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Author Topic: How to make the sign of the cross.....  (Read 23297 times) Average Rating: 0
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fatman2021
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« on: July 02, 2007, 04:57:08 PM »

As one moves through the Sign, one recites, at the forehead, "Lord "; at the stomach, "Jesus Christ", on the right shoulder, "Son of God"; and on the left shoulder, "have mercy on us" followed by a bow(to the ground during great lent).

Joining two fingers together-the index and the middle finger-and extending them, with the middle finger slightly bent, represents the two natures of Christ: His Divinity and His Humanity. He is God according to His divinity and Man according to His hummanity, perfect in both natures. The index finger represents His divinity, while the middle finger repersents His hummanity, since He came down from on high and saved those below. The bending of the middle finger is interperted to mean that He bowed the heavens and came down upon the earth for our salvation.

And thus it proper to make the Sign of the Cross and to bless; thus was it laid down and ordained by the holy fathers; such is the power of the Sign of the Cross, with which we faithful sign ourselves when we pray, confessing sacramentally the Saviour's economy: His being begotten of God the Father before all creation; His decent to earth from on high; His Crucifixion; and His second coming, which is the sealing of His entire philanthropic dipensation concerning us.

The sign of the cross must be made according to the rules, in the form of a cross; and the right hand, that is, the dextral hand, must be used in crossing oneself, with the thumb and the two lower fingers joined together, and the extended index finger joined to the middle finger, slightly bent; thus should prelates [and] priests give their blessing and thus should men cross themselves. . . . It befits all Orthodox Christians to hold their hand thus, and to make the sign of the cross upon their face with two fingers, and to bow, as we said before. If anyone should fail to give his blessing with two fingers, as Christ did, or should fail to make the sign of the cross with two fingers, may he be accursed.. . ., Chapter 31 of The Council Of The Hundred Chapters.
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« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2007, 05:37:05 PM »

That was very educational, thanks...

I never knew that the index and the middle finger symbolize the two natures of Christ - I thought, rather, that the thumb, the index finger, and the middle finger held together symbolize the Trinity, while the ring finger and the little finger, held together, symbolize the two natures of Christ.

Interestingly, one of the huge items of the clash between the Old Believers and the "Niconians" in Muscovy of the late 17-th century was whether to cross oneself with the two joined fingers (the index and the middle), or with three (the index, the middle and the thumb). In the famous painting by Surikov, Lady Morozov, one of the leaders of the Old Believers, is pictured raising her right hand with the two joined fingers.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2007, 05:37:26 PM by Heorhij » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2007, 05:43:21 PM »

Fatman,

Nine posts in three years, so...

  • What point are you trying to communicate?
  • Why is this on the Orthodox-Catholic Discussion board?
« Last Edit: July 02, 2007, 05:57:29 PM by PeterTheAleut » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2007, 06:51:27 PM »

Peter, I agree that this is hardly something that rightly belongs to the Orthodox-Catholic discussion. --G.
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« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2007, 07:56:10 PM »

Quote
If anyone should fail to give his blessing with two fingers, as Christ did, or should fail to make the sign of the cross with two fingers, may he be accursed

I sign the same way as Heorhij does, with thumb, index, and middle finger together, and the last two fingers down.  I never knew people consider anything else other than your post's way as a curse.

In addition, I go from left to right like the Catholics.  Some people in the Coptic tradition use only the index finger for the sign of the cross, while other traditions I think cross their index and middles fingers to represent "one Incarnate nature."

I'd like to find out more about the curse of not doing the sign of the Cross in a proper manner.

God bless.

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« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2007, 08:07:34 PM »

In addition, I go from left to right like the Catholics. 

Dude! Haven't you ever seen Zorba the Greek!  Grin
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« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2007, 08:08:39 PM »

I sign the same way as Heorhij does, with thumb, index, and middle finger together, and the last two fingers down.  I never knew people consider anything else other than your post's way as a curse.

In addition, I go from left to right like the Catholics.  Some people in the Coptic tradition use only the index finger for the sign of the cross, while other traditions I think cross their index and middles fingers to represent "one Incarnate nature."

I'd like to find out more about the curse of not doing the sign of the Cross in a proper manner.

God bless.


The practice described in the OP is actually that of the Russian "Old Believers", who broke off from the established Russian Orthodox Church several centuries ago rather than go along with Patriarch Nikon's efforts to make Russian liturgical practice more consistent with that seen in the rest of the Orthodox world.  The Sign of the Cross was one of their pet issues.
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« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2007, 08:35:13 PM »

Peter, I agree that this is hardly something that rightly belongs to the Orthodox-Catholic discussion. --G.

Well, here's an interesting little tidbit which may tie it in. Did you know that it has been suggested that the english phrase "to double-cross someone" comes from the fact that Easterners crossed right to left while Westerners crossed left to right, and in the interests of commerce certain Venetian mercents would cross themselves right to left when dealing with Easterners and left to right when dealing with Westerners. They came to be known as "double crossers".
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« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2007, 08:52:51 PM »

I'd like to find out more about the curse of not doing the sign of the Cross in a proper manner.

Minas, its from a local council of the Russian Church in 1551 called the 'Synod of the Hundred Chapters'. All we know of the council is portions of it preserved in a book called Stoglav. Much at that Synod was overturned later by other Synods during the Nikonian Reforms. I don't think that canon ever applied to anyplace beyond Russia, and then only until the Russian Synod adjusted their praxis.

Interestingly enough - I learned to make the sign of the cross from an Old Catholic priest. The way he taught was the same as the usual Orthodox way of the making the cross (as the Greeks do.) However, his explanation was this was the old Catholic way, as he showed me from the Catholic Encyclopedia (citing Leo IV, Aelfric, and the Ancren Riwle.) When I began inquiring into Orthodoxy I had a ROCOR Western rite Hieromonk tell me about being taught the same as a child in Cornwall & Devon by his Anglican priest. I've also met a priest (now deceased) who learned the same as a child in the Northeast of Scotland from his Scottish Episcopal priest. This was alongside the practice of signing a small cross with the thumb (as at the Gospel) on forehead, lips, and breast.

In the Antiochian Western Rite, many do it the same as you describe as the Coptic way - hands like the Greek manner, but in the opposite direction as the Coptic custom.
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« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2007, 11:19:58 PM »

Y'all have missed the point.
Fatman2021 has pronounced an anathema on anyone who crosses themselves with three fingers, as can be seen from this little gem on his/her website:
 
http://www.geocities.com/fatman2021/xcross3.jpg

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« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2007, 11:46:04 PM »

Y'all have missed the point.
Fatman2021 has pronounced an anathema on anyone who crosses themselves with three fingers, as can be seen from this little gem on his/her website:
 
http://www.geocities.com/fatman2021/xcross3.jpg

... photo deleted to reduce space...


1.  How did you find that gem, George?
2.  I kinda had a hunch that's what Fatman was after.  His OP was classic copy-and-paste, clearly no original thought to speak of.  (Hence, the subtle tone of interrogation in my first reply...)
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« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2007, 11:48:57 PM »

1.  How did you find that gem, George?
Easy. He/she has a link to his/her website "AmigaOne TV Projoct" [sic]  in his/her profile: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=846
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« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2007, 12:37:18 AM »

Easy. He/she has a link to his/her website "AmigaOne TV Projoct" [sic]  in his/her profile: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=846
I did some online snooping just to get some background on this fellow.  An "Old Believer" who likes to start a thread with some totally out-of-context quote from Scripture or some other churchly source, usually to preach some "Old Believer" take on something, then offer very little commentary to support his use of the quote.
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« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2007, 12:49:20 AM »

I did some online snooping just to get some background on this fellow.  An "Old Believer" who likes to start a thread with some totally out-of-context quote from Scripture or some other churchly source, usually to preach some "Old Believer" take on something, then offer very little commentary to support his use of the quote.
Sounds to me like he comes from a jurisdiction of one. Roll Eyes
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« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2007, 03:22:23 AM »

I have been taught that the three fingers we use to cross ourselves represent the Holy Trinity; that the sign of the Cross represents-I ´ll try to be as accurate as possible: on the forehead, that our Lord is God and up in Heavens, down on the stomach, that he took the human nature and came down to earth to save us; on the right hand side, that we believe in salvation and the eternal life; and on the left, that we pray He take away from us Death and Hell.

I have put it rather simplistically, but I only remember the notions rather than the exact phraseology Smiley If anyone finds out a bit more from their priests or spiritual fathers, please share!!!
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« Reply #15 on: July 03, 2007, 03:51:09 AM »

I have put it rather simplistically, but I only remember the notions rather than the exact phraseology Smiley If anyone finds out a bit more from their priests or spiritual fathers, please share!!!
Hi Sophie. I lreally ike the explanation you gave. The way I once overheard my priest telling a visitor about the Sign of the Cross was really interesting. He said we start with the forehead because God is to always be on our mind and lips (I think he was referring to the Jesus Prayer?), we next move down towards the lower chest/upper stomach area because He is to control our whole body and also because the Son has a body like us, finally we then move on to the shoulders because He is our strength (he gave a brief explanation of how the upper torso represents strength). I remember him saying quite a bit more on the "And the Son" part, but I don't remember what exactly. This explanation admittedly sounds a bit simplistic, but it must be remembered that he was talking to someone coming from a Protestant background who was only vaguely familiar with the Sign. For some reason though, this is the explanation that always comes to my mind. Maybe because I'm a bit of a simpleton myself.  Cheesy
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« Reply #16 on: July 03, 2007, 06:48:10 AM »

A Greek guy at our church almost always crosses himself three times, when we cross ourselves once. With his fingers held the same way (thumb, forefinger, and middle finger together), he touches his heart, and then opens his hand and places it on his heart.
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« Reply #17 on: July 03, 2007, 06:56:01 AM »

A Greek guy at our church almost always crosses himself three times, when we cross ourselves once. With his fingers held the same way (thumb, forefinger, and middle finger together), he touches his heart, and then opens his hand and places it on his heart.
Having grown up Greek myself, I also do this. This is because as children, we were taught to offer the Trisagion prayers as our morning and evening prayers, and in Greek, both the Trisagion ("Holy God, Holy Mighty....") and the closing prayer ("Through the prayers of our holy fathers...") are rhythmic and divisible into three lines with four beats, thus, you can cross yourself three times in rhythm with the prayers.
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« Reply #18 on: July 03, 2007, 07:00:31 AM »

Having grown up Greek myself, I also do this. This is because as children, we were taught to offer the Trisagion prayers as our morning and evening prayers, and in Greek, both the Trisagion ("Holy God, Holy Mighty....") and the closing prayer ("Through the prayers of our holy fathers...") are rhythmic and divisible into three lines with four beats, thus, you can cross yourself three times in rhythm with the prayers.

As I learned as well, and still follow.
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« Reply #19 on: July 03, 2007, 08:05:42 AM »

At the Ruthenian Catholic church I used to go to, everyone crossed themselves and then bowed, almost in one motion. Of course it was right to left.

I don't always cross myself with three fingers, but I will do it all the time now. I curse myself by crossing with three fingers? Ridiculous. To think that such silliness has contributed to schisms!
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« Reply #20 on: July 03, 2007, 08:08:47 AM »

Ridiculous. To think that such silliness has contributed to schisms!

you can say that again.
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« Reply #21 on: July 03, 2007, 08:30:40 AM »

I don't always cross myself with three fingers, but I will do it all the time now. I curse myself by crossing with three fingers? Ridiculous.
What? You mean you don't fear the anathema of an anonymous nobody on the internet whom you'll more than likely never meet in your lifetime?  Cheesy

I have a sophisticated psychological theory which explains why people put up stuff like this on the internet. I call it:

"The Georgian Theory of Soap-Boxism"(TM)

It may be a difficult theory for the layperson to follow, but here it is: basically, they're jerks.

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« Reply #22 on: July 03, 2007, 08:32:39 AM »

Is it not a Slav tradition to make the Sign of the Cross three times (when entering a church, when beginning prayers)?

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« Reply #23 on: July 03, 2007, 08:33:20 AM »

you can say that again.

Indeed. I agree with both of you.  Smiley And frankly I have had enough problems getting the children to cross themselves at times with one being left-handed (and if she doesn't think about it will cross EO right-to-left since it's a crossed parity) and both being less then coordinated. ("Dear?  Don't "squiggle" and no triangles.")

Granted I am not EO, but trying to force one way of crossing oneself with threats of curses seems to me to be umm counter to Christian love and charity.  Undecided

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« Reply #24 on: July 03, 2007, 08:37:15 AM »

What? You mean you don't fear the anathema of an anonymous nobody on the internet whom you'll more than likely never meet in your lifetime?  Cheesy

umm  No?  Yes, that's it, no is the answer.  Grin

Quote
I have a sophisticated psychological theory which explains why people put up stuff like this on the internet. I call it:

"The Georgian Theory of Soap-Boxism"(TM)

It may be a difficult theory for the layperson to follow, but here it is: basically, they're jerks.



I'm glad I wasn't drinking my morning coffee when I read this  Grin  Is there a corollary to the effect that such hold the opinion that all must do as they do as the Only Right Way(tm)?

Ebor
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« Reply #25 on: July 03, 2007, 08:46:15 AM »

Is it not a Slav tradition to make the Sign of the Cross three times (when entering a church, when beginning prayers)?

Ungcsertezs

Might depend on what 'flavor' Slav. The Ukies in our parish seem to follow Greek custom.
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« Reply #26 on: July 04, 2007, 01:26:14 PM »

With his fingers held the same way (thumb, forefinger, and middle finger together), he touches his heart, and then opens his hand and places it on his heart.

I picked this up as well - but have yet to see it done by any Greeks, Russians or Serbians (in fact, I've had some at Greek and Russian parishes get annoyed at the practice.) I learned it, however, from Bp. BASIL of Wichita of the Antiochian Archdiocese (the bishop who directs the AWRV.) From what I understand, it is partly to emphasize One God - that we are not Tritheists, as the Mohammedans falsely charge. The way we were taught is to touch the forehead at "In the name of the Father", then the solar plexus "and of the Son", and then right shoulder "and of the Holy.." then left shoulder "...Spirit", then return to our heart "One God". It goes naturally with our traditional American/English manner of prayer whereby we keep our hands over our hearts while we pray (or folded in front of us, though that tends to be more of a French practice.) I have seen others do it as well - but from diverse enough folk that I cannot connect it with any 'national' tradition. I'm guessing it is probably a pious practice from a monastery somewhere?
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« Reply #27 on: July 04, 2007, 10:14:13 PM »

.....
« Last Edit: July 04, 2007, 10:16:52 PM by fatman2021 » Logged

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« Reply #28 on: July 04, 2007, 10:15:13 PM »

When you cross yourself with three fingers(like the Latins, the Greeks, and the Nikonites) you put all three persons of the Trinity on the cross. This is heresy.
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« Reply #29 on: July 04, 2007, 10:27:38 PM »

When you cross yourself with three fingers(like the Latins, the Greeks, and the Nikonites) you put all three persons of the Trinity on the cross. This is heresy.
Nowhere have I seen or heard this interpretation in any teaching except for Old Believer polemics against the practice.  Methinks, therefore, that you're projecting your own symbolism of the sign of the Cross onto us and not allowing that we might see this differently.
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« Reply #30 on: July 04, 2007, 10:39:58 PM »

When you cross yourself with three fingers(like the Latins, the Greeks, and the Nikonites) you put all three persons of the Trinity on the cross. This is heresy.

 Huh Huh Huh
I'm sorry.  This sounds like some work of imagination/rationalization against other Christians who do not do the same thing as oneself.  This would seem to perhaps make Signing oneself into some kind of "magical" act that has to be done in one precise way for it to "work".  I apologize for any offense that may be given by this idea.  It is not my intent and *I* do not look upon it that way.  Iirc, the OP said that it can be only done with the right hand?  What if a person has no right hand or cannot use their arm?

The Crucifixion was an occurance at one place in time and space with Our Lord being nailed to the cross.  It is long over in human time/space and no human can put Jesus back on the cross, nor put the Father or the Spirit there either.  He left it and is risen.


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« Reply #31 on: July 04, 2007, 10:44:41 PM »

Oh, I am so shocked and offended by you fatman2021....eek, gasp, recoil in horror.... Roll Eyes
Listen sweetie, we've had to put up with GiC and TomS for years on this forum, so I dare say we'll make it past the likes of you. You're gonna have to do much better than that if you really want to shock us.
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« Reply #32 on: July 04, 2007, 10:46:59 PM »

When you cross yourself with three fingers(like the Latins, the Greeks, and the Nikonites) you put all three persons of the Trinity on the cross. This is heresy.

So, when you cross with two fingers, you're crucifying the divine nature and the human nature of Christ?  Isn't that equally a heresy?
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« Reply #33 on: July 04, 2007, 10:55:04 PM »

So, when you cross with two fingers, you're crucifying the divine nature and the human nature of Christ?  Isn't that equally a heresy?
I nominate this for July's "Post of the Month"!
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« Reply #34 on: July 04, 2007, 10:58:31 PM »

I nominate this for July's "Post of the Month"!

I nominate this one:

Oh, I am so shocked and offended by you fatman2021....eek, gasp, recoil in horror.... Roll Eyes
Listen sweetie, we've had to put up with GiC and TomS for years on this forum, so I dare say we'll make it past the likes of you. You're gonna have to do much better than that if you really want to shock us.
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« Reply #35 on: July 04, 2007, 11:16:01 PM »

This would seem to perhaps make Signing oneself into some kind of "magical" act that has to be done in one precise way for it to "work".
I think you're onto something here, Ebor.  This is in fact how the Orthodox view such hyper-ritualism.  The source of grace ends up getting transferred from that heavenly reality which the ritual symbolizes to the mere ritual itself.  In this pov, the ritual truly does become an act capable of communicating power from within itself with no reference to anything "outside" (the very definition of magic).  Separated from what it symbolizes, the ritual becomes devoid of all grace.
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« Reply #36 on: July 05, 2007, 02:47:37 AM »

Well, here's an interesting little tidbit which may tie it in. Did you know that it has been suggested that the english phrase "to double-cross someone" comes from the fact that Easterners crossed right to left while Westerners crossed left to right, and in the interests of commerce certain Venetian mercents would cross themselves right to left when dealing with Easterners and left to right when dealing with Westerners. They came to be known as "double crossers".

Thanks for this info. It is one of those things that you kind of wondered where the term came from.
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« Reply #37 on: July 05, 2007, 05:43:11 AM »

Thanks for this info. It is one of those things that you kind of wondered where the term came from.

As far as I can tell, this etymology is actually wrong, nice as it may sound. Double cross appears to date only to the 19th century and relate to race fixing. I wish it were true, though. The story about the Venetian merchants is so much less prosaic.

James
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« Reply #38 on: July 05, 2007, 12:35:54 PM »

Coptics cross from left to right as Christ descended from Heaven to take the goats to be His sheep.
Coptics cross with the thumb, index and middle fingure touching and the two other fingures on the palm. The three and joined to represent the Holy Trinity who is three yet one and the middle figure represents Christ who descended from Heaven.
The two fingures represent the human and divine natures of Christ and these are held together because these two natures were united as one nature at the time of the Incarnation of our Lord.

Correct me if I'm wrong please but I believe the Ethiopians hold their thumb, little and ring fingures together, their index straight up and their middle fingure across their index (so that these two look like a cross).
I am not completely sure of the significance of this however would like to know if anyone is aware please.
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« Reply #39 on: July 05, 2007, 03:18:08 PM »

Correct me if I'm wrong please but I believe the Ethiopians hold their thumb, little and ring fingures together, their index straight up and their middle fingure across their index (so that these two look like a cross).
I am not completely sure of the significance of this however would like to know if anyone is aware please.

It implies the Miaphysite formula, "One Incarnate Nature," while the other three fingers represent the Trinity.

God bless.
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« Reply #40 on: July 05, 2007, 04:38:13 PM »

Is it not a Slav tradition to make the Sign of the Cross three times (when entering a church, when beginning prayers)?

Ungcsertezs

I am a Slav (Ukrainian) and I am not sure. Of course, I can't say that I watched thousands and thousands of Ukrainians enter the church, but I never heard anthing specific about how many times to cross yourself when you enter.

Three joined fingers, right-to-left, then the right hand goes down and you bow, that's it. Smiley
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« Reply #41 on: July 05, 2007, 04:47:20 PM »

Is it not a Slav tradition to make the Sign of the Cross three times (when entering a church, when beginning prayers)?

Ungcsertezs

I go to a Serbian Church and everyone appears to Cross themselves 3 times when entering the Church.
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« Reply #42 on: July 05, 2007, 06:49:10 PM »

I think you're onto something here, Ebor.  This is in fact how the Orthodox view such hyper-ritualism.  The source of grace ends up getting transferred from that heavenly reality which the ritual symbolizes to the mere ritual itself.  In this pov, the ritual truly does become an act capable of communicating power from within itself with no reference to anything "outside" (the very definition of magic).  Separated from what it symbolizes, the ritual becomes devoid of all grace.

Thank you.  I'm glad that you were not offended by my use of "magic" to describe what this was looking like.  It seemed to be taking a thing that is supposed to remind us of God and reducing it to something precise and mechanical.

Ebor
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« Reply #43 on: July 05, 2007, 08:48:57 PM »

Can someone please explain to me why this thread is in the "Orthodox Catholic Discussion" forum?
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« Reply #44 on: July 05, 2007, 08:59:10 PM »

 In the west people were still crossing themselves with two fingers until Pope Innocent III(1198-1216) directed that the Sign of the Cross was to be made with three fingers. At the time of the conversion Russia to Christianity(988), people in the east crossed themselves with two fingers. This can be back up by looking at the Icons that were painted before the Great Schism(1054). On the left is the oldest icon of Christ and which is currently in St. Catherine’s at Sinai. The one on the right is from Constantinople, where Russia received her holy faith.
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