Sacred Gestures...Our whole life is made up of gestures. They are not only simple signs through which we manifest what we experience at a superficial or sensatory level (e.g. the pain caused by the sting of a bee), but they are also a channel through which we communicate our inner being, the depth that lies in our hearts. Our life is made up of a multitude of gestures: they always follow our words, confirming or denying them… and isn’t it true that we appreciate mostly those people that are coherent with themselves: that “put in practice” through gestures and deeds their own words, ideas and creeds?

But before touching the great ideals or the deep experiences we carry within, and which (usually) necessitate much introspection and a certain education of our gestures (meditating on the meaning of our lives and actions in order to “go out of ourselves” in encountering the other): we live our gestures in all their simplicity and spontaneity. Think of a smile, a hug or even a kiss. They are simple, human forms that express warmth, intimacy, trust, joy… And there are other gestures, spontaneous too sometimes, that convey a lack of goodness and of closeness: frowning, turning one’s head or looking in the opposite direction (avoiding the other), or even slapping (the expression of anger, hatred and revenge).

What proves that gestures matter greatly to us is the fact that they can hurt (even if we sometimes don’t admit it) or they give us wings to fly towards the other, with the other towards the Beloved…

First of all, we inherit this language. It exists before us. We can improve or impoverish it through our attitude and character, but it will always transcend us. Even if we could change something in this language (in our post-modern madness, or fancy of warping and corrupting reality) it would only be at a superficial layer.

We would change, so to speak, only the letters of the word love, but all of us would experience the meaning of love (if it’s really true love, and not ideology!). Even when we encounter people from other cultures and use different languages, our experience of love is common.

And if we have common sense, that inner compass that makes us see that truth is not relative, we will try not to change the word love, but educate ourselves in living and communicating (and communing) true love.

I firmly believe that the re-discovery of sacred gestures (or signs) is a divine pedagogy, that teaches us and reestablishes our authentic relationship with God, with our fellow humans and even with Creation itself.  By rediscovering the language of sacredness (and especially of holiness!) prayer will become a true communication with God and our love for man will have flavour (because of the “salt” that St. Paul speaks of in Colossians 4, 6). Only in this way we will be guarded against any kind of false spirituality that makes us elate in narcissism (as the “higher self” mantra, a.k.a. super-selfishness and blind pride) or makes us worship nature, cats, dogs, potatoes, etc.

This theology of gestures is so common, so “organic” to us, beings endowed with reason, will and liberty, for it springs from the mystery of our creation. We were made after the image, the model, the icon of a personal God, of a God who is perfect communion of Persons – everlasting love that is offered, received, reciprocal.

To learn this theology, we don’t need any esoteric secrets and illuminations, no pseudo-sciences and weird new age spiritualities (fascinating lies, but still lies), we only need to look a father and his child. This love is the way in which God reveals himself to us: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is how He loves us and wants us to love Him back. That’s why when Jesus wanted to reveal the most sublime mysteries of the Holy Trinity and of the Kingdom of God, He didn’t use the complicated theories of the higher mathematics, but the language of love, the language of story-telling: “A father had two sons…”

In this perspective we can call our Christian life “the inner path of becoming Children[1]”, returning to our Father, a paternal and filial education in which we learn the language of the love of God and the way to communicate this love, to transform the world (not only ourselves) in the icon of the Most Holy Trinity, in the Body of Christ, the Church, in that splendid icon of the Bridegroom and the Bride, the Heavenly Wedding Feast in which God rejoices in His sons and daughters!

One of the most common gestures of this new language is the sign of the Cross. What is the cross? What does it mean? How is it represented and understood? What is it’s use (for we moderns are very practical and efficient people…)? Are we, Byzantine Catholics, exaggerating by repeating this gesture over and over again?

If we would rediscover the essence of the Christian life, if we would discover anew God’s burning love for man: Love crucified on a cross to save us from sin (= salvation), His real suffering on a instrument of torture, killing sin through his unjust death, Jesus – the blameless one, the Lamb of God, and we recognize in this Cross the source of everlasting life and of all the graces that flow from it, then through the conscious practice of this sacred sign/gesture we will experience again and again the power of Christs’ passion. Whether we make the sign of Cross when we enter a Church (saluting our God, Jesus Christ truly present in His humanity and divinity in the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar), or before we eat (when we say Grace, blessing and thanking Him for our food), or before an exam/task/job, or danger (asking for His help with deep faith), or even as a prayer of liberation (from temptations, obsessive thoughts and all the dirty activity of the evil one), or when we receive the Absolution in the Sacrament of Confession, in that moment we mark our whole being (body and soul) with the CROSS OF CHRIST, bringing Him glory and praise, trusting in HIS LOVE and DIVINE PROVIDENCE, manifesting His Salvation in our lives.

The Cross of Christ is God’s will for us, the powerful sign of His everlasting Love for us, the seal of hope and joy, the proclamation of the Good News of Redemption. The Cross is God’s kiss that soothes and heals our pain, and those of the whole world!

Or do you think that God takes our word “for granted” and doesn’t want to see our deeds, actions and dedication (Jacob 2:20-26). Let’s be honest, we don’t even take ourselves for granted… so, let us practice what we preach, what we say and think. Let the world see this humble testimony of ours, our trust in God, this sacred sign made with faith (and not superstition), recognizing the wonderful and mysterious Presence of the Most Holy One in our lives, His guidance and care. By living our faith with our whole being: heart, intellect, will, liberty, body included we will develop a strong desire for the true unified life, the life of communion with God, already tasting the bliss of Heaven. We will become our real, true selves, authentic to God, and in God, and with others. Our life will become, through the Cross, a spring of living water for those around us.

And all that we will live and do, from our personal and liturgical prayer, our service to our kindred, in the family and in society, every gesture and deed will be… in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

[1] Children – living a new life of grace, being adopted by God the Father through the sacrifice of the Cross of Jesus and incorporated through Baptism in the great Family of the Church