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Sixteen Words

What does it mean to “exalt”? One definition states, “to elevate by praise or in estimation : GLORIFY”. What about the meaning of that last word, “glorify”? To glorify connotes “bestowing honor, praise, or admiration.”

Honor, praise, admiration, exalt, glorify- all these words have been used to describe the Cross. Christ’s Cross. Pretty powerful words.

When praying and thinking about Christ’s Cross, I often use these words to respectfully and reverently honor Jesus for the suffering, mercy, and love He has endured for me and the world.

There are other words that have just as much reverence and beauty to exalt the Cross of Jesus. They are actually used by the faithful every day at the beginning and end of each prayer:

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

Sixteen simple yet beautiful words that behold the glory and majesty of the Cross of Jesus. Every time they are spoken and prayed, these words exalt the glory of God the Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. Every time. Why is it then that at times, I am so cavalier at saying them when praying? Why is it that I will make the sign and gestures of the cross so haphazardly, mindlessly rushing without reverence and respect? Why is it that at times I don’t even say all sixteen words?!

I simply abbreviate and water down this glorious prayer to five words: “Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Amen.”

To justify my shortened words and actions, I think to myself- “well at least I’m saying a prayer and at least I’m mentioning the Holy Trinity.” Wow… to rationalize the glory of God! Unfortunately because of my lackadaisical attitude, my children have watched and learned from me, such that they too, at times, have became mindless exalters of this simple, beautiful prayer.

My oldest son entered the seminary for the Diocese of Little Rock eleven years ago. I remember hearing a beautiful and powerful hymn sung during the Bishop’s Mass for seminarians and their families at the Cathedral of St. Andrew. The hymn was “Lift High the Cross.” The sound of the organ was triumphant as it accompanied the vibrant refrain:

“Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim till all the world adore His Sacred name!”

Each time we pray with love, respect, and reverence, we are adoring Christ’s sacred name. Each time we sing His praises, we are giving him the glory, honor, and praise that He deserves. And each time we complete the simple prayer of the sixteen words of the Sign of the Cross, we exalt the Holy Cross of Christ.

If you have become less reverent and mindless while praying the sign of the Cross, you have the wonderful opportunity to begin anew on the beautiful feast day of the Exaltation of the Cross. These Sixteen words said reverently and respectfully with the accompanying gestures can transform our hearts and minds, “till all the world adore His Sacred Name”!

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Angie Elser

Angie writes from Little Rock, Arkansas. She is the mother of six children and co-founder of the MOMMS (Mothers of Major and Minor Seminarians) Prayer watch for the Diocese of Little Rock.

2 thoughts on “Sixteen Words”

  1. Oh this is fantastic! Thank you! A much needed reminder for me to slow it down, say the words, actually move my hands the way they’re supposed to instead of rushing the gestures.


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