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Author Topic: Coptic sign of the Cross  (Read 11147 times) Average Rating: 0
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Ben
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« on: June 12, 2004, 06:00:30 PM »

After observing Ethiopian Orthodox make the sign of the cross the "Roman Catholic way" and with two fingers, I wondered how do the Coptic Orthodox Christians make the sign of the corss? Left to right or right to left? With two fingers or two fingers joined with the thumb?
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« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2004, 08:23:57 PM »

AFAIK all the Oriental Orthodox, such as Copts and Armenians, do it left to right similar to Roman Catholics.
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« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2004, 04:50:31 AM »

Indeed,

and if you do some reasearch about the subject you'll find out that the Oriental Orthodox / Roman Catholic way of signing The Cross (from left to right) is the more ancient way of doing so. I am in no way saying that it is the better way or anything like that, in fact it was pointed out to me by an EO scholar. Pretty cool reasons behind it too.

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« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2004, 05:02:17 AM »

Indeed,

and if you do some reasearch about the subject you'll find out that the Oriental Orthodox / Roman Catholic way of signing The Cross (from left to right) is the more ancient way of doing so. I am in no way saying that it is the better way or anything like that, in fact it was pointed out to me by an EO scholar. Pretty cool reasons behind it too.

Love,
moe

That is very interesting, I wish I would have known that when so many EO priests and laymen have told me that their way of signing the cross is better because it is more ancient.

Please direct me to any resources that you know of where I could learn more about this!

Thanks so much!

In Christ,
Ben
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« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2004, 05:14:46 AM »

Will do Asap for you,

The story behind it is a EO Convert friend of mine was making fun of the way i crossed myself all the time when we prayed. One time in the presence of an EO priest he told my friend to stop 'cause my way was actually more ancient (whatever that means, as if it mattered to our Lord, anyway). His version of the story is that the Eastern Orthodox, who were heavily offended by the presence of the crusaders in their lands, agreed to start signing themselves in a different manner so as to be visibly distinguashble from the 'western oppressors'! LOL

anyway, will attempt to find all possible litterature ASAP for you, Ben.

yours in Love,
moe
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« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2004, 08:54:02 AM »

I noticed the left-to-right crossing, myself, amongst the Ethiopian Orthodox -

It seemed that the Faithful made a sort of "L" shape with the index finger & thumb whilst blessing. (?)

I would be interested to know more about this, too, as I never "got" the specifics of how the Sign of the Cross is made in this tradition.

Ethiopia was subjected to a Roman Catholic attempt at domination in the 16th Century, but whether the left-right crossing was imposed then or [more likely?] it was done so from the beginning is something worth knowing...
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« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2004, 10:59:25 AM »

The Catholic Encyclopedia's article on the sign of the cross implies that, for Romans at least (both east and west), right-to-left was the original form (along with two fingers (so the Old Believers were right all along!)).

Quote
At this period [i.e. the early Middle Ages] the manner of making it in the West seems to have been identical with that followed at present in the East, i.e. only three fingers were used, and the hand traveled from the right shoulder to the left. The point, it must be confessed, is not entirely clear and Thalhofer (Liturgik, I, 633) inclines to the opinion that in the passages of Belethus (xxxix), Sicardus (III, iv), Innocent III (De myst. Alt., II, xlvi), and Durandus (V, ii, 13), which are usually appealed to in proof of this, these authors have in mind the small cross made upon the forehead or external objects, in which the hand moves naturally from right to left, and not the big cross made from shoulder to shoulder. Still, a rubric in a manuscript copy of the York Missal clearly requires the priest when signing himself with the paten to touch the left shoulder after the right. Moreover it is at least clear from many pictures and sculptures that in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the Greek practice of extending only three fingers was adhered to by many Latin Christians.
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« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2004, 02:16:01 PM »

Ethiopia was subjected to a Roman Catholic attempt at domination in the 16th Century, but whether the left-right crossing was imposed then or [more likely?] it was done so from the beginning is something worth knowing...

The Ethiopians have always made the sign of the cross left to right.  They did so long before the arrival of the Jesuit mission.
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« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2004, 02:54:46 PM »

Will do Asap for you,

The story behind it is a EO Convert friend of mine was making fun of the way i crossed myself all the time when we prayed. One time in the presence of an EO priest he told my friend to stop 'cause my way was actually more ancient (whatever that means, as if it mattered to our Lord, anyway). His version of the story is that the Eastern Orthodox, who were heavily offended by the presence of the crusaders in their lands, agreed to start signing themselves in a different manner so as to be visibly distinguashble from the 'western oppressors'! LOL

anyway, will attempt to find all possible litterature ASAP for you, Ben.

yours in Love,
moe

Thank you very much for the information moe, and I hope you can find some litteraure, I'll do some looking myself. I would really like to find a book on this topic, if anyone knows where I could get it, let me know.  Smiley

And thanks everyone else for your posts! I am learning a lot!

And of course the Old Believers were right all long! It was those darn wannbe Greeks who were the schismatics!  Wink
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« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2004, 03:35:49 PM »

After observing Ethiopian Orthodox make the sign of the cross the "Roman Catholic way" and with two fingers, I wondered how do the Coptic Orthodox Christians make the sign of the corss? Left to right or right to left? With two fingers or two fingers joined with the thumb?

Thanks for the confirmation! That's what I suspected, but I wasn't sure ...

Do you know anything more about how the fingers are held, & the symbolism thereof, in the Ethiopian Church?
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« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2004, 03:39:04 PM »



Do you know anything more about how the fingers are held, & the symbolism thereof, in the Ethiopian Church?

I was wondering if anyone else knew, but I do not know the symbolism or the history behind the use of two fingers while making the sign of the cross in the Ethiopian Church.
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« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2008, 12:38:52 AM »

Thanks for the confirmation! That's what I suspected, but I wasn't sure ...

Do you know anything more about how the fingers are held, & the symbolism thereof, in the Ethiopian Church?

The Ethiopian Christians do not use the RC way of positioning the fingers. We have our own tradition on this.
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« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2008, 12:50:53 AM »

The Ethiopian Christians do not use the RC way of positioning the fingers. We have our own tradition on this.

Okay! Well...don't hold us in suspense here. Please elaborate!
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« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2008, 06:06:55 PM »

Okay! Well...don't hold us in suspense here. Please elaborate!

I was tired when I wrote the post I am sorry.

Using the right hand make and hold these two positions:


Position 1 (Meaning: The Cross of Salvation or "power of the cross" we say Haili'h Mesq'hl.)
We make a cross with the index over the middle finger. In so doing we position (or orient) the index finger as 'center' to the middle finger as possible while keeping the index finger straight until the last segment of the middle finger naturally bends downward. Thus making a cross with these two fingers.


Position 2 ( Meaning:Trinity  Meaning also: God in man with 1 divine nature we say Tewahido)
While holding the above crossed figure position we then place our thumb on the tip of the ring finger while keeping the pinky 'tight-up' to the ring finger.

Now these finger positions define the belief.

While holding the two positions we make the sign of the Holy Cross while saying and raising the tip of the index finger to touch the forehead (In the name of the Father), then to touch the middle of the chest (in the name of the Son) , then to touch the left shoulder (In the name of the Holy Spirit), then to touch the right shoulder (One God), then a bow from the hip while saying in conclusion Amen.

WE go left to right to indicate a few things such as:

Left: Prophets
Right:Apostles

Left: Old Testament
Right: New Testament

Left: West
Right: East

Left: Christ crossed the red sea to Africa Egypt
Right: Christ crossed the red sea back to Jerusalem (Fulfilling the prophecy "out of Egypt I call my Son")

Left: The thief on the left hand
Right: The thief on the right hand

Left: From sin
Right: To righteousness, Fulfillment.  Christ last or 7Th word on the cross: "It is finished"

Just a few are noted above.
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« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2008, 06:32:13 PM »

Thank you. Beautiful.

(And I think I've got my fingers askew a bit trying this)
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« Reply #15 on: February 07, 2008, 06:35:14 PM »

Thank you. Beautiful.

(And I think I've got my fingers askew a bit trying this)

I love the symbolism behind it.

I know what you mean.  I have dislocated my right index finger a few times, the knuckle just doesn't allow me to do that.
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« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2008, 02:32:01 PM »

I love the symbolism behind it.

I know what you mean.  I have dislocated my right index finger a few times, the knuckle just doesn't allow me to do that.

Make sure that you are crossing the index finger over the middle finger the 'easy way'. Thus the 'open side' of your index finger faces out
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« Reply #17 on: February 11, 2008, 09:26:05 AM »

It seemed that the Faithful made a sort of "L" shape with the index finger & thumb whilst blessing. (?)

As Deacon Amdetsion pointed out on February 7th at 05:06:55 PM, what you thought of as an "L" shape is actually a cross. Just think about it a moment and you should realise.

Using the right hand make and hold these two positions:


Position 1 (Meaning: The Cross of Salvation or "power of the cross" we say Haili'h Mesq'hl.)
We make a cross with the index over the middle finger. In so doing we position (or orient) the index finger as 'center' to the middle finger as possible while keeping the index finger straight until the last segment of the middle finger naturally bends downward. Thus making a cross with these two fingers.

May I ask a question about this please? What you say doesn't seem to be what I was shown by the Ethiopians in Melbourne. (That being said, I've noticed and read of a few variations on how the Ethiopians hold their hands to sign.)
My question is this: Which finger do you bend? The index finger or the middle finger? (You sentence is fairly long and I'm not exactly sure what you mean without any commas to help me figure it out sorry Huh)

Regarding the direction, I have also heard this contemplation:

Left: Goats
Right: Sheep

(Christ takes those of us who were sinful goats to be His following sheep.)

Thank you.
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« Reply #18 on: February 11, 2008, 12:16:34 PM »

Curl your middle finger tightly, than lay (or position) your index finger to make a intersection or "cross" with the curled middle finger. In doing this your index finger will be extended straight up.
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« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2008, 12:34:49 PM »

Ah, got it! I was doing this with the wrong order of fingers. Very nice.
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« Reply #20 on: February 11, 2008, 03:05:19 PM »

Ah, got it! I was doing this with the wrong order of fingers. Very nice.

Good!

That is the first position.

Now with the same hand while holding the first position it is almost 'natural' that the in-side o of your thumb should want to rest on the top of of your ring finger. So make this position while holding your pinky 'close' tight to your ring finger.

This completes the second position.

Now you are ready to sign yourself while holding these two positions.
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« Reply #21 on: February 11, 2008, 03:33:05 PM »

Second position completed! You are right - very natural...naturally.
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« Reply #22 on: March 24, 2008, 03:02:33 PM »


Ethiopia was subjected to a Roman Catholic attempt at domination in the 16th Century, but whether the left-right crossing was imposed then or [more likely?] it was done so from the beginning is something worth knowing...

The Ethiopian Church is a "daughter" church of the Coptic Church; so that is why the Ethiopians cross themselves in the same manner as the Copts.  I think the Copts tend to refer to the RC's as crossing like they do as opposed to vice versa Smiley .  It may also be worthy to note that the RC's term Pope is borrowed from the Coptic church.

I personally cross myself as the Armenians do (this was the church of my conversion into Orthodoxy) with my thumb, index finger and middle finger together representing the trinity; and with my ring finger and pinky curled into my palm representing the Son and the Spirit in the bosom of the Father.
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« Reply #23 on: April 03, 2008, 07:57:39 AM »

I was always under the impression that it was a linguistic thing; namely that the ancients positioned the word 'holy' on the right. So the Greek say 'agiou epnevma' with the 'holy' (agiou) first, so they sign the right first; wheras the Latin would say 'spiritus sanctus', with the 'holy' (sanctus) coming second, so the right is signed second. Similarly, the coptic 'epnevma ethowab'.

I am not sure the accuracy of this though; food for thought I guess. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
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« Reply #24 on: February 22, 2009, 01:16:17 AM »

I love the symbolism behind it.

I know what you mean.  I have dislocated my right index finger a few times, the knuckle just doesn't allow me to do that.

Make sure that you are crossing the index finger over the middle finger the 'easy way'. Thus the 'open side' of your index finger faces out

Forgive my ignorance, but I'm still not sure how to do this. Perhaps you could explain it by saying "under" or "on top of" the particular fingers. It seems that I am placing my middle finger on top of my index finger which allows the middle finger to bend so that the fingernail section of my middle finger crosses in front of my index finger which remains straight. Is this correct?

Do I make the sign with my palm facing toward me, or with the palm facing to my left?

Sorry to be so slow Undecided

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« Reply #25 on: March 15, 2009, 12:10:13 PM »

Curl your middle finger tightly, than lay (or position) your index finger to make a intersection or "cross" with the curled middle finger. In doing this your index finger will be extended straight up.

Thank you. This is exactly what the Ethiopians in Melbourne showed me. Having re-read your post I see how you described exactly what I was shown previously. Thank you Cool
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« Reply #26 on: March 15, 2009, 01:56:06 PM »

I was always under the impression that it was a linguistic thing; namely that the ancients positioned the word 'holy' on the right. So the Greek say 'agiou epnevma' with the 'holy' (agiou) first, so they sign the right first; wheras the Latin would say 'spiritus sanctus', with the 'holy' (sanctus) coming second, so the right is signed second. Similarly, the coptic 'epnevma ethowab'.

I am not sure the accuracy of this though; food for thought I guess. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

This doesn't explain why the Church of the East cross themselves right to left while the Syrian Orthodox cross themselves left to right, despite both using the Syriac language. And Pope Innocent III (13th Century) seems to suggest that the Latins commonly crossed themselves from right to left, while the priests would always bless the people from left to right (like in Byzantine and Church of the East practice), which would go against the linguistic thing.

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« Reply #27 on: March 20, 2009, 04:52:37 AM »

Bar Salibi writes quite a lot about the sign of the cross in the 12th century.

You write :"The sacrament of the sign of the cross consists in the Word of God who became flesh and came down from heaven to earth, and removed mankind from the left hand and darkness to the right hand and light."

We do not drive away darkness with light, as you write, by making the sign of the cross from right to left ; everyone knows that darkness is the very antithesis of light, and that if the latter is mixed up in the former it becomes swallowed up in it in the same way as the bitterness of a little brackish water in a jug of sweet water, or that of a little myrrh or wormwood in a considerable quantity of honey. Let us admit that light drives away darkness, how can the left hand drive away the right ? Our Lord has said that He will set the sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left ; in this our Saviour demonstrated that the right cannot expel the left, but those who make the sign of the cross from right to left, move, out of their own free will, from the right hand to the left which is that of the goats, and are counted with the robber who was on our Lord's left.

But see how in the consecration of the elements and in the final prayers of the service the Greeks make the sign of the cross like us, from left to right, and in this way they contradict themselves.

....

You write : "Is it not more advantageous that a man should cross himself in beginning with the right side, which is the side of light, and then pass this light over his face and with it drive away darkness, than to cross himself from the side of darkness and pass it over his face ?"

If darkness and light are defined by the right hand moving horizontally, tell me what is meant by the first act we do in crossing ourselves, which consists in moving our hand in a perpendicular way from our head downwards ? You might say that the top movement means light and the bottom one darkness, and that a man first takes light and comes down to darkness, and then takes light again to another darkness. The Greeks would have thus two lights and two darknesses, and would begin with light and end with darkness. This theory of yours is not a happy one, and the single cross is not light in one of its horizontal sides and darkness in the other, but it is light in both of its sides. It is also advantageous that the end of all our works should be on the right hand, that is to say, good, and it is thus better to end the sign of the cross with the side of the right hand, and not with the side of the left which is, according to the words of our Lord, that of the goats.

...

In administering the baptism even the Greeks make the sign of the cross on the child with a collyrium-pencil which has one point only and not two points, which would correspond with the two fingers, and move also the instrument from left to right as we do, and not from right to left. Had they not done so in this case even their cross would not have been straight but twisted.


This does not explain the divergent practice, but it seems to be of some great antiquity as far as Bar Saliba is concerned.

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« Reply #28 on: March 20, 2009, 10:12:56 AM »


In administering the baptism even the Greeks make the sign of the cross on the child with a collyrium-pencil which has one point only and not two points, which would correspond with the two fingers, and move also the instrument from left to right as we do, and not from right to left. Had they not done so in this case even their cross would not have been straight but twisted.


But by moving the pencil over the child from left to right, you are effectively crossing the child from right to left. Likewise when a priest blesses the congragation from (his) left to (his) right, the congregation mirror his movements over themselves by crossing themselves from (their) right to (their) left. I think this is the reason behind the EO practice: that you make the sign of the cross over yourself in the same way you would make it over something else, so that you have not two opposing crosses, but one.

So if the EO did indeed change the sign of the cross, it was to be consistent in its symbolism.
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« Reply #29 on: March 20, 2009, 10:43:28 AM »

I am not sure.

I am not even confident that there was ever one way to cross oneself. We know from the earliest records that the sign of the cross was made on the forehead, so the methods that all of us use are all developments of the Apostolic method.

It has always seemed to me that if there is consistency and reverence then both methods are acceptable, and that it is the underlying Trinitarian and Christological position which a person holds, rather than the method of making the sign of the cross which is most significant.

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« Reply #30 on: March 20, 2009, 10:54:46 AM »

I am not sure.

I am not even confident that there was ever one way to cross oneself. We know from the earliest records that the sign of the cross was made on the forehead, so the methods that all of us use are all developments of the Apostolic method.

It has always seemed to me that if there is consistency and reverence then both methods are acceptable, and that it is the underlying Trinitarian and Christological position which a person holds, rather than the method of making the sign of the cross which is most significant.

Father Peter

Bless Father,

In the above text Bar Salibi refers specifically to the Greeks, but does he ever make any reference to the Church of the East? I don't understand why the Assyrian Church, which afaik did not have any significant interaction with the Byzantine Churches, makes the sign of the Cross from right to left. Are there any sources that mention early Assyrian practice?
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« Reply #31 on: March 20, 2009, 12:24:52 PM »

The particular book I quoted from is Bar Salibi's 'Against the Melkites', which was written as a response to a Syrian who was fascinated with the Imperial Greek Church - 'They are so wealthy, they have such good music, we are such poor people'. So he is particularly interested in the Greek Church.

There are quite a lot of historical materials from the Church of the East so I would expect that someone somewhere must mention the sign of the cross. Maybe even Theodore of Mopsuestia does from a slightly earlier period.

I was going to suggest that you contacted Mar Bawai Soro of the Church of ther East in the US who has recently led many of his community into communion with the Roman Catholic Church. I emailed him some years ago and he was helpful. Actually the union of the Church of the East with the Roman Catholic Church raises some interesting issues.

Father Peter
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« Reply #32 on: March 20, 2009, 03:17:11 PM »

I've said this before in another thread.  My hypothesis is that there might have been regional hostilities.

By the 11th/12th Centuries, you clearly see four regions of churches dating to Apostolic times opposing one another.  From West to East in an approximate manner, you have the Roman Catholic Church, the Roman/Byzantine Orthodox Church, the Oriental non-Chalcedonian Orthodox Church, and the Far Eastern pro-Nestorian Assyrian (and East Asian) Church.  Whoever was in the middle would probably see that either side, "heretics" would cross themselves differently than they would, and thus would justify their own distinct difference in such way of crossing adding a symbolism to it in such a manner that would make the other church look heretical when applying that symbolism to them.

I would assume then Bar Saliba would probably say the same to the Assyrian Church, as a church that associates themselves with "goats on the left" and the "thief on the left," just like the Greeks (this could also explain in amazement to me how the OO's in their diverse and very different rites still maintain similarities in the direction of crossing themselves).  It won't be surprising to find the Greeks think likewise of OO's and RC's on their sides in their own symbolism.

God bless.

PS one wonders if the Chinese Christians did cross themselves like the Assyrians though.  Likewise, one wonders the same about the non-Chalcedonians who were once in the Arabian peninsula.
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« Reply #33 on: March 20, 2009, 04:52:59 PM »

Hi Mina

I'd also be interested in the Crusader/Roman influence. I have read some papers about the Roman-Armenian contact during this time when some parts of the Armenian hierarchy were willing and seeking union with Rome, mostly as a result of politics and warfare in the region. There were discussions about the required modification of Armenian practice and theology but I can't remember if the sign of the cross was one issue.

Also what was the influence of Roman Catholicism in India and elsewhere in the 16th/17th century, and then later under Napoleon in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East?

Also, where did the use of modern religious images come from in Egypt?

I think it is useful to know where these influences came from to understand whether they need to be countered and how they can be countered.

Father Peter

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« Reply #34 on: July 08, 2010, 09:47:00 PM »

The particular book I quoted from is Bar Salibi's 'Against the Melkites', which was written as a response to a Syrian who was fascinated with the Imperial Greek Church - 'They are so wealthy, they have such good music, we are such poor people'...

Father bless!

I do apologize for bringing up an old thread, but I couldn't help but chuckle reading the above. I guess I'm not the only OO whose feels that way.  Grin

BTW I have been reading through your posts (all of them!) in the archives these last few weeks and cannot thank you enough for all the effort you've put into your writings. I've learned so very much from you and am blessed to have you as a priest in my Church!

Please remember me in your prayers.
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« Reply #35 on: July 09, 2010, 02:39:03 AM »

The Lord bless you.

I was present at the consecration of Patriarch Mesrob II of Constantinople and it seemed as if I had stepped back into the last days of the Byzantine Empire. Even the subdeacons seemed to be dressed like nobility. Our Coptic Orthodox Church has survived over the centuries by becoming a monastic Church, or so it seems to me, and much of the secular aspects of Church life in relation to an Imperial state just slowly diminished. We do not wear rich vestments because we are a poor people and everything got stolen. But blessed are the poor.

Bar Salibi is a very interesting read, I highly recommend him. He places the poverty of our Church, the wider communion of our Orthodox Churches, into something of a spiritual and theological context. And I do think that though poverty has its own dangers, nevertheless we have been preserved from many faults by having no power and being subject to persecution for so long.

Thank you for your kind words about some of my posts. Perhaps because I know so little I ask the questions that others would want to ask but are afraid to seem foolish and ignorant in asking.

Father Peter
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« Reply #36 on: December 15, 2012, 08:45:32 PM »

Okay! Well...don't hold us in suspense here. Please elaborate!

I was tired when I wrote the post I am sorry.

Using the right hand make and hold these two positions:


Position 1 (Meaning: The Cross of Salvation or "power of the cross" we say Haili'h Mesq'hl.)
We make a cross with the index over the middle finger. In so doing we position (or orient) the index finger as 'center' to the middle finger as possible while keeping the index finger straight until the last segment of the middle finger naturally bends downward. Thus making a cross with these two fingers.


Position 2 ( Meaning:Trinity  Meaning also: God in man with 1 divine nature we say Tewahido)
While holding the above crossed figure position we then place our thumb on the tip of the ring finger while keeping the pinky 'tight-up' to the ring finger.

Now these finger positions define the belief.

While holding the two positions we make the sign of the Holy Cross while saying and raising the tip of the index finger to touch the forehead (In the name of the Father), then to touch the middle of the chest (in the name of the Son) , then to touch the left shoulder (In the name of the Holy Spirit), then to touch the right shoulder (One God), then a bow from the hip while saying in conclusion Amen.

WE go left to right to indicate a few things such as:

Left: Prophets
Right:Apostles

Left: Old Testament
Right: New Testament

Left: West
Right: East

Left: Christ crossed the red sea to Africa Egypt
Right: Christ crossed the red sea back to Jerusalem (Fulfilling the prophecy "out of Egypt I call my Son")

Left: The thief on the left hand
Right: The thief on the right hand

Left: From sin
Right: To righteousness, Fulfillment.  Christ last or 7Th word on the cross: "It is finished"

Just a few are noted above.


Forgive me for the thread resurrection.  I know it has become popular these days, but I saw a picture online which reminded me of Fr. Amde's post here a while ago, and I thought this would be worth the resurrection.

This is a 6th Century ivory carving of Christ, which is located in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, Egypt:



The finger positions here pretty much accurately describe the way Fr. Amde talks about the Ethiopian tradition of the finger positions of the sign of the Cross.  I'm sure like me, you will find this quite interesting, and one of antiquity as well as seen here.

Source:  http://www.sacred-destinations.com/egypt/cairo-coptic-museum
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« Reply #37 on: December 15, 2012, 09:02:35 PM »

Okay! Well...don't hold us in suspense here. Please elaborate!

I was tired when I wrote the post I am sorry.

Using the right hand make and hold these two positions:


Position 1 (Meaning: The Cross of Salvation or "power of the cross" we say Haili'h Mesq'hl.)
We make a cross with the index over the middle finger. In so doing we position (or orient) the index finger as 'center' to the middle finger as possible while keeping the index finger straight until the last segment of the middle finger naturally bends downward. Thus making a cross with these two fingers.


Position 2 ( Meaning:Trinity  Meaning also: God in man with 1 divine nature we say Tewahido)
While holding the above crossed figure position we then place our thumb on the tip of the ring finger while keeping the pinky 'tight-up' to the ring finger.

Now these finger positions define the belief.

While holding the two positions we make the sign of the Holy Cross while saying and raising the tip of the index finger to touch the forehead (In the name of the Father), then to touch the middle of the chest (in the name of the Son) , then to touch the left shoulder (In the name of the Holy Spirit), then to touch the right shoulder (One God), then a bow from the hip while saying in conclusion Amen.

WE go left to right to indicate a few things such as:

Left: Prophets
Right:Apostles

Left: Old Testament
Right: New Testament

Left: West
Right: East

Left: Christ crossed the red sea to Africa Egypt
Right: Christ crossed the red sea back to Jerusalem (Fulfilling the prophecy "out of Egypt I call my Son")

Left: The thief on the left hand
Right: The thief on the right hand

Left: From sin
Right: To righteousness, Fulfillment.  Christ last or 7Th word on the cross: "It is finished"

Just a few are noted above.


Forgive me for the thread resurrection.  I know it has become popular these days, but I saw a picture online which reminded me of Fr. Amde's post here a while ago, and I thought this would be worth the resurrection.

This is a 6th Century ivory carving of Christ, which is located in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, Egypt:


The finger positions here pretty much accurately describe the way Fr. Amde talks about the Ethiopian tradition of the finger positions of the sign of the Cross.  I'm sure like me, you will find this quite interesting, and one of antiquity as well as seen here.

Source:  http://www.sacred-destinations.com/egypt/cairo-coptic-museum
It doesn't seem different from the EO position:
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« Reply #38 on: December 15, 2012, 09:10:44 PM »

What would be the symbolism behind the finger positions according to the EOs?
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« Reply #39 on: December 15, 2012, 09:59:48 PM »

First two fingers and thumb are joined... Making the sign of the Trinity.
The last two fingers tucked down to show the two natures of Christ.
This is the common blessing of course right to left.

The priest uses the one shown in the icon above in the DL when blessing the laity to reveal the ICXC which one can see three dimensionally in the hand of the one giving the blessing.


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« Reply #40 on: December 15, 2012, 10:02:31 PM »

First two fingers and thumb are joined... Making the sign of the Trinity.
The last two fingers tucked down to show the two natures of Christ.
This is the common blessing of course right to left.

The priest uses the one shown in the icon above in the DL when blessing the laity to reveal the ICXC which one can see three dimensionally in the hand of the one giving the blessing.





So the pinky represents the I, the index and middle finger represents the X, and the thumb and ring finger represents the C twice?
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« Reply #41 on: January 01, 2013, 09:08:42 AM »

First two fingers and thumb are joined... Making the sign of the Trinity.
The last two fingers tucked down to show the two natures of Christ.
This is the common blessing of course right to left.

The priest uses the one shown in the icon above in the DL when blessing the laity to reveal the ICXC which one can see three dimensionally in the hand of the one giving the blessing.





So the pinky represents the I, the index and middle finger represents the X, and the thumb and ring finger represents the C twice?

The index finger is I. The middle finger is C. The ring finger and the thumb are crossed to make X. The pinky finger is C.

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« Reply #42 on: January 02, 2013, 03:06:58 PM »

Yes^ this is the liturgical blessing.
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« Reply #43 on: January 02, 2013, 05:54:58 PM »


So the pinky represents the I, the index and middle finger represents the X, and the thumb and ring finger represents the C twice?

The index finger is I. The middle finger is C. The ring finger and the thumb are crossed to make X. The pinky finger is C.



This is how my priest blesses when he doesn't have a cross in his hand. It's means as zekarja says, IC XC.  I think any understanding of "2 natures" from it may be a later interpretation.

It also should be the blessing shown in Coptic Icons of Christ the Pantocrator, but modern Coptic "Iconographers" have also confused it to mean "2 natures" and change it to one finger pointing.
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« Reply #44 on: January 02, 2013, 08:28:15 PM »

The "two natures" way I was describing is in the use of the Eastern Orthodox tradition of crossing oneself  with thumb, index and middle finger coming to point while the last two are tucked under...Trinity plus two natures. police
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