Return, O LORD, how long?
O satisfy us early with Thy Mercy;
Make us glad according to the days
and the years wherein we have seen evil.
Let Thy Work appear unto Thy Servants,
And let the beauty of The LORD our GOD be upon us:
Making the sign of the Cross is recorded by Tertullian as early as the year 197 AD, so it must have been done before that year, at least.
Here is what some of the writings tell us about making the sign of the Cross long before the Roman Catholics acquired it; they simply retained the Early Christian practices. [ All quotes are from David Bercot's Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, Scroll Publishing.]
From Tertullian ~
"At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at the table, when we light the lamps, when on the couch, on a seat, and in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace the sign upon our foreheads." (c. 211, Western writer, 3.94.95, )
From Lactantius ~~
" HE+ is the salvation of all who have written on their foreheads the sign of blood. I am referring to the sign of the Cross, on which HE+ shed HIS+ Blood... But I will show in the last book in what manner or in what region all will be safe who have marked on the highest part of their body this sign of the true and divine Blood+. " (c.304-311, Western writer, 7.129).
"While the Emperor Diocletian sacrificed, some attendants of his, who were Christians, stood by and they put the immortal sign on their foreheads. At this, the demons were chased away, and the (un)holy rites were interrupted. (c. 320, W, 7.304).
"Women did not benefit from that sign of circumcision. However, all are sealed by the sign of The LORD." (c. 250w, 5.510).
"Only those can escape who have been born anew and signed with the sign of CHRIST. 'Have no pity upon old or young. And slay the virgins, the little ones, and the women, that they may be utterly destroyed. But do not touch any man upon whom is written the mark.' What this mark is and in what part of the body it is placed, GOD sets forth in another place, saying 'Go through the midst of Jerusalem and set a mark (tau ... like a T) upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof.' This sign pertains to the passion and blood of CHRIST. Whoever is found in this sign is kept safe and unharmed."<(((><...
We who are NOT of the Roman Catholic persuasion might do well to reconsider the practice of the signing of the Cross as part of our daily routine during worship and prayer. The Early Christians seemed to think it was a valid and genuine use of HOLY hands.<(((><
O, LORD, THOU+ Whose+ hands were Most HOLY, help us to sow to the Spirit always, and establish THOU+ the work of these hands... made HOLY by Thy+ Blood and Spirit. Then, may our prayers be set forth before THEE+ as incense; and the lifting up of our hands as the evening sacrifice.
In the name of The FATHER, Who created thee;
His+ HOLY SON+ JESUS, Who+ saves thee;
And The Blessed HOLY SPIRIT, Who sanctifies thee.
+ + +