Today’s WordPress daily prompt: Crossing
Upon seeing this prompt, I got the visual of people crossing themselves or making the “Sign of the Cross.” Many people mistakenly believe that only Roman Catholics make the sign of the cross but this isn’t true.
I grew up as an Episcopalian. I was taught that making the Sign of the Cross is a form of “body prayer.” The late comedian and actor, Robin Williams, was an Episcopalian. You may have seen his witty and humorous (though very true) Top 10 Reasons to Be An Episcopalian. #6 on his list is Pew Aerobics:
One service in an Episcopal church includes lots of pew aerobics. You go up and down a lot. Typically, you enter the pew (the long bench-like seats lined in two rows on either side of the aisle) and kneel to pray before service. You sit. You stand. You sit. You stand and sing. You turn in the pew to face the cross for the Gospel reading. You turn back to the front. You sit. You kneel. You sit. You stand and turn to greet one another nearby. You sit. You stand. You kneel or sit. You stand and walk to the altar and kneel for communion. You stand and return to your seat. You kneel. You sit. You kneel. You stand. You exit.
No doubt about it, Episcopalians worship God with their entire body. We do sit, stand, and kneel a lot throughout each service. Some of us bow when entering or exiting our pew, when the cross passes during the processional, when we approach the Altar, or at the mention of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some genuflect (an act of reverence where one kneels with the right knee touching and then stands again). Maybe it’s just me but I’ve noticed in my almost 57 years of being an Episcopalian that it doesn’t seem that many people genuflect anymore; that genuflection has mostly been replaced by bowing. I sort of understood this when we were considered an older congregation (because let’s face it, kneeling and genuflection are hard on old arthritic knees!), but now there are many younger families joining the parish and I’m still not seeing genuflection much anymore. But I went to two Roman Catholic funerals this past year and was glad to see that genuflection is still definitely alive and well in the Catholic Church.
There are different forms of the sign of the cross but for this post I’m referring to the sign of the cross made by the individual on him/herself. The fingertips of the right hand are used to touch the forehead, the sternum, the left shoulder, and the right shoulder. This sign is made by individuals at different times in the Eucharist. It’s done by the congregation as they are being blessed by the celebrant, at the end of the Creeds, at the naming of the Trinity, and of course in personal prayer. Some make the sign of the cross at Communion after receiving the bread and the wine.
Not all Episcopalians cross themselves. I guess you could say it’s optional. Some people aren’t comfortable with it, some are. So some do it while some don’t. In the Episcopal church there are no hard and fast rules on body prayers. Here is a very educational video I found which explains the sign of the cross. I can’t understand the purpose of the T.Rex puppet in this video context if anyone wants to explain him to me (maybe it’s for kids or younger folks who may be watching) but anyhow, here it is….
So that is what came to my mind when I saw the prompt word today. Have a blessed night.