Different Signs of the Cross

What are and why are there different signs of the cross made on one’s person? Are there any theological terms for the act?

I have often seen the Western method also including a kissing of the thumb (?) after the sign is made. What is the origin of this?

Why do the Eastern Rite Catholics cross themselves in an opposite manner of the Western method?

Thanks for helping me with this question.

I have seen this among Catholics of Hispanic descent, although there may be others who do it too. It is my understanding that they are making a “cross” of their thumb and index finger, and are thus reverencing the Cross of Christ.

I know Byzantine Catholics will bless themselves with the right side first in order to honour Christ who is seated at the right hand of the Father. They will also take their thumb, index finger and middle finger and press them together to honour the trinity, while the last two fingers are tucked away in their palms n order to honour Christ’s two natures. They will alsomake the cross three times in order to honour the trinity.

I’m unsure though how this explanation came about. If I had to guess, I would say that the explanation above came about as pious explanation of why Christians make the cross in the manner they do.

I’ve heard it said that blessing from right to left is the more ancient practice, but I’ve also come across material that suggests that both practices are almost the same age. Otherwise there is the popular explaination that it changed from right to left, to left to right in the West because the laity would mirror the priest who was facing them. I personally think that its a weak argument for various reasons.

At the end of the day, I think the historical record is a bit cloudy on the issue. If you look hard enough you’ll find a wide variety of explanations out there.

Why do the Eastern Rite Catholics cross themselves in an opposite manner of the Western method?

The real question is why did the West change? Innocent III, some centuries after the split, describes how the Sign was made in the West EXACTLY as the Byzantine and Orthodox Churches do today.

Innocent III says that the laity started mirroring the priest, so that when his hand went to HIS right (our left), the laity moved their hand to THEIR left, as if being a mirror-reflection of the priest. Then, eventually, the priest started doing it their way!

LOL, really? :signofcross::doh2:

Note that Pope Innocent is describing what the custom was in the West. In the 13th century the East and the West still made the sign of the cross in the same way. The pope goes on to say: “Others, however, make the sign of the cross from the left to the right, because from misery (left) we must cross over to glory (right), just as Christ crossed over from death to life, and from Hades to Paradise. [Some priests] do it this way so that they and the people will be signing themselves in the same way. You can easily verify this - picture the priest facing the people for the blessing - when we make the sign of the cross over the people, it is from left to right.”

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