We see Jesus' instructions to the disciples at Mt 28:19:

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.

This commandment forms they basis of the prayer of Sign of The Cross. Now, it is not clear as to whether Jesus referred to one single name of God, though the repeated use of the preposition “of” before each Person of the Trinity (i.e. of the Father/ of the Son/of the Holy Spirit ) suggests that Jesus meant three different names say, Yahweh the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. In that case, the prayer should have been "In the names..."

Therefore, my question is: how does the Catholic Church explain, on the basis of Theology, the use of singular word “name” while referring to the three Persons of the Trinity, in the Prayer of Sign of the Cross.

  • 1
    The word ”name” must be understood in the context of ”in the name of”. Otherwise it just a word!
    – Ken Graham
    Apr 20, 2020 at 14:00
  • Also in the original language (Greek), there is no preposition repeated; all three nouns (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are in the genitive case which in this particular case indicates possession.
    – eques
    Apr 20, 2020 at 19:46
  • This is a question of logic and/or grammar, rather than religion proper, hence the downvote. The noun is not (constantly) repeated for stylistic reasons. The car of the father and the car of the son can be rephrased in a less repetitious manner as the car of the father and [(of) the] son, both of which are equivalent to the (two) cars of the father and [(of) the] son. Also, in the name of means on behalf of. Were I to say, you are hereby arrested in the name of the President of the US, and of the Governor of Texas, this would (usually) not imply that the two men bear the same name.
    – user46876
    Apr 22, 2020 at 6:06
  • @eques: In English, of the is the genitive's article (and to the is the dative's article), the direct equivalent of the Greek tou from the original text of Matthew 28:19, which is (also) repeated before each noun in the aforementioned enumeration.
    – user46876
    Apr 22, 2020 at 6:21
  • 1
    @Lucian My point was that an argument based on repeated preposition is almost certainly flawed because it is language specific. In the original, you have 3 names in the same grammatical case each with an article. But it doesn't make sense to call "of the" the genitive's article -- even if the Greek lacked the article, the translation might have "of". A genitive is commonly but not exclusively translated with an "of"
    – eques
    Apr 22, 2020 at 14:00

1 Answer 1


How does Catholic Church explain the use of singular word “name” in the Prayer of Sign of the Cross?

As Catholics, we call it a prayer, but in reality it is more a form of addressing the three Divine Persons of the Trinity.

The words in the phrase “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” is more a statement of address on behalf of the Most Holy Trinity: Father,Son and Holy Spirit than an actual prayer.

In the name of is a phrase that simply means:

1.) representing someone or something

2.) using the authority given by someone or something

The above phrase is more a statement in who’s name the following prayer of action (baptism) is being done. There is in essence no prayer of adoration, contrition, petition or thanksgiving involved in this theological statement. Catholics and other denominations employ it out of love for the Most Holy Trinity as well by they very fact Our Lord asked us to baptize using this Tridentine formula.

Catholics say many of the same prayers other religions do, with some variations. The key Catholic prayers are either part of the Mass, during which many prayers are sung, or part of praying the rosary.

Traditionally, Catholic prayers fall into four types:

  • Adoration: Praising God
  • Contrition: Asking for God’s forgiveness
  • Petition: Asking God for a favor
  • Thanksgiving: Showing God gratitude

A Look at Key Catholic Prayers

Making the Sign of the Cross is not only traditional; it is also a sacramental.

Most commonly and properly the words "sign of the cross" are used of the large cross traced from forehead to breast and from shoulder to shoulder, such as Catholics are taught to make upon themselves when they begin their prayers, and such also as the priest makes at the foot of the altar when he commences Mass with the words: "In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti". (At the beginning of Mass the celebrant makes the sign of the cross by placing his left hand extended under his breast; then raising his right to his forehead, which he touches with the extremities of his fingers, he says: In nomine Patris; then, touching his breast with the same hand, he says: et Filii; touching his left and right shoulders, he says; et Spiritus Sancti; and as he joins his hands again adds: Amen.) The same sign recurs frequently during Mass, e.g. at the words "Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini", at the "Indulgentiam" after the Confiteor, etc., as also in the Divine Office, for example at the invocation "Deus in adjutorium nostrum intende", at the beginning of the "Magnificat", the "Benedictus", the "Nunc Dimittis", and on many other occasions. - Sign of the Cross (Catholic Encyclopedia)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .