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The Signing of the Cross in Early Christianity

In this post I am going to cite an early source attesting to the Christian practice of doing the sign of the cross with the hand. I will be quoting from a document called the Odes of Solomon.

Scholars date this work as early to the beginning of the second century, and no later than the third century:

James H. Charlesworth writes (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 6, p. 114):

The date of the Odes has caused considerable interest. H. J. Drijvers contends that they are as late as the 3d century. L. Abramowski places them in the latter half of the 2d century. B. McNeil argued that they are contemporaneous with 4 Ezra, the Shepherd of Hermas, Polycarp, and Valentinus (ca. 100 C.E.). Most scholars date them sometime around the middle of the 2d century, but if they are heavily influenced by Jewish apocalyptic thought and especially the ideas in the Dead Sea Scrolls, a date long after 100 is unlikely. H. Chadwick, Emerton, Charlesworth, and many other scholars, are convinced that they must not be labeled “gnostic,” and therefore should not be dated to the late 2d or 3d century.

Charlesworth comments on the attestation to the Odes Of Solomon (op. cit., v. 6, p. 114):

The 11th ode was found among the Bodmer Papyri in a 3d-century Gk manuscript (no. 11). Five were translated into Coptic in the 4th century and used to illustrate the Pistis Sophia (Odes Sol. 1, 5, 6, 22, and 25). Also in the 4th century Ode 19 was quoted by Lactantius (Div. Inst. 4.12.3). In the 10th century a scribe copied the Odes in Syriac, but only Odes Sol. 17:7-42:20 are preserved (British Museum ms. Add. 14538). In the 15th century another scribe copied them into Syriac, but again the beginning is lost (John Rylands Library Cod. Syr. 9 contains only Odes Sol. 3.1b-42:20). (Early Christian Writings, Odes of Solomon http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/odes.html; bold emphasis mine)

Here is what this collection states in respect to the Christian employment of the sign of the cross.

Ode 27

  1. I extended my hands and hallowed my Lord,
  2. For the expansion of my hands is His sign.
  3. And my extension is the upright cross.
    Hallelujah…

Ode 42

  1. I extended my hands and approached my Lord, for the expansion of my hands is His sign.
  2. And my extension is the upright cross, that was lifted up on the way of the Righteous One. (James Charlesworth translation http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/odes.html)

The following scholar notes the significance of these references:

Throughout the Odes there is frequent reference to the Lord’s sign, and in most cases the “sign” is explicitly connected to the cross. For instance, Ode 27 reads:

  1. I extended my hands

And hallowed my Lord

  1. For the expansion of my hands

Its His sign.

  1. And my extension

Is the upright cross.

Hallelujah.

In this Ode, there is no doubt that the sign in verse 2 is the upright cross of verse 5, with the sign of the cross being graphically portrayed as the extension of the handsOde 42 likewise: “I will extend my hands and approached my Lord, for the expansion of my hands is His sign. And my extension is the common cross, that was lifted up on the way of the Righteous One” (vv. 1-2). The vocabulary is strikingly similar. The sign is the expansion of the hands in the outstretched position of the cross. Having just expressed his belief in the Messiah, it seems natural to take the “sign” of Ode 29.7a as the cross of Christ, which is the instrument by which salvation came. (Brian J. Arnold, Justification in the Second Century [CPI books, GmbH, Leck, Germany 2017], pp. 149-150; bold emphasis mine)

Apostolic Constitutions, Book VIII, Chapter 47

The Constitution of James the Brother of John, the Son of Zebedee.

XII. And I James, the brother of John, the son of Zebedee, say, that the deacon shall immediately say, Let none of the catechumens, let none of the hearers, let none of the unbelievers, let none of the heterodox, stay here . You who have prayed the foregoing prayer, depart. Let the mothers receive their children; let no one have anything against any one; let no one come in hypocrisy; let us stand upright before the Lord with fear and trembling, to offer. When this is done, let the deacons bring the gifts to the bishop at the altar; and let the presbyters stand on his right hand, and on his left, as disciples stand before their Master. But let two of the deacons, on each side of the altar, hold a fan, made up of thin membranes, or of the feathers of the peacock, or of fine cloth, and let them silently drive away the small animals that fly about, that they may not come near to the cups. Let the high priest, therefore, together with the priests, pray by himself; and let him put on his shining garment, and stand at the altar, and make the sign of the cross upon his forehead with his hand, and say: The grace of Almighty God, and the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. And let all with one voice say: And with your spirit. The high priest: Lift up your mind. All the people: We lift it up unto the Lord. The high priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord. All the people: It is meet and right so to do. Then let the high priest say: It is very meet and right before all things to sing an hymn to You, who art the true God, who art before all beings, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named; Ephesians 3:15 who only art unbegotten, and without beginning, and without a ruler, and without a master; who standest in need of nothing; who art the bestower of everything that is good; who art beyond all cause and generation; who art always and immutably the same; from whom all things came into being, as from their proper original. For You are eternal knowledge, everlasting sight, unbegotten hearing, untaught wisdom, the first by nature, and the measure of being, and beyond all number; who brought all things out of nothing into being by Your only begotten Son, but begot Him before all ages by Your will, Your power, and Your goodness, without any instrument, the only begotten Son, God the Word, the living Wisdom, the First-born of every creature, the angel of Your Great Counsel, and Your High Priest, but the King and Lord of every intellectual and sensible nature, who was before all things, by whom were all things. For You, O eternal God, made all things by Him, and through Him it is that You vouchsafe Your suitable providence over the whole world; for by the very same that You bestowed being, did You also bestow well-being: the God and Father of Your only begotten Son, who by Him made before all things the cherubim and the seraphim, the æons and hosts, the powers and authorities, the principalities and thrones, the archangels and angels; and after all these, by Him made this visible world, and all things that are therein. For You are He who framed the heaven as an arch, and stretch it out like the covering of a tent, and founded the earth upon nothing by Your mere will; who fixed the firmament, and prepare the night and the day; who brought the light out of Your treasures, and on its departure brought on darkness, for the rest of the living creatures that move up and down in the world; who appointed the sun in heaven to rule over the day, and the moon to rule over the night, and inscribed in heaven the choir of stars to praise Your glorious majesty; who made the water for drink and for cleansing, the air in which we live for respiration and the affording of sounds, by the means of the tongue, which strikes the air, and the hearings which co-operates therewith, so as to perceive speech when it is received by it, and falls upon it; who made fire for our consolation in darkness, for the supply of our want, and that we might be warmed and enlightened by it; who separated the great sea from the land, and rendered the former navigable and the latter fit for walking, and replenished the former with small and great living creatures, and filled the latter with the same, both tame and wild; furnished it with various plants, and crown it with herbs, and beautify it with flowers, and enrich it with seeds; who ordained the great deep, and on every side made a mighty cavity for it, which contains seas of salt waters heaped together, Job xxxviii yet You every way bounded them with barriers of the smallest sand; Jeremiah 5:22 who sometimes raises it to the height of mountains by the winds, and sometimes smooths it into a plain; sometimes enrages it with a tempest, and sometimes stills it with a calm, that it may be easy to seafaring men in their voyages; who encompassed this world, which was made by You through Christ, with rivers, and water it with currents, and moisten it with springs that never fail, and bound it round with mountains for the immoveable and secure consistence of the earth: for You have replenished Your world, and adorned it with sweet-smelling and with healing herbs, with many and various living creatures, strong and weak, for food and for labour, tame and wild; with the noises of creeping things, the sounds of various sorts of flying creatures; with the circuits of the years, the numbers of months and days, the order of the seasons, the courses of the rain clouds, for the production of the fruits and the support of living creatures. You have also appointed the station of the winds, which blow when commanded by You, and the multitude of the plants and herbs. And You have not only created the world itself, but hast also made man for a citizen of the world, exhibiting him as the ornament of the world; for You said to Your Wisdom: Let us make man according to our image, and according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowls of the heaven. Genesis 1:26 Wherefore also You have made him of an immortal soul and of a body liable to dissolution — the former out of nothing, the latter out of the four elements — and hast given him as to his soul rational knowledge, the discerning of piety and impiety, and the observation of right and wrong; and as to his body, You have granted him five senses and progressive motion: for You, O God Almighty, by Your Christ planted a paradise in Eden, Genesis 2:8 in the east, adorned with all plants fit for food, and introduced him into it, as into a rich banquet. And when You made him, You gave him a law implanted within him, that so he might have at home and within himself the seeds of divine knowledge; and when You had brought him into the paradise of pleasure, You allowed him the privilege of enjoying all things, only forbidding the tasting of one tree, in hopes of greater blessings; that in case he would keep that command, he might receive the reward of it, which was immortality. But when he neglected that command, and tasted of the forbidden fruit, by the seduction of the serpent and the counsel of his wife, You justly cast him out of paradise. (Section 2. Election and Ordination of Bishops: Form of Service on Sundays)

Tertullian

Chapter 3

And how long shall we draw the saw to and fro through this line, when we have an ancient practice, which by anticipation has made for us the state, i.e., of the question? If no passage of Scripture has prescribed it, assuredly custom, which without doubt flowed from tradition, has confirmed it. For how can anything come into use, if it has not first been handed down? Even in pleading tradition, written authority, you say, must be demanded. Let us inquire, therefore, whether tradition, unless it be written, should not be admitted. Certainly we shall say that it ought not to be admitted, if no cases of other practices which, without any written instrument, we maintain on the ground of tradition alone, and the countenance thereafter of custom, affords us any precedent. To deal with this matter briefly, I shall begin with baptism. When we are going to enter the water, but a little before, in the presence of the congregation and under the hand of the president, we solemnly profess that we disown the devil, and his pomp, and his angels. Hereupon we are thrice immersed, making a somewhat ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed in the Gospel. Then when we are taken up (as new-born children), we taste first of all a mixture of milk and honey, and from that day we refrain from the daily bath for a whole week. We take also, in congregations before daybreak, and from the hand of none but the presidents, the sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Lord both commanded to be eaten at meal-times, and enjoined to be taken by all alike. As often as the anniversary comes round, we make offerings for the dead as birthday honours. We count fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord’s day to be unlawful. We rejoice in the same privilege also from Easter to Whitsunday. We feel pained should any wine or bread, even though our own, be cast upon the ground. 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 Coronoa (The Chaplet) https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0304.htm)

Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena (c. 270)

  1. Now the report of his presence ran through the whole city and the country round about, for some of that city having been at Rome had seen the signs and wonders that were done by the blessed Paul, and came to see if this was he. Many therefore came into the house of Probus, and he began to be annoyed and to say, I will not suffer my house to be made an inn. Xanthippe knowing that the face of Probus had begun to be estranged, and that he spoke thus, was greatly distressed, saying, Alas, wretched me, that we are not thought fully worthy to keep this man in our house; for if Paul goes hence, the church also will be held elsewhere. Then Xanthippe, considering these matters, put her hand on the foot of Paul, and taking dust she called Probus to her, and placing her hand on his breast said, O Lord, my God, who hast sought out me, lowly one and ignorant of you, send what is fitting into this heart. And Paul perceived her prayer, and made the sign of the cross, and for several days the people entered unhindered, and as many as had sick and vexed by unclean spirits brought them, and all were healed…
  2. As she said this, Andrew, the apostle of the Lord, also came journeying to that place, and as he drew near to Polyxena he felt in his heart some commotion arising in himself. Standing, therefore, to pray, and folding his arms in the shape of the cross, he said, Lord Jesus Christ, partaker of light and knower of things hidden, from whom nothing on earth is hid, do unto me kindness and mercy, and make clear to me this commotion of heart, and calm my reason, you that makest peace always with those that love peace. Then Polyxena ran to him, and Andrew, the apostle of the Lord, said to her, Approach me not, daughter, but tell me who and whence you are. Polyxena said, My lord, I am a stranger here, but I see your face is gracious, and your words as the words of Paul, and I suppose you to be of the same God. Andrew understood that she spoke of the apostle Paul, and said to her, And whence do you know of Paul? She said, From my own country, for I left him in Spain. Andrew said to her, And how do you happen to be here, the country being far distant? She said, Because it was thus appointed for me, and came to pass; but I beseech you and fall at your feet, seal me, as Paul seals, by the baptism of regeneration, so that even I, lowly one, may be known by our God, for the kind God, seeing my tribulation and distress, sent you to pity me. Andrew, the great apostle of the Lord, said to her, Let us go, daughter, where there is water.

Athanasius

  1. But those of his acquaintances who came, since he did not permit them to enter, often used to spend days and nights outside, and heard as it were crowds within clamouring, dinning, sending forth piteous voices and crying, ‘Go from what is ours. What do you even in the desert? You can not abide our attack.’ So at first those outside thought there were some men fighting with him, and that they had entered by ladders; but when stooping down they saw through a hole there was nobody, they were afraid, accounting them to be demons, and they called on Antony. Them he quickly heard, though he had not given a thought to the demons, and coming to the door he besought them to depart and not to be afraid, ‘for thus,’ said he, ‘the demons make their seeming onslaughts against those who are cowardly. Sign yourselves therefore with the cross, and depart boldly, and let these make sport for themselves.’ So they departed fortified with the sign of the Cross. But he remained in no wise harmed by the evil spirits, nor was he wearied with the contest, for there came to his aid visions from above, and the weakness of the foe relieved him of much trouble and armed him with greater zeal. For his acquaintances used often to come expecting to find him dead, and would hear him singing , ‘Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered, let them also that hate Him flee before His face. As smoke vanishes, let them vanish; as wax melts before the face of fire, so let the sinners perish from the face of God;’ and again, ‘All nations compassed me about, and in the name of the Lord I requited them…
  2. ‘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…
  3. ‘And these signs are sufficient to prove that the faith of Christ alone is the true religion. But see! You still do not believe and are seeking for arguments. We however make our proof not in the persuasive words of Greek wisdom 1 Corinthians 2:4 as our teacher has it, but we persuade by the faith which manifestly precedes argumentative proof. Behold there are here some vexed with demons;’— now there were certain who had come to him very disquieted by demons, and bringing them into the midst he said —’Do you cleanse them either by arguments and by whatever art or magic you choose, calling upon your idols, or if you are unable, put away your strife with us and you shall see the power of the Cross of Christ.’ And having said this he called upon Christ, and signed the sufferers two or three times with the sign of the Cross. And immediately the men stood up whole, and in their right mind, and immediately gave thanks unto the Lord. And the philosophers, as they are called, wondered, and were astonished exceedingly at the understanding of the man and at the sign which had been wrought. But Antony said, ‘Why marvel ye at this? We are not the doers of these things, but it is Christ who works them by means of those who believe in Him. Believe, therefore, also yourselves, and you shall see that with us there is no trick of words, but faith through love which is wrought in us towards Christ; which if you yourselves should obtain you will no longer seek demonstrative arguments, but will consider faith in Christ sufficient.’ These are the words of Antony. And they marvelling at this also, saluted him and departed, confessing the benefit they had received from him. (Life of St. Anthonyhttps://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2811.htm)

Cyril of Jerusalem

  1. 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. For He who was here crucified is in heaven above. If after being crucified and buried He had remained in the tomb, we should have had cause to be ashamed; but, in fact, He who was crucified on Golgotha here, has ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives on the East. For after having gone down hence into Hades, and come up again to us, He ascended again from us into heaven, His Father addressing Him, and saying, Sit on My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool. (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 4 https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310104.htm)
  2. Let us then not be ashamed of the Cross of our Saviour, but rather glory in it. For the word of the Cross is unto Jews a stumbling-block, and unto Gentiles foolishness, but to us salvation: and to them that are perishing it is foolishness, but unto us which are being saved it is the power of God. For it was not a mere man who died for us, as I said before, but the Son of God, God made man. Further; if the lamb under Moses drove the destroyer Exodus 12:23 far away, did not much rather the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world John 1:29, deliver us from our sins? The blood of a silly sheep gave salvation; and shall not the Blood of the Only-begotten much rather save? If any disbelieve the power of the Crucified, let him ask the devils; if any believe not words, let him believe what he sees. Many have been crucified throughout the world, but by none of these are the devils scared; but when they see even the Sign of the Cross of Christ,who was crucified for us, they shudder. For those men died for their own sins, but Christ for the sins of others; for He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. It is not Peter who says this, for then we might suspect that he was partial to his Teacher; but it is Esaias who says it, who was not indeed present with Him in the flesh, but in the Spirit foresaw His coming in the flesh. Yet why now bring the Prophet only as a witness? Take for a witness Pilate himself, who gave sentence upon Him, saying, I find no fault in this Man Luke 23:14: and when he gave Him up, and had washed his hands, he said, I am innocent of the blood of this just person. Matthew 27:24 There is yet another witness of the sinlessness of Jesus — the robber, the first man admitted into Paradise; who rebuked his fellow, and said, We receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing amiss; for we were present, both you and I, at His judgment…
  3. 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. (Lecture 13 https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310113.htm)

Gregory of Nyssa

“… How is it that you do not see the persecutor of the faith inviting those who consent unto him to violate their Christian profession? For if the confession of the revered and precious Names of the Holy Trinity is useless, and the customs of the Church unprofitable, and if among these customs is the sign of the cross, prayer, baptism, confession of sins, a ready zeal to keep the commandment, right ordering of character, sobriety of life, regard to justice, the effort not to be excited by passion, or enslaved by pleasure, or to fall short in moral excellence — if he says that none of such habits as these is cultivated to any good purpose, and that the sacramental tokens do not, as we have believed, secure spiritual blessings, and avert from believers the assaults directed against them by the wiles of the evil one, what else does he do but openly proclaim aloud to men that he deems the mystery which Christians cherish a fable, laughs at the majesty of the Divine Names, considers the customs of the Church a jest, and all sacramental operations idle prattle and folly?…” (Against Eunomius, Book XI https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/290111.htm)

 

Ephraim the Syrian

  1. You are a man, the dust of the earth, clay, kinsman of the clod; you are the son of the race of beasts. If you know not your honour; separate your soul from animals, by works and not by words. If you love derision, you are altogether as Satan; and if you mock at your fellow, you are the mouth of the Devil; if against defects and flaws, in (injurious) names you delight, Satan is not in creation but his place you have seized by force. Get you far, O man, from this; for it is altogether hurtful; and if you desire to live well, sit not with the scorner, lest you become the partner of his sin and of his punishment. Hate mockery which is altogether (the cause of weeping), and mirth which is (the cause of) cleansing. And if you should hear a mocker by chance, when you are not desiring it, sign yourself with the cross of light, and hasten from thence like an antelope. Where Satan lodges, Christ will in nowise dwell; a spacious dwelling for Satan is the man that mocks at his neighbour; a palace of the Enemy is the heart of the mocker. Satan does not desire to add any other evil to it. Mockery is sufficient for him to supply the place of all. Neither his belly nor yet his purse can (the sinner) fill with that sin of his. By his laughter is the wretch despoiled, and he knows not nor does he perceive it. For his wound, there is no cure; for his sickness, there is no healing; his pain, admits no remedy; and his sore, endures no medicine. I desire not with such a one to put forth my tongue to reprove him: enough for him is his own shame; sufficient for him is his boldness. Blessed is he that has not heard him; and blessed is he that has not known him. Be it far from you, O Church, that he should enter you, that evil leaven of Satan!…
  2. O how gracious is the Lord! O how measureless are His mercies! Happy the race of mortals when God confesses it! Woe to the soul which He denies! Fire is stored up for its punishment. Be of good cheer, my son, in hope; sow good [seed] and faint not. The husbandman sows in hope, and the merchant journeys in hope, you also love good [seed]; in the hope look for the reward. Do nothing at all without the beginning of prayer. With the sign of the living cross, seal all your doings, my son. Go not forth from the door of your house till you have signed the cross. Whether in eating or in drinking, whether in sleeping or in waking, whether in your house or on the road, or again in the season of leisure, neglect not this sign; for there is no guardian like it. It shall be unto you as a wall, in the forefront of all your doings. And teach this to your children, that heedfully they be conformed to it. (Homily on Admonition and Repentance https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3707.htm)

John Chrysostom

  1. 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. (Homilies on Matthew, Homily 54 https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/200154.htm)

And how is it possible not to be moved? One may say. Hath any one insulted you? Place the sign upon your breast, call to mind all the things that were then done; and all is quenched. Consider not the insults only, but if also any good has been ever done unto you, by him that has insulted you, and straightway you will become meek, or rather consider before all things the fear of God, and soon you will be mild and gentle. (Ibid., 87 https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/200187.htm)

 

Theodoret

 When the divine Marcellus saw that the prefect was afraid to begin the attack, he sent him on to the rest of the towns; while he himself prayed to God to aid him in the work of destruction. Next morning there came uninvited to the bishop a man who was no builder, or mason, or artificer of any kind, but only a labourer who carried stones and timber on his back. Give me, said he, two workmen’s pay; and I promise you I will easily destroy the temple. The holy bishop did as he was asked, and the following was the fellow’s contrivance. Round the four sides of the temple went a portico united to it, and on which its upper story rested. The columns were of great bulk, commensurate with the temple, each being sixteen cubits in circumference. The quality of the stone was exceptionally hard, and offering great resistance to the masons’ tools. In each of these the man made an opening all round, propping up the superstructure with olive timber before he went on to another. After he had hollowed out three of the columns, he set fire to the timbers. But a black demon appeared and would not suffer the wood to be consumed, as it naturally would be, by the fire, and stayed the force of the flame. After the attempt had been made several times, and the plan was proved ineffectual, news of the failure was brought to the bishop, who was taking his noontide sleep. Marcellus immediately hurried to the church, ordered water to be poured into a pail, and placed the water upon the divine altar. Then, bending his head to the ground, he besought the loving Lord in no way to give in to the usurped power of the demon, but to lay bare its weakness and exhibit His own strength, lest unbelievers should henceforth find excuse for greater wrong. With these and other like words he made the sign of the cross over the water, and ordered Equitius, one of his deacons, who was armed with faith and enthusiasm, to take the water and sprinkle it in faith, and then apply the flame. His orders were obeyed, and the demon, unable to endure the approach of the water, fled. Then the fire, affected by its foe the water as though it had been oil, caught the wood, and consumed it in an instant. When their support had vanished the columns themselves fell down, and dragged other twelve with them. The side of the temple which was connected with the columns was dragged down by the violence of their fall, and carried away with them. The crash, which was tremendous, was heard throughout the town, and all ran to see the sight. No sooner did the multitude hear of the flight of the hostile demon than they broke out into a hymn of praise to God. (Ecclesiastical History, Book V, Chapter 21 https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/27025.htm)

 

Rufinus

Thus then the substance of each individual flesh, though its particles have been variously and diversely scattered, has within it an immortal principle, since it is the flesh of an immortal soul, and at the time which God in His good pleasure shall appoint, there will be collected from the earth and drawn to it, its own component particles, which will be restored to that form which death had formerly dissolved. And thus it will come to pass that to each soul will be restored, not a confused or foreign body but its own which it had when alive, in order that the flesh together with its own soul may for the conflicts of the present life either be crowned if undefiled, or punished if defiled. And accordingly our Church, in teaching the faith instead of the Resurrection of the flesh, as the Creed is delivered in other Churches, guardedly adds the pronoun this— the resurrection of this flesh. Of this, that is, no doubt, of the person who rehearses the Creed, making the sign of the cross upon his forehead, while he says the word, that each believer may know that his flesh, if he have kept it clean from sin, will be a vessel of honour, useful to the Lord, prepared for every good work; but, if defiled by sins, that it will be a vessel of wrath destined to destruction. (Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2711.htm)

Jerome

  1. Farther, although the apostle bids us to pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and although to the saints their very sleep is a supplication, we ought to have fixed hours of prayer, that if we are detained by work, the time may remind us of our duty. Prayers, as every one knows, ought to be said at the third, sixth and ninth hours, at dawn and at evening. No meal should be begun without prayer, and before leaving table thanks should be returned to the Creator. We should rise two or three times in the night, and go over the parts of Scripture which we know by heart. When we leave the roof which shelters us, prayer should be our armor; and when we return from the street we should pray before we sit down, and not give the frail body rest until the soul is fed. In every act we do, in every step we take, let our hand trace the Lord’s cross. Speak against nobody, and do not slander your mother’s son. Who are you that judgest the servant of another? To his own lord he stands or falls; yea, he shall be made to stand, for the Lord has power to make him stand. If you have fasted two or three days, do not think yourself better than others who do not fast. You fast and are angry; another eats and wears a smiling face. You work off your irritation and hunger in quarrels. He uses food in moderation and gives God thanks. Daily Isaiah cries: Is it such a fast that I have chosen, says the Lord? Isaiah 58:5 and again: In the day of your fast ye find your own pleasure, and oppress all your laborers. Behold ye fast for strife and contention, and to smite with the fist of wickedness. How fast ye unto me? What kind of fast can his be whose wrath is such that not only does the night go down upon it, but that even the moon’s changes leave it unchanged? (LETTER 22 https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3001022.htm)
  2. No young girl of sound and vigorous constitution could have delivered herself up to a regimen so rigid as that imposed upon herself by Paula whose physical powers age had impaired and enfeebled. I admit that in this she was too determined, refusing to spare herself or to listen to advice. I will relate what I know to be a fact. In the extreme heat of the month of July she was once attacked by a violent fever and we despaired of her life. However by God’s mercy she rallied, and the doctors urged upon her the necessity of taking a little light wine to accelerate her recovery; saying that if she continued to drink water they feared that she might become dropsical. I on my side secretly appealed to the blessed pope Epiphanius to admonish, nay even to compel her, to take the wine. But she with her usual sagacity and quickness at once perceived the stratagem, and with a smile let him see that the advice he was giving her was after all not his but mine. Not to waste more words, the blessed prelate after many exhortations left her chamber; and, when I asked him what he had accomplished, replied, Only this that old as I am I have been almost persuaded to drink no more wine. I relate this story not because I approve of persons rashly taking upon themselves burthens beyond their strength (for does not the scripture say: Burden not yourself above your power? Sirach 13:2) but because I wish from this quality of perseverance in her to show the passion of her mind and the yearning of her believing soul; both of which made her sing in David’s words, My soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs after you. Difficult as it is always to avoid extremes, the philosophers are quite right in their opinion that virtue is a mean and vice an excess, or as we may express it in one short sentence In nothing too much. While thus unyielding in her contempt for food Paula was easily moved to sorrow and felt crushed by the deaths of her kinsfolk, especially those of her children. When one after another her husband and her daughters fell asleep, on each occasion the shock of their loss endangered her life. And although she signed her mouth and her breast with the sign of the cross, and endeavoured thus to alleviate a mother’s grief; her feelings overpowered her and her maternal instincts were too much for her confiding mind. Thus while her intellect retained its mastery she was overcome by sheer physical weakness. On one occasion a sickness seized her and clung to her so long that it brought anxiety to us and danger to herself. Yet even then she was full of joy and repeated every moment the apostle’s words: O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Romans 7:24…
  3. Why do I still linger, and prolong my suffering by postponing it? Paula’s intelligence showed her that her death was near. Her body and limbs grew cold and only in her holy breast did the warm beat of the living soul continue. Yet, as though she were leaving strangers to go home to her own people, she whispered the verses of the psalmist: Lord, I have loved the habitation of your house and the place where your honour dwells, and How amiable are your tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs yea even faints for the courts of the Lord, and I had rather be an outcast in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. When I asked her why she remained silent refusing to answer my call, and whether she was in pain, she replied in Greek that she had no suffering and that all things were to her eyes calm and tranquil. After this she said no more but closed her eyes as though she already despised all mortal things, and kept repeating the verses just quoted down to the moment in which she breathed out her soul, but in a tone so low that we could scarcely hear what she said. Raising her finger also to her mouth she made the sign of the cross upon her lips. Then her breath failed her and she gasped for death; yet even when her soul was eager to break free, she turned the death-rattle (which comes at last to all) into the praise of the Lord. The bishop of Jerusalem and some from other cities were present, also a great number of the inferior clergy, both priests and levites. The entire monastery was filled with bodies of virgins and monks. As soon as Paula heard the bridegroom saying: Rise up my love my fair one, my dove, and come away: for, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, she answered joyfully the flowers appear on the earth; the time to cut them has come and I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living. (LETTER 108 https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3001108.htm)
  4. 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. Howbeit, let us know nothing of penitence, lest the thought of it lead us into sin. It is a plank for those who have had the misfortune to be shipwrecked; but an inviolate virgin may hope to save the ship itself. For it is one thing to look for what you have cast away, and another to keep what you have never lost. Even the apostle kept under his body and brought it into subjection, lest having preached to others he might himself become a castaway. 1 Corinthians 9:27 Heated with the violence of sensual passion he made himself the spokesman of the human race: O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? and again, I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not. For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do; and once more: they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the spirit of God dwell in you. Romans 8:8-9 (LETTER 130 https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3001130.htm)

Sozomen

“I have also heard that one day Julian descended into a most noted and terrific adytum, either for the purpose of participating in some initiation, or of consulting an oracle; and that, by means of machinery which is devised for this end, or of enchantments, such frightful specters were projected suddenly before him, that through perturbation and fear, he became forgetful of those who were present, for he had turned to his new religion when already a man, and so unconsciously fell into his earlier habit, and signed himself with the symbol of Christ, just as the Christian encompassed with untried dangers is wont to do…” (Ecclesiastical History, Book V, Chapter 2 https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/26025.htm)

Chapter 5. Cyril directs the Sacerdotal Office after Maximus, and the Largest Form of the Cross, surpassing the Sun in Splendor, again appears in the Heavens, and is visible during several Days.

At the time that Cyril administered the church of Jerusalem after Maximus, the sign of the cross appeared in the heavens. It shone brilliantly, not with divergent rays like a comet, but with the concentration of a great deal of light, apparently dense and yet transparent. Its length was about fifteen stadia from Calvary to the Mount of Olives, and its breadth was in proportion to its length. So extraordinary a phenomenon excited universal terror. Men, women, and children left their houses, the market-place, or their respective employments, and ran to the church, where they sang hymns to Christ together, and voluntarily confessed their belief in God. The intelligence disturbed in no little measure our entire dominions, and this happened rapidly; for, as the custom was, there were travelers from every part of the world, so to speak, who were dwelling at Jerusalem for prayer, or to visit its places of interest, these were spectators of the sign, and divulged the facts to their friends at home. The emperor was made acquainted with the occurrence, partly by numerous reports concerning it which were then current, and partly by a letter from Cyril the bishop. It was said that this prodigy was a fulfillment of an ancient prophecy contained in the Holy Scriptures. It was the means of the conversion of many pagans and Jews to Christianity. (Book IV https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/26024.htm)

Chapter 26. St. Donatus, Bishop of Eurœa, and Theotimus, High-Priest of Scythia.

There were at this period many other bishops in various parts of the empire highly celebrated for their sanctity and high qualifications, of whom Donatus, bishop of Eurœa in Epirus, deserves to be particularly instanced. The inhabitants of the country relate many extraordinary miracles which he performed, of which the most celebrated seems to have been the destruction of a dragon of enormous size. It had stationed itself on the high road, at a place called Chamægephyræ and devoured sheep, goats, oxen, horses, and men. Donatus came upon this beast, attacked it unarmed, without sword, lance, or javelin; it raised its head, and was about to dash upon him, when Donatus made the sign of the cross with his finger in the air, and spat upon the dragon. The saliva entered its mouth, and it immediately expired. As it lay extended on the earth it did not appear inferior in size to the noted serpents of India. I have been informed that the people of the country yoked eight pair of oxen to transport the body to a neighboring field, where they burnt it, that it might not during the process of decomposition corrupt the air and generate disease. The tomb of this bishop is deposited in a magnificent house of prayer which bears his name. It is situated near a fountain of many waters, which God caused to rise from the ground in answer to his prayer, in an arid spot where no water had previously existed. For it is said that one day, when on a journey, he had to pass through this locality; and, perceiving that his companions were suffering from thirst, he moved the soil with his hands and engaged in prayer; before his prayer was concluded, a spring of water arose from the ground, which has never since been dried up. The inhabitants of Isoria, a village in the territory of Eurœa, bear testimony to the truth of this narration. (Book VII https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/26027.htm)

MARTIN LUTHER

Morning Prayer.

01 In the morning, when you rise, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

02 Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee to keep me this day also from sin and all evil, that all my doings and life may please Thee. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

03 Then go to your work with joy, singing a hymn, as the Ten Commandments, or what your devotion may suggest.

Evening Prayer.

04 In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

05 Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day, and I pray Thee to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Then go to sleep promptly and cheerfully. (The Small Catechism https://bookofconcord.org/small-catechism/appendix-i/)

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