Sign(s) of the Cross


#1

Here’s a question. In the western churches I have attended (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Episcopalian) the sign of the cross has usually been done with an open hand from the left shoulder to the right. In the Greek Orthodox Church (and perhaps Eastern Catholic?) it is done with three fingers (or two fingers and the thumb) from right to left. IIRC, the Russian Old Believers (left to right) and the Oriental Orthodox (right to left) use two fingers. Can I get some more info on this? Is there a reason why they’re done as they are? Would say a Latin SOtC person consider an Eastern sign backwards and invalid?


#2

I don’t know about right to left/left to right, but the three fingers, I have been told, represent the trinity. You’ll also see three fingers on a lot of statues, which indicated pronouncement or the act of a blessing…

John


#3

There is no defined “valid” way to make the sign of the cross, thus the Eastern way (which might be older, though I’m not entirely sure) cannot be invalid.


#4

It is tradition (small ‘t’) for the Roman Catholics to make the Sign of the Cross from left to right, but the sign is simply a sacramental prayer. So long as its purpose is to recall and affirm the Trinity, it cannot be done “invalidly”.


#5

Supposedly, the Catholic church used to do it from right to left at one point, but that changed around the middle ages. I don’t really have much info on it.

The Oriental Orthodox church has always done it from left to right too. The Ethiopians do it with an open palm, thumb pointing towards your chest.


#6

I can’t recall the full details, but I remember watching Light of the East on EWTN a while back. One of the fathers answered this question, and it was something like the way it was done was supposed to mirror the priest. So if the priest crossed from left to right, the people crossed from right to left to mirror him.


#7

The three fingers together represent the trinity and the two separated fingers represent the two dualities of Jesus as “true God” and “true Man.” The open handed version came later and was first done by monks – I believe. The direction of the crossing is a byproduct of culture and not due to any symbolism that I know of.

A Pope (I forget which one) stated that a Roman Catholic can cross from right to left or left to right – it does not matter.

Latino individuals will actually do small crosses with their thumb at each stop on the head chest and two shoulders.


#8

Actually, it’s at the head, mouth, chest and then a final one at the shoulders. We do this from the catechism as it stood back in the 17th century.


#9

[quote=Salvo]Actually, it’s at the head, mouth, chest and then a final one at the shoulders. We do this from the catechism as it stood back in the 17th century.
[/quote]

I realize that that is done in the Roman Catholic Church. This is not what I am talking about.

Many Latinos also do the same while doing the Sign of the Cross – once again on the Head, Chest, and Two Shoulders. They will also do the Sign of the Cross in very rapid succession while doing this – so in essence many crosses are made in a short time.


#10

[quote=Shibboleth]I realize that that is done in the Roman Catholic Church. This is not what I am talking about.

Many Latinos also do the same while doing the Sign of the Cross – once again on the Head, Chest, and Two Shoulders. They will also do the Sign of the Cross in very rapid succession while doing this – so in essence many crosses are made in a short time.
[/quote]

That’s what I’m saying. And you are speaking to a Latino :smiley:


#11

IIRC, the Russian Old Believers (left to right) and the Oriental Orthodox (right to left) use two fingers.

The Old Believers use two fingers (the index and the middle) to represent the two natures of Christ, with the middle finger slightly bent to show the condescension of the divine nature. The other three fingers are held together to represent the trinity. Among the Greeks and post-Nikonian Russians, it’s reversed, with the thumb and first two fingers representing the Trinity and the last two fingers representing the two natures. In both forms, the fingers also spell out the letters IC XC (although in different orders). All of the Byzantine-derived rites, including the Old Believers, cross from right to left.


#12

[quote=J_Chrysostomos]Here’s a question. In the western churches I have attended (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Episcopalian) the sign of the cross has usually been done with an open hand from the left shoulder to the right. In the Greek Orthodox Church (and perhaps Eastern Catholic?) it is done with three fingers (or two fingers and the thumb) from right to left. IIRC, the Russian Old Believers (left to right) and the Oriental Orthodox (right to left) use two fingers. Can I get some more info on this? Is there a reason why they’re done as they are? Would say a Latin SOtC person consider an Eastern sign backwards and invalid?
[/quote]

I think it is just a sign of a difference in the customs of the east and the west.


#13

[quote=J_Chrysostomos]Can I get some more info on this? Is there a reason why they’re done as they are? Would say a Latin SOtC person consider an Eastern sign backwards and invalid?
[/quote]

The way that the Orthodox make the sign of the Cross seems to have been common across all of Christendom, both East and West. (I don’t know about the Copts and Ethiopians though.)

At the period for which we have certain information [circa 10th century] the manner of making it in the West was identical with that followed at present in the East, i.e. only three fingers were used, and the hand travelled from the right shoulder to the left.

See the Catholic Encyclopedia
newadvent.org/cathen/13785a.htm

Pope Innocent III (1198 - 1216) has a commentary on the sign of the cross making clear that the three fingers were used and that it was, in his day, right to left still.

[snip] … We know that in England the change from right shoulder first and probably also to indiscriminate use of the fingers was underway sometime in the 14th century, though there were holdouts (a 15th c. MS. York Missal has the Priest cross himself with the paten right to left).

There is an interesting sermon of Abbot Aelfric of Abingdon which he gave around the year 1000 in which he states, “Though a man wave wonderfully with his hand, yet it is not the sign of the Cross: With three fingers you shall sign thyself.”
(Sermon for Sept. 14)

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤


#14

Now I have no idea if what I am about to say is true, it was just something I was told me a long time ago when I asked the same question.

I was told that it changed in the western church to more closely follow the story of Christ. 1)Head to chest to show Christ coming from Heaven to earth 2) Left shoulder next for his death 3) To the right shoulder next to show resserection He and ascention to the right hand of the Father.

Take it with a grain of salt I suppose, but I thought it sounded neat.


#15

An Indian Orthodox (Malabar Orthodox) friend of my said he was taught this devise: God (head) came to Earth (belly) so that Good (right shoulder) could overcome Evil (left). I learned In the name of the Father (head, the Source of the Trinity) and of the Son (belly, who came to earth to redeem men) and of the Holy (left shoulder, for He sanctifes our fallen nature) Spirit (right shoulder, the Treasury of Blessings and Giver of life and all that is good). Amen (the heart, for that is where the Trinity dwelleth).

In Christ,
Adam


#16

[quote=akemner]Spasi Hospodi l’uda svoja, i blahoslovi dostojanije svoje, pobidy pravoslavnym Christijanom nasprotivnyja darui, i svoja sochran’aja Krestom l’udi.
[/quote]

i Tvoje sokhran’aja Krestom Tvoim zhitel’stvo :wink:
и Твое сохраняя Крестом Твоим жительство.


#17

[quote=akemner]An Indian Orthodox (Malabar Orthodox) friend of my said he was taught this devise: God (head) came to Earth (belly) so that Good (right shoulder) could overcome Evil (left). I learned In the name of the Father (head, the Source of the Trinity) and of the Son (belly, who came to earth to redeem men) and of the Holy (left shoulder, for He sanctifes our fallen nature) Spirit (right shoulder, the Treasury of Blessings and Giver of life and all that is good). Amen (the heart, for that is where the Trinity dwelleth).

In Christ,
Adam
[/quote]

You know, I have a lot of Indian friends (mostly due to my line of work). And I have always found the music, dress and festivals very nice and colourful, but I’m not really “into” the culture. BUT, deep down I have this desire to visit Goa and the Malankara (Jacobite) church there. I’d really like to see the descendents of one of the first churches. I find it fascinating how it was able to exist so far away and cut off from it’s original founders in the middle-east, and also able to survive for so long surrounded by Islam and Hidnuism. That to me is a miracle.


#18

I USED to teach in a “catholic” elementary parish School(grades prek-8) where the principal never said anything to two teachers (baptists) who told me I should not teach the sign of the Cross to the students. What were they doing working and living off a catholic School then if they hated the Sign of the Cross so much?? The worse thing was, that when the pastor wanted to not renew the contract for one of those teachers(she had become so crass, nasty, and beligerent towards me as a Catholic Religion teacher, that the pastor, after extensive consultation with his 8 member parish board decided NOT to bring that teacher back for the next year) the Diocese ordered him NOT to get rid of her nor the others who were anti-catholic. So much for a true and Catholic education in the “catholic” schools in the USA. The fact that these schools no longer teach catholic teachings is the fault of bishops like those.


#19

The Sign of the Cross is a powerful prayer and a sacramental of the Church.


#20

I like the the version: In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


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