The Cross is perhaps the most well-known symbol in all of Christendom. Even non-Christians recognize it. And we all understand and agree on what the Cross means (on the surface, at least). But the way Christians make the sign of the Cross differs depending on which Christian community you encounter. So, in this post, we explain specifically how and when Christians in the Orthodox Church make the sign of the Cross.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
A symbol of victory
As the instrument Christ chose to bring about His ever-memorable and life-creating death, the Cross holds a special place in the heart of every Orthodox Christian. We understand that this symbol, once a primitive means of torture and capital punishment, now reminds us of Christ’s victory over death. Orthodox Christians make the sign of the Cross because it affirms what we believe about Christ as the Incarnate Son of God and all that He did for us. It is an outward manifestation that illustrates our view of God in Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and our belief in the two natures of Christ (fully God and fully Man). It is, in essence, a physical form of prayer.
Because of our love for the sign of the Cross, the Orthodox use it daily. Not only do we use it during worship, but also before and after meals, during personal prayer, and in moments of worry or need. The saints, and Christ Himself, make this sign in holy icons. We love the cross perhaps just as much as we love the Theotokos, if not more. Because Christ used it to bring about our salvation. To show our love and devotion to Christ, during any given service or liturgy, the faithful may cross themselves close to one-hundred times!
How to make the sign
If you’ve ever come to an Orthodox service and looked around, you probably saw someone crossing themselves at some point. To newcomers and inquirers, this can be a bit strange, since we cross ourselves differently than other Christians. Let’s walk through the Orthodox way of making the sign of the cross, step by step.
Time needed: 1 minute.
How to Make the Sign of the Cross
Join the thumb, index, and middle fingers of your right hand.
Rest the other two fingers of your right hand down against your palm.
After steps 1 and 2, your right hand should look like this:
Take that hand and touch your joined fingertips to your forehead.
Let your fingers rest there for a moment.
Then bring your fingertips down to your abdomen.
Again, let your fingers rest here a moment. Some people bring their fingers only as far as the chest, while others reach down to their navel. Either of these is acceptable.
Move your fingertips to touch the front of your right shoulder.
Finally, touch your fingertips to the front of your left shoulder.
If your movements match the bishop in this .gif, you did it correctly! Keep in mind the .gif is mirrored, so your arm should move in the opposite direction of the bishop’s.
Note a couple differences between the Orthodox sign and that of Roman Catholics and Protestants. First, Roman Catholics cross themselves from left to right and typically keep all five fingers straight. Secondly, Protestant practice in making the sign of the cross, much like Protestantism itself, varies. Protestantism does not prohibit it, but they do not necessarily encourage it either, because there is no Biblical command to use the sign of the cross.
Variations of the sign
You may also have noticed some people make the sign three times in a row, while others only do it once. Some make large sweeping motions, while others keep things simple and small. All these variations! But, which way is the right way?
Put simply, there isn’t one. Crossing yourself is not an issue of dogma (belief necessary for salvation) in Orthodoxy. Instead, it is a matter of personal piety. In other words, aside from the arrangement of the fingers and direction of the movement, all else is up to you. If you feel moved to always make the sign of the cross in three’s, you may do so. If you wish to venerate icons in a slightly different manner than another parishioner, you can. Each Orthodox Christian can express his or her faith in whatever physical ways they feel necessary, as long as they do so out of love for God. (If you do things instead to bring attention to yourself and feed your pride, you should reflect upon that.)
When to make the sign of the cross
Because crossing yourself is an issue of personal piety, the Orthodox do not have strict guidelines about when you should and should not cross yourself. In the Orthodox tradition, we cross ourselves on many occasions. Below is a list of times when you should cross yourself:
- Whenever the priest, chanter, reader, or choir invokes or alludes to the name of the Holy Trinity
- At the beginning and/or end of personal (and communal) prayer
- Upon entering and leaving the church
- When venerating holy icons, relics, the cross, or the Gospel
- Before receiving Communion*
- Whenever you pass in front of the Holy Altar, whether the doors are open or closed
This is by no means an exhaustive list! We cross ourselves many other times as well. Again, it all comes down to personal choice. If the Holy Spirit moves you to express your piety in a particular way, no one will judge you or look at you strangely for it.
When NOT to make the sign of the cross
Though the Orthodox make the sign of the cross rather liberally, there are a couple times when we should not make the sign of the cross during services:
- At the chalice before or after taking Holy Communion*
- Whenever a bishop or priest blesses the congregation with his hand and says, “Peace be to all.” Here, we merely give a slight bow and receive the blessing.
In summary, the Orthodox cross themselves the way Christians have for millennia. Additionally, we have guidelines for when we should and should not cross ourselves during worship. However, we don’t force them on anyone who decides to come and worship with us. If you aren’t Orthodox and do visit a local parish, please don’t feel as if you must make the sign of the cross. We make the sign out of love for God, as a way of expressing with our bodies our faith in Him. You need not make the sign until you, too, feel such conviction.
*Notice we mentioned Communion in both lists? Here’s why! If you cross yourself too close to the chalice, you might hit the chalice with your hand, or cause some of the Body and Blood of Christ to spill. However, it is okay for you to cross yourself before approaching the chalice and after backing away to receive blessed bread.
I noticed in reference to the Sign of the Cross, you state a “mistake” many children make is touching the right shoulder before the left. Is that not the way it was originally done and is still done in the Eastern Catholic communities? Granted we are in the West; however, that does not really make us right and the East wrong.
This is in reference to something I wrote in the section on the Sign of the Cross in Ten Prayers Every Catholic Child Should Know:
The most common problem that children have in learning the Sign of the Cross is using their left hand instead of their right; the second most common is touching their right shoulder before the left.
I didn’t write that touching their right shoulder before their left is a “mistake,” though it’s understandable why the reader got that impression. The reader is exactly right, however: Eastern Catholics (and Eastern Orthodox) make the Sign of the Cross by touching their right shoulder first. Many also touch their right shoulder up higher than their left shoulder.
Both actions remind us of the two thieves who were crucified alongside Christ. The thief on His right was the “good thief” (traditionally known as Saint Dismas) who professed faith in Christ and whom Christ promised “This day you will be with me in paradise.” Touching the right shoulder first, and touching it higher up than the left shoulder, indicates the fulfillment of Christ’s promise. (This is also signified by the slanted crossbar under Christ’s feet in an Eastern crucifix–the bar slants from left down to right as we look at the crucifix, since the left is the side of Christ’s right hand.)
Since my wife and I spent two years in an Eastern Rite Catholic parish, I find myself on occasion making the Sign of the Cross in the Eastern manner, especially when praying prayers that I learned in the Eastern Church or when venerating icons. The reader is right: Neither way is right or wrong. However, Catholic children in the Latin Rite should be taught to make the Sign of the Cross in the Western manner–just as Catholic children in the Eastern Rites should be taught to touch their right shoulder before their left.
They touch their right shoulder first, then their left, whereas the Roman Catholics first touch their left shoulder. Is this difference important? Does it make any difference?
Orthodox cross themselves from right to left. first we will describe the mechanics of making the cross, then explain why it is indeed important that we make the sign of the cross correctly.
“Placing the cross on oneself”
- We place our thumb and first two fingers together in a point, and our last we fingers flat against our palm. The three fingers together represent the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the two fingers in the palm represent the two natures of Christ.
- We touch our forehead, then our belly, tracing the vertical part of the cross.
- From our belly, we bring our hand up to our right shoulder, touching it.
- We finish placing the cross on ourself by touching our left shoulder.
The act of “Placing the cross on oneself” is a request for a blessing from God. We make if from right to left to mirror the actions of the priest when he blesses us. The priest, looking at the parishioners, blesses from left to right. Therefore, the parishioners, putting on the sign of the cross on themselves, do it from right to left.
Because the Lord separated the sheep from the goats, putting the faithful sheep on His right side, and the goats on the left, the Church always treats the right side as the preferred side. We only cross ourselves with our RIGHT hand. The priest, when blessing a person, first touches or points to their RIGHT side, then their left. Also the censing of the Holy Table in the Altar is always done from the RIGHT side first; censing of the Ikonostasis, the Congregation and of the Church itself always begins with the right side. The priest always gives communion with his RIGHT hand, even if he is left handed. There are other examples of this right side preference.
When a parent makes the sign of the cross over a child, they will cross them from left to right, just as the priest blesses. When they make the sign of the cross over themselves, they would do it, logically, the other way.
The Catholic Encyclopedia states that in the Roman Catholic Church, the faithful crossed themselves from right to left, just as the Orthodox do, until the 15th or 16th century. They must explain why they have changed an ancient and apostolic tradition. We cannot answer as to their motivations.
Is it important to cross ourselves a particular way? In a word, YES. We do not have the authority to choose willy-nilly what parts of the Christina Tradition we want to follow. Our fathers, and countless saints crossed themselves from right to left. Ancient icons show Christ or bishops beginning a blessing from right to left. the right side is referred to in a preferential way many times in scripture and our sacred hymns What should we want to change?
Thanks for Fr Alexander Lebedev for providing the majority of the ideas in this answer.
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by Ed Taylor
Jesus made it clear for any and all who desire to follow after Him. The key, the first step, the gateway to entering into a fruitful joyful discipleship relationship with Him is to “deny yourself”.
Matthew 16:24–26 (NKJV) “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’”
Deny yourself. It sounds simple enough. It’s not that simple for many. I’ve met quite a few men and women who gloss over this important command. Others pick and choose how they will sort of, kind of, deny themselves “things”, “episodes”, and unwanted things. They approach their Christian lives like going through their closet and pulling out the things for Goodwill. I don’t want them anymore anyway so let’s give them away and make room for new things I will purchase for myself.
Still others I’ve spoken to have a real, valid question, “how do I deny myself”? Is that you today? Are you searching high and low for the “secret” to a fulfilling, full life?
What if we rephrased the question, thought of it another way? What if the command was given to you as, “you must give up any and all rights you think you have”?
The only way to enjoy the gracious blessings of God in relationship is to learn to daily, moment by moment, give up your literal or perceived rights and choose to follow Him. Here are just some of the rights the true Jesus follower and disciple MUST surrender. These are biblically non-negotiable.
1. We give up the right to take revenge (Rom. 12:19–20)
Romans 12:19–20 (NLT) “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord. Instead, “‘f your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’”
2. We give up the right to have a comfortable, secure home (Luke 9:57–58)
Luke 9:57–58 (NLT) “As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.’”
3. We give up the right to a good reputation (Matt. 5:11)
Matthew 5:11 (NLT) “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.”
4. We give up the right to spend money however we please (Matt. 6:19–21)
Matthew 6:19–21 (NLT) “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
5. We give up the right to hate an enemy (Matt. 5:43–47)
Matthew 5:43–47 (NLT) “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”
6. We give up the right to be honored and served (Mark 10:42–45)
Mark 10:42–45 (NLT) “So Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”
7. We give up the right to understand God’s plan before we obey him (Heb. 11:8)
Hebrews 11:8 (NLT) “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.”
8. We give up the right to live by our own rules (John 14:23–24)
John 14:23–24 (NLT) “Jesus replied, ‘All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.’”
9. We give up the right to hold a grudge (Col. 3:13)
Colossians 3:13 (NLT) “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
10. We give up the right to complain (Phil. 2:14, 1 Thess. 5:18)
Philippians 2:14 (NLT) “Do everything without complaining and arguing,”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT) “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
11. We give up the right to put self first (Phil. 2:3–4)
Philippians 2:3–4 (NLT) “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
12. We give up the right to express one’s sexuality freely (1 Cor. 6:18–20)
1 Corinthians 6:18–20 (NLT) “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”
13. We give up the right to rebel against authority (1 Peter 2:13–15)
1 Peter 2:13–15 (NLT) “For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you.”
© 2020 Ed Taylor. Used with Permission. Ed Taylor is a pastor, author and host of the podcast Lead2Serve.
I’ve been going to Catholic (Latin Rite) Mass my whole life and am constantly surprised by the different times that people will cross themselves during the Liturgy.
I only do it when the Priest says the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (and I try to hang on to Holy. Spirit for as long as it takes for him to finish the sentence (not sure if that’s necessary). And doing the three crosses before the Gospel is read (which wasn’t certain is in the rubrics but asked about here and found it to be)
I’ve seen people cross themselves during the Penitential Rite, the Kyrie, and at other times during the Eucharistic Prayer. And crossing themselves at a Mass with the Bishop when he comes down the aisle blessing everyone (regardless of whether he has holy water). Is that just how we catch his blessing? People also cross themselves after receiving communion, but as a Catechist, I was taught this is not right, so I’m not asking about that. see this question
I’ll probably ask a follow up about crossing thyself during the Liturgy of the Hours, so no need to include that in the answer.
2 Answers 2
How do I know when to cross myself during the Mass of Pope Paul VI (Novus Ordo)?
To start with, prior to Mass, we bless ourselves with Holy Water at the entrance of the church by dipping our fingers in into the Holy Water and making the sign of the cross on ourselves.
The same is done when exiting the church after Mass.
When you come into the church building, what is the first thing you do? Don’t, you dip your hand into the holy water and make the sign of the cross? Why do you do that? Well, for three reasons: a. in repentance for your sins; b. for protection against the Evil One; c. to remind you of your baptism.
a. Holy water reminds us to be sorry for our sins. When there is the rite of sprinkling in the liturgy, we always sing the Asperges, which means “you will sprinkle or wash”. Asperges me hysoppo et mundabor, lavabis me et super nivem dealbabor. These are words from the great penitential psalm, Ps 50: You will sprinkle me with hyssop and I shall be cleansed: you will wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.
b. Holy water is a sacramental which is a protection against the snares of the devil. The old prayer for the blessing of holy water said: “0 God, creator of unconquered power, King of invincible empire and victor ever-great: who put down the powers of hostile dominion and conquer the fury of the roaring enemy, who fight powerfully against our wicked foes: trembling we beseech you, 0 Lord, we implore you and beg you: that you might graciously look upon this creature of water and salt, kindly illumine it, sanctify it with the dew of your loving kindness, so that wherever it is sprinkled, through the invocation of your holy Name, every infestation of the unclean spirit be cast out, and the terror of the poisonous serpent be driven far away. And may the presence of the Holy Spirit deign to be with us always, we who implore your mercy.”
c. Holy water reminds us of our baptism: of that great day when we ourselves or our parents or sponsors – renounced Satan, professed faith in Christ, and were baptized into the mystery of the Holy Trinity. At that moment all our sins were forgiven: original and actual, and we became children of God, filii in Filio, heirs of the promise, daring now to call God our Father.
When, you dip your hand into the holy water font, remember these things, and like Our Lady, treasure them in your heart. – Sacred Signs and Active Participation at Mass
During the actual Mass itself we make the sign of the cross at thee different times. All other times the faithful make the sign of the cross are not listed in the norms or guidelines of the Mass and are to be considered optional or due to personal piety either from a personal or regional custom.
When we make the sign of the cross during the actual Mass it is determined by both the rubrics of the Mass and personal tradition.
1.The celebrating Priest opens the Mass with a sign of the cross, which the congregation joins in.
2.Just prior to the the Gospel reading there is an older version of the sign of the cross preformed by drawing out a small cross over the forehead, the lips, and the chest.
3.The celebrating Priest concludes the Mass with a sign of the cross, which the congregation joins in.
1.Each time you genuflect you can simultaneously make a sign of the cross (which should be done when you enter Mass, exit Mass, and cross in front of the Altar)
2.When the celebrating Priest passes by during the entering and exiting processions.
3.When a Priest gives a blessing at Mass.
4.After receiving the body and blood of Christ each participant preforms a personal sign on the cross.
5.When you feel moved to “put on the armor of God”
To this list of options, I would like to add that some priests start their homilies with the sign of the cross which the faithful are encouraged to do also.
In short there are several other times the faithful may make the sign of the cross out of personal piety.
For those who wish to peruse more information on the subject here is the GENERAL INSTRUCTION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL from the Vatican.
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The Mass is celebrated, live-streamed and recorded each Sunday at 11:00 from the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.
Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license # A -716682. All rights reserved.
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- Found In: Boating Tips, Fishing Tips, Weekly Newsletter: 12-13-20
It’s boat docking time!
Nobody wants to look like a complete newbie in front of a crowded boat ramp…
But unless you know how to dock your boat by yourself when the wind is blowing and the current is ripping, then chances are it’ll happen to you.
But don’t worry — in this video, you’ll learn exactly how to dock your boat like a pro in these tough conditions.
I’ll show you which side of the dock is harder to pull your boat up to, which side is easier, and how to dock your boat on both sides in case you have no choice.
Plus, you’ll learn an easy trick to make sure your boat doesn’t float away when you’re trying to tie it off to the dock.
Docking Your Boat By Yourself In The Wind [VIDEO]
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How To Dock Your Boat On The Easy Side Of The Dock
The easy side to dock your boat on when it’s windy is the side that is upwind.
On days with calm winds and a light current, you can drive your boat right up to the side of the dock.
But on days when the wind and/or current is ripping, it’s a little tougher.
If you’re docking on the upwind side, you just need to make one small adjustment: drive your boat to an imaginary dock that’s 3-5 feet over.
When you get to that spot, the wind will gently take you into the dock and you can get out and tie off your boat.
Be sure to tie down whichever side the wind is pushing first.
In this video, the wind was pushing my boat from the back, so I tied down the back first.
How To Dock Your Boat On The Hard Side Of The Dock
On a busy day, the dock may be full and you’ll have no choice but to dock your boat on the downwind (more difficult) side.
This is more difficult because the wind gives you just a small window of opportunity to get your boat to the side of the dock, get out, and grab the ropes to control your boat.
But thankfully, there’s a trick to make this a lot easier.
Here it is: before you approach the dock, have two lines right next to you ready to grab before you step off of the boat onto the dock.
One line will be connected to the back of the boat, and one will be connected to the front.
Having control of both ends of the boat will make this process much easier.
Now, as you approach the dock, come in at about a 45-degree angle, keeping it in neutral for the most part.
Then, at the last second, do a sharp turn and put your motor in gear to bring the side of your boat right up to the dock.
Grab both of the lines, step onto the dock, and tie off your boat.
The reason you grab both lines before you step off the boat is because it’s way too easy for the front of your boat to swing out if you only have a rope controlling the back of the boat.
Docking your boat in the wind by yourself might seem difficult if you don’t know what you’re doing.
But if you plan ahead for the current and wind and use these tips, then it’s actually much easier than you think.
Have any questions about docking your boat?
Let me know down in the comments!
And if you know someone who needs to learn how to dock their boat better, please TAG or SHARE this with them!
Any ability to cross your eyes outwards is mostly natural. You can achieve it through practice, because eyes are naturally controlled through their muscles. If someone has their eyes crossed it is most likely that they have this condition by birth, which is also referred as defect. The person is in no way recommended to leave outward-crossed eyes as they are. Instead, he is recommended some therapeutic solutions to achieve eyes alignment in the center or inward. Nevertheless, using outward-crossed eyes is sometimes fun.
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Naturally Crossed Eyes
A person whose eyes are crossed outwards, it is mostly likely happening since birth. It is too difficult to cross eyes outwards through practice. While it causes a lot of strain on the eyes muscles, you might be able to achieve only 60 to 70 per cent effect. Also, you might be able to cross your one eye to a full extent while leaving other focused straight. Crossing both eyes outwards is not achievable 100 per cent. Even people who have naturally outward crossed eyes are recommended therapies to get their eyes angle aligned in the center.
Practice or Exercises
You in no way can cross your both eyes outwards unless you have a born condition but later on with practice have managed to align your focus in the center, while being able to leave your eyes to their naturally outward crossed position. Through practice, you might be able to cross your eyes up to 60 or 70 per cent maximum. Yet it is unlikely to achieve the same level of effect in both eyes at the same time. You might be able to cross one eye more and other less, and the only practice or exercise available to do that is looking at two objects far away. It is harder to do and not an effective one as far as achievement of the desired goal is concerned.
Natural Vision Alignment
Natural vision alignment in both eyes focuses the central point. Even it causes a considerable amount of strain on your eyes if you try to focus top of your nose, which is because the eyes muscles control them in the center position. If you practise hard you can achieve an inward alignment also, but only for some time. On the other hand, vision alignment outwards through practice is almost impossible. This is because the muscles’ control is as such that it does not allow focus outwards in both eyes and at the same time. You can focus one eye outwards but leaving the other aligned in the center. Even the exercise of looking at two far objects at the same time does not require your eyes turn outwards. Therefore, crossing eyes outwards is very hard. In fact, almost impossible.