Saturday, November 15, 2008

heartbeats: the sign of the cross

We may not be so aware of it or so conscious of what it means when we’re doing it. We flex our hands hurriedly from corner to corner in a gesture we have been so familiar with since childhood -- the sign of the cross. It has become so ordinary, so casual and so haphazardly done so that through the years it gets smaller and smaller by force of habit instead of encompassing the whole body which it did the first time we learned it when we were small. We begin and end our prayers with it. We rise and sleep doing it. It precedes the most important activities in our lives and our most simple mundane concerns -- taking a test, studying, before eating or making important decisions or just simply shooting a ball. It accompanies all kinds of emotions such as anxiety, fear, excitement or a mere feeling of relief. And it is done by almost everybody, from the most impious criminal to the most rigid religious fanatic, from the businessman whose decision could either mean millions or bust to a simple jeepney driver.

This simple sign has been there since the beginning of Christianity when an emperor dreamed that “by this sign you shall conquer” and thereon it was handed down from generation to generation, century after century. In history it was the same gesture that sent them off to war and the same gesture that seals the peace and reconciliation. It is the first prayer we knew in childhood and the last gesture to send us off to our graves. We may not be aware of what we are doing but is of utmost important to our faith “for it is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the ‘hierarchy of the truths of faith’”. And it distinguishes us in a way from the other monotheistic religions -- the belief in a one God in three distinct person. Through this sign we express our belief in the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, which is the central mystery of Christian faith and life for it is “the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that that enlightens them.”

Today in view of the renewal proposed by PCP II this mystery which we express through the sign of the cross receives a new meaning and a new insight to our Christian life as Filipinos. Today it is proposed to us as the model of what we should and could become as Church -- a community of Disciples patterned after the first and foremost of all communities, the Trinitarian community. 

 Through it we are called to form a unity, though we come from different and sometimes fractious backgrounds, bringing with us our divergent gifts for the building up of the one body, the Church. 

 Through this mystery we are reminded of our equal dignity in the eyes of God whether we are bishops, priests, religious or laity. And through this fundamental equality we are called to become sharers and free collaborators in the Church and to participate more fully in its life and mission. 

And finally, through this mystery of the one in three, we are called to mission, to take on with us, as a community endeavor, the cause of salvation, begun and offered to all by the Most Holy Trinity.

It is for this reason that I propose that whenever we make the sign of the cross we should remember that this particular prayer of praise is not just addressed to the Trinity as an object of our faith, but is also addressed to us as a model of our life. Let it be a reminder of our calling to become a community of disciples modeled after the Trinity. With this we will become what we are meant to be - sharers in the life of the Most Holy Trinity whose feast we celebrate today.

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