The Sign of the Cross

How often do you invoke the Holy Trinity?  We should be asking for the Trinity to be in our life on a regular basis; during prayer, work, leisure, play, and at Church.

“In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

The Sign of the Cross is a symbolic ritual gesture which marks the four points of the Cross on Calvary over one’s body. It also represents loving God with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength. The sign of the cross is most often made at the name of the Holy Trinity, to show reverence for a saint, holy object, or person, at the beginning or end of a prayer, to show humility or agreement, or on numerous other occasions which may vary slightly according to regional/ethnic practice or personal piety. Some Orthodox may make the sign of the cross a hundred or more times during a Divine Liturgy or lengthy service.

The first mention of Christians making the sign of the Cross is in the 2nd Century by Tertullian who said: “In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting of our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupieth us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross” (De cor. Mil., iii).

In the early Church it is believed that the cross was made only on the forehead. Therefore Tertullian also says: “We Christians wear out our foreheads with the sign of the cross.” It is also believed that Christians would also use one finger to make the sign of the cross on their foreheads or on other items. Therefore in the life of St. Barbara, we read: “One day, as Barbara stood by the pool facing the east she said, In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and she miraculously drew the sign of the cross in the marble wall of the bathhouse with her finger.”
In Eastern Orthodox prayers, the sign of the cross is usually made whenever all three persons of the Trinity are addressed, or even alluded to. Before commencing any prayer, in fact, the Sign is typically made. Upon entering a church, and the sanctuary within the church, one will make the Sign partly as an outward sign of reverence and veneration. Orthodox laymen will make the Sign as one way of venerating an icon; Priests have many more specific occasions upon which to make the Sign. Many members of the Faith will make the Sign in a way that may seem idiomatic to some: for example, if a member is exposed to blasphemy, he or she may make the Sign, partly to suggest subtly and politely to the speaker that an offense has been committed. Some members of the Faith will use the Sign in what almost appears to be a wish for luck; it may be that, or a part of an unsaid prayer for God’s blessing, as when beginning a journey or a sports competition.


 

The Sign of the Cross

from The Law of God
by Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy

We call ourselves Christians because we believe in God as we were taught to believe by the Son of God Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ not only taught us to believe in God correctly, but He also saved us from the power of sin and eternal death.

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, out of love for us sinners came down from Heaven and, as a man, suffered instead of us for our sins: He was crucified, He died on the Cross, and on the third day He resurrected. As the sinless Son of God, by His Cross (that is, by suffering and death on the Cross for the sins of all men and of all the world), He conquered not only sin but also death itself—He arose from the dead, and He made the Cross the weapon of His victory over sin and death.

As the the vanquisher of death, Who arose on the third day, He saved us also from eternal death. He will resurrect all of us, all the dead, when the last day of the world comes; He will resurrect us for joyful, eternal life with God.

The Cross is the weapon―or sign―of Christ’s victory over sin and death. Our Lord Jesus Christ received in His breast the terrible spears of sin and death which were invincible for us. He died on the Cross, but He also arose, as the vanquisher of sin and death, and thus opened for us the way to eternal life.

Now everything depends on us: if we wish to be delivered from the power of evil, sin, and eternal death, then we must follow Christ, love Him, and fulfill His holy will, being obedient to Him in everything, and live with Christ.

This is why, in order to express our faith in Jesus Christ our Savior, we wear a cross on our body, and during prayer we form the cross over our ourselves with our right hand—that is, we make the sign of the Cross.

For the sign of the Cross we put the fingers of our right hand together as follows. We bring the tips of the first three fingers together (the thumb, index, and middle ones), and bend the last two (the “ring” and little fingers) against the palm.

The first three fingers express our faith in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, as the Trinity one in essence and indivisible. The two fingers bent signify how the Son of God, when He come down from Heaven, being God, became man: that is, they signify His two natures—divine and human.

In order to make the sign of the Cross, with our fingers in this position, we touch our forehead, for the blessing of our mind, our stomach, for the blessing of our internal feelings, then our right and left shoulders, for the blessing of our bodily strength.

The sign of the Cross gives us great strength to repel and conquer evil and to do good, but we must remember to make the sign of the Cross correctly and without haste, otherwise it will not be the sign of the Cross, but just waving our our hand around, which only gladdens the demons. By making the sign of the Cross carelessly we show a lack of reverence for God. This is a sin, called sacrilege.

When we cross ourselves, mentally we say, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Thus we express our faith in the All-holy Trinity and our desire to live and labor for the glory of God. The word Amen means: in truth, truly, let it be so, so be it.

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About padrerichard

I am a Priest with ROCOR and serve as Rector at St. Joseph of Optina Parish in Virginia Beach, VA
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