[u:aweopykt]The Sign of the Cross[/u:aweopykt]:
St. Cyril of Jerusalem writes,
“Let us, therefore, not be ashamed of the Cross of Christ; but though another hide it, do thou openly seal it upon thy 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.”
And Tertullian also writes,
“At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our 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 [of the Cross].”
And further, St. Ephraim of Syria,
“Mark all your actions with the sign of the lifegiving Cross. Do not go out from the door of your house till you have signed yourself with the Cross. Do not neglect that sign whether in eating or drinking or going to sleep, or in the home or going on a journey. There is no habit to be compared with it. Let it be a protecting wall round all your conduct, and teach it to your children that they may earnestly learn the custom.”
The manner in which you hold your fingers when you cross yourself means something (and not knowing the meaning removes a part of the lesson).
Three fingers symbolize the Trinity.
Two fingers symbolize the two natures of Christ.
(Coincidentally, if you put your thumb and first two fingers together to symbolize the Trinity, your other two fingers are left tucked under to symbolize Christ’s two natures. This is the manner in which I usually make the sign.)
Five fingers together symbolize the five wounds of Christ.
Various other symbolic meanings exist. One should take advantage of them when making the sign of the cross to remind oneself of the mysteries and glories of God.
Sign of the Cross before the Gospel:
Before the Gospel reading at mass, we make the sign of the cross on our forehead, lips, and heart. The sign on the forehead is to show that we believe the Gospel, the sign on the lips is to show that we respect the Gospel and desire to spread the Good News, and the sign on our breast is to show that we love the Gospel and want it kept in our hearts.