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6. The Sign of the Cross.


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 ó He arose from the dead, and He made the Cross the weapon of His victory over sin and death.

As 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 the sign, of Christís victory over sin and death.

One teacher gave the following example in order to explain to his students how Jesus Christ could conquer evil in the world by His Cross:

For many years the Swiss fought against their enemies, the Austrians. Finally the opposing armies met in a certain valley for a decisive battle. The Austrian soldiers, wearing their armor, were drawn up in battle array with their lances extended forward, and the Swiss, beating them with their maces (heavy clubs with weights on the end), tried without success to break the ranks of the enemy. Several times the Swiss threw themselves on the enemy with blind courage, but every time they were thrown back. They were not strong enough to break through the thick row of lances.

Then one of the Swiss soldiers, Arnold Winkleried, sacrificed himself, ran ahead, grabbed with both arms several of the spears pointed at him, and allowed them to pierce his chest. In this way an opening was made for the Swiss and they broke into the ranks of the Austrians and won a decisive and final victory over their enemies.

So the hero, Winkleried, sacrificed his own life and died, but he made it possible for his people to conquer the enemy.

In the same way, 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 victory over evil and death. That is, He opened 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, that is, believe in Christ, love Him, and fulfill His holy will, being obedient to Him in everything, live with Christ.

This is why, in order to express our faith in Jesus Christ our Saviour, we wear a Cross on our body, and during prayer we form the Cross over ourselves with our right hand, or 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 together express our faith in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, as the Trinity one in essence and indivisible, and the two fingers bent show how the Son of God, when He came down from Heaven, being God, became man; that is, they signify His two natures ó 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 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. This sin is called sacrilege.

We make the sign of the Cross, or "cross ourselves," at the beginning of prayer, during prayer, at the end of prayer, and when we draw near to anything holy: when we enter the church, when we reverence the Cross or an icon. We should cross ourselves at every important moment in our life: in danger, in sorrow, in joy, and so on.

When we cross ourselves, mentally we say, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." 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.

Questions: What do we express when we make the sign of the Cross? How do we arrange our fingers in order to make the sign of the Cross, and what does this mean? When we make the sign of the Cross why do we touch our forehead, stomach and shoulders? Why is it important to make the sign of the Cross correctly and without haste? When should we make the sign of the Cross? What sin do we commit if we make the sign of the Cross carelessly?

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