Our First Prayer: The Sign of the Cross

One of the first prayers that we learn when we were younger is the sign of the Cross. In sports competitions, we see athletes do it before doing their routines, like before doing a free throw in a basketball game, or before a diver takes the platform. Most of us also do it before leaving home, or before doing something we consider important. Even without realizing it, whenever we do the sign of the Cross, we explicitly proclaim our faith in the Most Holy Trinity.


The Holy Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian faith — the truth that in the unity of the Godhead, there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another. The great Doctor of the Church St. Augustine of Hippo spent over 30 years working on his treatise De Trinitate [about the Holy Trinity], endeavoring to conceive an intelligible explanation for the mystery of the Trinity. There’s a story told that one day, while walking by the seashore contemplating and trying to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the Bishop of Hippo saw a little boy running back and forth from the water to a spot on the seashore. The boy was using a sea shell to carry the water from the ocean and place it into a small hole in the sand.


Augustine approached him and asked, “My boy, what are doing?”


“I am trying to bring all the sea into this hole,” the boy replied with a sweet smile.


“But that is impossible, my dear child, the hole cannot contain all that water” said Augustine.


The boy paused in his work, stood up, looked into the eyes of the Saint, and replied, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do – comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.”


The Saint was absorbed by such a keen response from that child, and turned his eyes from him for a short while. When he glanced down to ask him something else, the boy had vanished.


Some say that it was an Angel sent by God to teach Augustine a lesson on pride in learning. Others affirm it was the Christ Child Himself who appeared to the Saint to remind him of the limits of human understanding before the great mysteries of our Faith. (Through this story, the sea shell has become a symbol of St. Augustine and the study of theology.)


This Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus told the eleven disciples,


All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28: 16 – 20).


This was Jesus last command to the Apostles and to all of us. We are being called into His way of loving and living, sharing the wealth of the earth and the joys of heaven. As we give and share (cheerfully, as St. Paul would say), we just gladly remember that it is part of our life purpose. We are called to be instruments of His love. As Fr. Armand said, “We cannot be soldiers when we refuse to fight; you cannot be a doctor and refuse to operate. There is one effective way of giving life to your purpose: live it. Live your dream. Always. Anywhere. Dreams are not fulfilled by spontaneous generation; they are realized by being lived one little bit at a time.”


So, the next time we are confronted with a challenge, or when expressing our gratitude to the Lord, let us recite our very first prayer, the sign of the Cross. Let us invoke the Most Holy Trinity: “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

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