Making the Sign of the Cross

As Orthodox Christians, we make the sign of the Cross in every service and in every prayer. This is the most beautiful symbol which reminds us of the saving love of God who went to His voluntary and life-giving death for our salvation. It is at this very sign that the demons flee and the devil shudders. We rightfully proclaim that the Cross is precious and life-giving! How then, do we as Orthodox Christians make the sign of the Cross and what is the symbolism behind it?

First, the index and middle fingers of the right hand are joined together with the thumb to show that we believe God is Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These fingers are brought together to show that we do not believe in three gods, but rather one God in three persons. Orthodox always pray in the Name of the Trinity, hence the beginning of our prayers: “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Secondly, the ring finger and the little finger are brought down into the palm of the hand representing the two natures of Christ. Orthodox believe that Jesus of Nazareth was both fully God and fully man. He possessed the essence of God while at the same time – and without confusion – He possessed the essence of mankind (with the only exception being sin).
Thirdly, Orthodox Christians make the sign of the Cross over their bodies in a specific fashion which expresses regard for the commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength.” We first touch our forehead (mind), second our chest (heart), next our right shoulder (soul) and finally our left shoulder (strength).

Rejoice, O Holy Cross of the Lord. Whereby the human race was freed from the ancient curse. The sign of true rejoicing and the one who shattered enemies, by your exaltation, Cross all venerable. You are for us a help indeed and a power to our rulers, strength of the righteous and the dignity of presbyters, by the sign of Thee are we rescued from every ill. Scepter of power invincible wherewith we are shepherded; weapon of peace awe-inspiring, accompanied by the angelic host. Heavenly glory of Christ, who is ever granting to the world His mercy so great!

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