"Make the sign of the cross, sonny,"
said a middle-aged woman softly to a youth standing beside her, when the priest
on the lectern made the sign of the cross with the Gospel over the parishioners
in prayer. Together with his mother the boy started making the sign of the
cross over himself. "In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy
Spirit," the boy was whispering almost inaudibly, with the solemnly
reverent expression on his face.
How happy we are to witness that! But very often
unfortunately we would see something different. Some believers who have been
attending church services for years would make the sign of cross utterly
incorrectly. One would wave his hand around as if he is driving flies away,
another put his fingers together as if not for making the sign of the cross,
but for putting salt over himself. A third one would beat his fingers into his forehead
with all his might as if he is driving nails into it. Needless
to say that the most widespread mistake is when the hand does not go as far as
the shoulder, but is reduced to a place closer to the neck.
Is that a trifle, an unimportant thing, a mere formality?
No, by no means. Basil the Great wrote long ago,
"Everything in Church is appropriately fine and has its rules." The
sign of the Cross is a visible evidence of our faith. In order to find out if a
person facing you is an Orthodox Christian, just ask him to make the sign of
the Cross. Whether he or she would do it and how they would do it will make
everything clear. Let’s quote the Gospel here, "He that is faithful in
that which is least is faithful also in much" (Luke 16:10).
The sign of the Cross is extremely powerful.
There are many cases described in the Lives of Saints telling us how making the
sign of the Cross over a human body, even once, dispelled the demon’s
bewitching. That is why those who make the sign of the Cross inattentively, listlessly
and restlessly are simply making the demons rejoice.
So how should we make the sign of the Cross
We are to put together the first three fingers of
the right hand, which symbolizes the Unity of the Holy Inseparable Trinity. The
other two fingers should be bent towards the palm signifying the descent of the
Son of God to earth from Heaven (two fingers being the image of two natures of
Christ). The fingers put together first touch the forehead — to sanctify the
mind, then — the belly near the solar plexus — for sanctification of feelings,
then to the right and finally to the left shoulder — to sanctify one’s bodily
strength. We bow only after the hand is dropped along the body. Why? Because we
have just shown the Calvary Cross on ourselves and we
bow to it. Incidentally, there is one more widespread mistake: a bow performed
simultaneously with the sign of the Cross. We should not do that (break the
In many old textbooks on the law of God the lower
end of the sign of the Cross is mistakenly proposed to be made at the level of
the breast. In that case the Cross appears as if it is upside down (the lower
part is shorter) and involuntarily it turns into a cross of the Satanists.
The sign of the Cross follows a believer
everywhere. We make this sign when we get up and go to bed, going out of our
house and entering a church; we make the sign of the Cross both over ourselves
and the meal before eating. The sign of the Cross of Christ sanctifies all and
everything, so when a believer is making this sign over himself it is brings
him closer to salvation and is good for his soul.
Return to the first page