The Sign of the Cross as a Blessing
“Oh, my Master, my King and holy Guest, how can I thank Thee for Thy great kindness in visiting me in this my hour of vigil keeping for Thy love? My Beloved’s eyes pierced my soul with an understanding love, and He raised His gracious hand above my head and traced in the air the sign of the triple cross. My soul cried aloud, “Oh blessing divine, oh blessing sublime, make me worthy of Thy least grace and holy desire.” Jesus spoke, “Child of grace, when thou dost bless thy friends, use a crucifix to imprint the triple cross upon their heads. Silently invite Me to dwell in thy soul to bless thy friends through thy body. And whilst thou dost bless with the crucifix, silently pray, ‘I bless thee with all the desires of the Eternal Father and bless the wishes of thy soul, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’” — Gems by Cora Evans
The Loving Gaze of Christ
Once we place ourselves in the scene described, once the words have created the scene for us we may contemplate the beauty and mystery presented with greater ease. Christ appears before Cora Evans and gazes at her with “an understanding love.” As we ponder this gaze, we cannot help but be moved by the possibility of such a communion with Christ. We might wonder, is it possible that He already looks at each one of us with such a gaze, inviting us to draw close to Him through receiving the sacraments and living out our faith in our daily lives? Does He gaze at us like this amidst our joys, amidst laughter? Does he perceive the deepest hopes, desires, and interests of our hearts with the same understanding? Does He do so amidst our sorrows, amidst weariness, amidst moments of feeling misunderstood? Despite our weaknesses, and in moments of self-loathing and self-doubt does he regard us with the same look? Yes! This is the case, though we have not been gifted with the sight of his gaze, here we witness Christ gaze at the entirety of this individual soul with love and with understanding. Out of the great tenderness of his heart, perhaps in response to a desire he sees in the soul of Cora, he blesses her and makes her His vessel by which to draw her friends into his heart.
How can we participate in Christ's gaze?
To participate with Christ in this way, to approach his gaze and commune with him, it is not necessary to be a visionary or even on our way to it. Attending Mass and receiving Him in the Eucharist, Adoration, and even beginning our days by offering them to His Sacred Heart will dispose us to the presence of the Lord and His grace, Saint John Paul II tells us that “it is [Jesus] who who urges [us] to shed the masks of a false life; it is he reads in [our] hearts [our] most genuine choices, the choices others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in [us] the desire to do something great with [our] lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow [ourselves] to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit [ourselves] humbly and patiently to improving [ourselves] and society.” Therefore we should “have no fear of entrusting [ourselves] to him! He will guide [us] he will grant [us] the strength to follow him every day and in every situation” (World Youth Day Address, 1999). This is true regardless of the degree of our spiritual maturity––the bible tells us that the Lord calls us by name (Isaiah 43:1). So we should not only think of Christ's gaze in the context of an apparition. We must remember it in our ordinary and even monotonous daily lives. We must draw close that may it rejuvenate us and give us the strength to remain full of life and love. His look embraces us but it also inspires us to grow, if we will let it. Christ's gift of this “blessing” and His express desire that others share in it with Cora further testifies to His call. This is especially apparent as we come to know the fullest sense of what happens when we are “blessed.”
Blessings and Sacramentals in the Church
Of course, many of us have a basic knowledge of this–– as some kind of special prayer that begs God's Divine Benevolence to be with us. But the Church considers blessings to be the foremost type of sacramental. Sacramentals are “holy things or actions of which the church makes use to obtain for us from God, through her intercession, spiritual and temporal favors.” Most of us have heard the term used with regards to rosaries, miraculous medals, holy water, devotions and the like. The Church recognizes a difference between a sacrament and a sacramental, telling us that “sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church's prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.” Besides this, the Church clarifies for us that sacramentals are not to be considered a kind of good luck charm or used with any superstitious practice. It is through the prayers of the Church, God's ordained benevolence, and our sincerity of heart that sacramentals are of use. Though the Church distinguishes further about the kinds of blessings that lay people may give and those that belong to priests, and deacons, we still know that as a sacramental, a blessing disposes one to receive and cooperate with God's grace! Following Christ's “sublime blessing,” Cora Evans expresses her hope that it will make her worthy to receive His “least grace and holy desire.” Christ then calls her “child of grace,” indicating perhaps that some grace may have been granted following her wish. Christ's instruction, then, to share this blessing with her friends is a revelation of his wish to dispose us to his grace, so that, as we become more readily receptive to it, he might sooner call us all “children of grace.”