly are interested in the truth on this matter! Here is a version in the Spanish language La sucesión apostólica. ¿Ocurrió en Roma, Alejandría, Constantinopla, Antioquía, Jerusalén o Asia Menor?
Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries? Did you know that many in the second and third centuries felt that there were two major, and separate, professing Christian groups in the second century, but that those in the majority churches tend to now blend the groups together and claim “saints” from both? “Saints” that condemn some of their current beliefs. Who are the two groups?
What Was the Original Apostles’ Creed? What is the Nicene Creed? Did the original apostles write a creed? When was the first creed written? Are the creeds commonly used by the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholics original?
Pope Francis: Could this Marian Focused Pontiff be Fulfilling Prophecy? Pope Francis has taken many steps to turn people more towards his version of ‘Mary.’ Could this be consistent with biblical and Catholic prophecies? This article documents what has been happening. There is also a video version titled Pope Francis: Could this Marian Focused Pontiff be Fulfilling Prophecy?
Feast of the Immaculate Conception? Did early Christians teach Mary had an immaculate conception and led a sinless life?
Origin of the Marian Dogmas: Where Do Catholic Scholars Say The Four Dogmas of Mary Came From?
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions.
Some Similarities and Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Continuing Church of God Both groups claim to be the original church, but both groups have differing ways to claim it. Both groups have some amazing similarities and some major differences. Do you know what they are?
Continuing Church of God The group striving to be most faithful amongst all real Christian groups to the word of God.
Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE? Here is a link in the French language: Où est la vraie Église Chrétienne aujourd’hui?
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?