Sign of the cross right to left

Hello can anyone send me church father quotation showing that the sign of the cross was done from top to bottom then from right to left.

Like the earliest quote possible. I hear this was formulated and written down around the 4th century

Actually it is completely irrelevant whether the sign of the cross is left to right or right to left. There is no requirement by the Church that it be done one way or the other.


"Then we should also marvel how demons and various diseases are dispelled by the sign of the precious and life-giving Cross, which all can make without cost or effort. Who can number the panegyrics composed in its honor? The holy fathers have handed down to us the inner significance of this sign, so that we can refute heretics and unbelievers. The two fingers and single hand with which it is made represent the Lord Jesus Christ crucified, and He is thereby acknowledged to exist in two natures and one hypostasis or person.

The use of the right hand betokens His infinite power and the fact that He sits at the right hand of the Father. That the sign begins with a downward movement from above signifies His descent to us from heaven. Again, the movement of the hand from the right side to the left drives away our enemies and declares that by His invincible power the Lord overcame the devil, who is on the left side, dark and lacking strength."

St. Peter of Damascus

The sign of the cross was originally done right to left, with a couple different hand positions being used. This is the theologically correct way of doing it, and the Eastern Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, still cross themselves from right to left.

It is commonly speculated that Latin laity began crossing themselves backwards because they were mirroring the priest.

Typo alert

Why is one way more “theologically correct” than the other? What is the theological explanation?

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So we only started going left to right since 1969? I don’t believe it, as there would still be old people crossing themselves right to left out of habit. OTOH, there may be, as it might not be something I would have noticed.

Where did 1969 come into it? Even in ancient liturgies the priest faced the congregation to bless them with the sign of the cross. The change seems to have occurred in the west around 1,000 AD, give or take a couple hundred of years.

Oddly, I was with an oriental orthodox (coptic) and he crossed himself left to right… like us latins… When I asked him about it be said the oriental orthodox have been doing it that way since the time of the apostles…

Fixed. That’s what I get for posting early in the morning!

For one thing, Christ sits at the right hand of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds through the Son. Everything from our words, to our hand gestures, to the sequence of movements represents some aspect of the Trinity.

There is also the explanation from St. John of Damascus, quoted above, but that seems to be the less popular reasoning.

I have a hard time believing that, but I can’t say I have information that disproves it. Every source I have seen from the early Church specifies right to left.

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Same here, I can only tell you what one person told me, I have no facts other than that.

ok, I guess blessings make sense. I, of course, was thinking of when mass being said with the priest facing the people.

This article in the Catholic Encyclopedia has quite a lot about the development of the Sign of the Cross in the early centuries:

The Catholic Encyclopedia: Sign of the Cross

Scroll down to paragraph beginning with “The course of development …”

As for left vs. right, see further down, the paragraph beginning “At this period the manner of making it…”

So, like the salute was to show ancient soldiers harbored no weapons was with the right hand, causing poor left handed soldiers to be targets of the sword, a left handed person’s salvation is jeopardized for using the left hand or moving in the wrong direction when making the sign of the cross?

I think not.

I just can’t imagine Jesus reviewing the book of life and condemning someone for a violation of choreography rather than a violation of righteousness.

Of course this is not a matter essential to salvation. It is a pious discipline. While it may mean little to one believer, to another it may have some value according to his/her understanding of it.

It didn’t, two different traditions developed. Eastern Catholics (especially Byzantines) do it the same way as the EOC, and they are 100℅ Catholic. My understanding is that the original sign of the cross is similar to the small sign of the cross done before the gospel readings in the venerable Latin church.

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