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Question 18.

Why do we do our cross the other way round to the Catholics?       


Answer to Question 18.


The cross we make is like a confession, a “mini-creed or statement of faith”. It is also a remembrance that after we were baptized, we were sealed on our foreheads with holy chrism: we were sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is saying that we are Orthodox. St. John of Damascus wrote: “This was given to us as a sign on our forehead, just as the circumcision was given to Israel: for by it we believers are separated and distinguished from unbelievers.” Crossing one’s self recalls this seal, and the invocation that is said while making this holy sign calls on our God - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost - and is a sign of our belief; it asserts our belief in the Triune God, and at the same time it is a prayer that invokes Him. We seal ourselves with the seal of Christ and as we touch our forehead we confess Christ with our minds, then as we touch our stomachs or heart, we confess Christ with our hearts and the innermost parts of our very being, and then on our arms to confess that we will always do good, the right first to show that good prevails over evil. I’m sure you all know how to make the sign of the cross, but maybe you don’t know the symbolic meanings. To make it, we always use the right hand as the right is always symbolic of being correct and good and the left as being wrong and evil. Christ placed the good, gentle sheep on his right hand and the undomesticated and wild goats on his left. We bring together the thumb, the index finger and the middle finger together. This is symbolic of the Holy Trinity. Then we lay the little finger and the finger nearest to it across the palm, recalling that Christ is both God and man and that He has two natures. Then with the tips of our thumb and the two fingers, we touch our forehead, our stomach, the right shoulder and the left shoulder, making the sign of the cross. The three fingers together symbolize the Unity of the Holy and undivided Trinity. As we touch our forehead we remember our God the Holy Trinity Who dwells in the Heavens. We remember that Christ is the pre-eternal Son of God and as we touch our stomachs, we remember that he came down to earth for our salvation, that he took his abode in the womb of the Mother of God that he might be born a man like us. As we raise our hand to touch our right shoulder we remember how Christ was raised on the Cross, but also that he defeated death and ascended to heaven and sits on the right hand of the Father. It is also a petition where we ask God to place us on his right side with the Just. In touching the left, we recall those who are condemned and receive eternal torment on the left side and thus beseech the Lord to not put us on the left with the sinners. It can also mean that when Christ descended to earth, he passed from the Jews, who were then those on the right hand, and passed over to the Gentiles, who were then those on the left. The Roman Catholics on the other hand cross themselves from left to right symbolizing that from misery (left) they must cross over to glory (right) just as Christ crossed over from death to life, and from Hades to Paradise. After making the sign of the Cross we should also make a small bow because we have just shown the Calvary Cross on ourselves and we bow to it. During the Liturgy you might have noticed that the old woman or old man next to you didn’t make his cross in the normal way, but instead made the sign of the cross only on his forehead using only his/ her thumb. Many of the old people cross themselves in this way at the start of the Liturgy and after the consecration of the Holy gifts when they hear the words “More especially for our most blessed and glorious Lady Mother of God and Ever Virgin Mary”. This might seem strange to many of the younger generations. But it is something that has passed down from one generation to the next. If you were to ask them why they do it, they would not be able to explain, but what they are actually doing has been traditionally passed down for two thousand years. This was the first and original way people crossed themselves and we can trace it as early as the second century, but it could even go right back to the Apostles. Early Christians crossed themselves with the thumb on the forehead, over the mouth when reading Scripture and in general, over anyone or anything Christians wished to consecrate. That it has survived to our present age is a testimony to how strong holy Tradition is.