Monday, January 01, 2007

Crossing Yourself

As early as 200 A. D. Tertullian wrote:

"In all undertakings -- when we enter a place or leave it; before we dress; before we bathe; when we take our meals; when we light the lamps in the evening; before we retire at night; when we sit down to read; before each task -- we trace the sign of the cross on our foreheads."

Saint Augustine also mentions the common practice as normative in the life of the church. Even the Reformers in the 16th century maintained the practice as a form of worship. Crossing yourself is a physical expression of worship and a symbol of the person and nature of Jesus Christ. The two fingers and thumb touching one another represent the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The two fingers touching the hand represent the two natures of Christ, fully God, fully Man.

The oldest and Eastern Orthodox form of crossing oneself is to touch the two fingers and thumb to the forehead, then to the breast, then to the right shoulder, then to the left shoulder. One may say, "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."


  1. Very cool! Thanks for the lesson!

  2. Anonymous1:39 PM

    Where do you find this 'crossing' yourself in Scriptures? Why does Revelation 22: 18, 19 says what it does then? Ms. Marty

  3. Ms Marty,
    The reason some can ignore what has been practiced in the Church for 2000 years is because...they ignore what has been practiced in the Church for 2000 years. Your question about finding "crossing" in scriptures suggests that if it is not found in the scriptures then it is somehow invalid. This is called Sola Scriptura(ignore what the church has always said the scripture means just interpret it yourself...just you and God). Here is the Orthodox view: "Everything in the scriptures is true but not everything that is true is in the scriptures." In fact, the scriptures as we have them today didn't even come to be until about 400 A.D. So what did all those Christians do for 400 years? Were they in darkness and just making stuff up? It was the same guys who determined the canon of scriptures(a copy of which I am sure you own)who also said crossing yourself was a good thing. You know, there was only ONE Church for the first 1054 years and, with the exception of a few heretical groups, they pretty decided things in consensus.

    The doctrine of the Trinity is not explicitly lined out in the scriptures. It was defined at one of the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. Is this doctrine valid?

    The quote from Revelation is taken out of context. "This severe warning refers to the Book of Revelation, not to the Bible as a whole, and admonishes those in the communities addressed not to distorts its message. To do so is to threaten one's very salvation." (Orthodox Study Bible page 1748) Of course we should not take away from or add to the Bible but Galatians 1: 8,9 clarifies that that means the gospel which has been preached not good practices of the church that predate the canon of the scriptures by 200 years. Not understanding the history of the church and how it evolved will cause you to miss out on a deep well of tools for the Christian life.

    Lastly to reiterate. If these Fathers of the faith could say what scriptures would be included why can they not also say what they mean? Guess what? They have. It is called the Orthodox Church where the Apostolic Faith and truth has been preserved for 2000 years. If all we need is the scriptures and it is up to each individual to interpret for themselves, then why are there so many Churches with different beliefs. That method isn't working too well is it? I suggest you find writings of the Early Church Fathers to fill in the gaps you seem to be missing here. Thanks for your question.

    P.S. Even if crossing yourself isn't in the Bible is there anything inherently wrong with it?

  4. Anonymous12:39 PM

    Excellent response. I am a protestant, but fully agree with your assessment of the vital importance of understanding the historical traditions and interpretations of the faith as found in the Church Fathers and early church history. If people paid more attention to the historical and cultural context that the scriptures were written in, we wouldn't have so much disunity and disagreement today.

  5. Anonymous4:41 PM

    I too am a Protestant and agree with 90% of what you have said. I believe that the Protestant Church has much to learn and gain from reading the early fathers who have been ignored in the Protestant Church for far too long. My only problem with what was said above is how you define Sola Scriptura. I think you have set up a little bit of a straw man in this argument. Sola Scriptura is not that each individual can interpret Scripture as he wills. Sola Scriptura is simply the belief that all things necessary for salvation are within the Scriptures. In that I believe you would agree, as I do not hear you saying that crossing yourself is a salvation issue.

  6. Protestant Anon,
    All things related to righteousness are "a salvation issue." Orthodoxy teaches that salvation is a process not an event. Also, Sola Scriptura is the practice of individual interpretation void of the interpretation of the Fathers of the Church who gave us the scriptures to begin with. I am glad you are only 10% away from becoming Orthodox :)

  7. I just stumbled across this blog and perhaps I could find this in one of your other posts, but I was wondering why you agree with Eastern Orthodoxy instead of Roman Catholicism? I am asking because I am looking at both of these as well and am trying to put together a better picture of which one has maintained the traditions and teachings of the early Church fathers the best. I guess I'm wondering because, correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that Augustine talks about Rome as being the seat of Peter and thus the Bishop of Rome as being the greatest among equals? If this is true then what should we do with the great schism?

  8. Hello Paul! You are on an amazing journey. Here is a link to a brief answer to your question:

    The question you raised is one I faced early on-- Catholic or Orthodox?

    I would be happy to tell you more of that story by e-mail.

    Hope to hear from you.


  9. "Seek to know nothing among men except Christ and Him crucified". (1 Cor 2:2) I love this early Church practice among Christians who would physically remind themselves to remember Christ and Him crucified and the Risen LORD as they die to themselves and unto Christ (Gal. 2:20) and humble themselves as God did in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:1-9).

    I have also read that early Church Pastors and prayer warriors like Golden mouth preacher John Chrysostom said the following when he used to pray with making the sign of the Cross: "Sanctify my mind (first touch) and my heart (2nd touch) also Romans 12:1-2, and put me on the right with the sheep (3rd touch) not on the left with the goats (4th touch).

    Also for abuse of modern traditions against early Church practice, nothing in Scripture tells us to hold our right hand & left hand together to kneel by our bed, to close our eyes, and to sing a hymn written in 1850s, and wear a suit or not wear one, when we go to Church :-). Let's not misunderstand and misapply our wonderful honor for God's Holy Word (Matthew 4:4, John 17), for our LORD does grant us much Grace by His Holy Orthodox Scriptures.

  10. Nathan Lewis, Sola scriptura (Latin ablative, "by Scripture alone") is the Christian doctrine that the Bible is the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice. It has nothing to do with individual interpretation. I agree with Anonymous that you are setting up a straw man, and that repeating yourself does not enable you to define the term as you wish.


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