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Mister Jim Dude
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« on: October 09, 2010, 12:53:57 PM »

Hi all,
I am a seeker who has made around a dozen visits to an Orthodox church. I am slowly becoming Orthodox in my thinking and practise. My question is, is it proper to cross yourself in public? For example, I am in the Air Force Reserves and when we sit down to eat in the chow hall many times an evangelical Christian will bow his head and give thanks before he eats. As an Orthodox Christian, would it be too "showy" to cross yourself? The admonition comes to mind to pray in secret and our Heavenly Father will reward us...but I don't want to be ashamed of being (or on my way to being) an Orthodox Christian...S0 what do you all think?
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« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2010, 01:24:52 PM »

I wouldn't cross myself back in Finland or the US, as the society there is not Orthodox or even very devoutly Christian, and it might look like showing off. However, here in Romania I don't see a problem with crossing myself before meals or when walking past a church, as the vast majority of Romanian society is Orthodox and therefore I am always in the company of fellow Christians.
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« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2010, 01:35:52 PM »

Quite frankly, most people out there in the world don't really care whether you do or don't cross yourself. If your friends have never seen you do it before, be ready for questions - remember simple answers are the best - something like, "I thank God with my hands as well as my lips". Then smile and talk about the weather  Smiley. The novelty will soon wear off and they will cease to notice. Then, don't quit doing it or they'll notice that! It's sad to say, but you're likely to get the greatest opposition from those Evangelicals you see bowing their heads before a meal.
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« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2010, 01:41:23 PM »

St. Paul says, in his Epistle to the Galatians, that "we preach Christ crucified."  When we make the sign of the cross, we are not necessarily preaching it but we should never be ashamed of the cross of Christ and making its sign upon ourselves whether at meals at home or in a restaurant or among friends.  If people are going to notice it and say something to you about it, then they have no life and are too easily offended or just jerks.  There should be nothing which prevents you from making the sign of the cross.  But, if you are doing it to show off how devout you are (and I am NOT saying that such is the case with you), then you are making the sign of the cross for the worst of reasons.  But, for your circumstance, do not be hesitant.
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« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2010, 03:09:29 PM »

I'd say go ahead and cross yourself.  If someone wants to make the assumption that you are showing off when you aren't, well that is because of their own issues and has nothing to do with you. 
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« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2010, 03:39:06 PM »

I don't think it would be too showy. Fwiw, while my situation/question was different, I asked about crossing yourself in public earlier this year.
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« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2010, 04:22:33 PM »

Most of the people in public aren't paying attention to you.  Even if they were, we live in a country with many freedoms, including crossing ourselves whenever we feel like it.
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« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2010, 05:07:54 PM »

Hi all,
I am a seeker who has made around a dozen visits to an Orthodox church. I am slowly becoming Orthodox in my thinking and practise. My question is, is it proper to cross yourself in public? For example, I am in the Air Force Reserves and when we sit down to eat in the chow hall many times an evangelical Christian will bow his head and give thanks before he eats. As an Orthodox Christian, would it be too "showy" to cross yourself? The admonition comes to mind to pray in secret and our Heavenly Father will reward us...but I don't want to be ashamed of being (or on my way to being) an Orthodox Christian...S0 what do you all think?

If your purpose is to thank God, then do it!  After a while, you will find yourself making the sign of the cross without even being aware of it.  And people really don't mind religious actions taking place around them.  After living where prayer rugs are spread in the shops and alleys of bazaars when the muezzin sounds, and visiting places where people cross themselves if they see an ambulance or hearse pass by, and here in America where folks bow their heads before their meal, signing ourselves would barely be noticeable. 
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« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2010, 05:28:07 PM »

Mister Jim Dude,

 You've asked a great question here, and one that cannot be avoided for the Orthodox Christian.  Your question, it seems to me, is one essentially about prayer.  Let us therefore look at what St. John Chrysostom (The Goldenmouth) has to say to us:

 "Our spirit should be quick to reach out toward God, not only when it is engaged in meditation; at other times, also, when it is carrying out it's duties, caring for the needy, performing works of charity, giving generously in the service of others, our spirit should long for God and call Him to mind, so that these works may be seasoned with the salt of God's love, and so make a palatable offering to the God of the universe.  Throughout the whole of our lives, we may enjoy the benefit that comes from prayer if we devote a great deal of time to it."*

So we see from this Holy Father that we are to pray throughout our day and entire lives.  In the catechetical book The Law of God, Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy (of blessed memory) tells us,

 "If we and those close to us are healthy and safe, if we have a place to live, clothes to wear, food to eat, then we ought to give praise and give thanks to God in our prayers.  Such prayers are called praise and thanksgiving."**

 "We make the Sign of the Cross, or "cross ourselves", at the beginning of prayer, during prayer, at the end of prayer, and when we draw near to anything holy: when we enter the church, when we reverence the Cross or an icon.  We should cross ourselves at every important moment in our life: in danger, in sorrow, in joy, and so on.
 When we cross ourselves, mentally we say, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  Thus, we express our faith in the All-holy Trinity and our desire to live and labor for the glory of God." +

 Elder Cleopa of Romania (of blessed memory), when asked about the significance of the Sign of the Cross, had this to say;

"The Christian who is a faithful child of the Church of Christ at the beginning and the end of his work, when setting out to ravel, when confronted with bad news or evil thoughts, and before and after eating his meals makes the sign of the cross upon himself, acquiring thereby the immeasurable power of the True Cross upon which was shed the All-holy Blood of Christ over and against our common enemy the devil."++

 We see from various sources within the Holy Traditions of the Orthodox Church, it is incumbent upon all Orthodox Christians to pray and use the Sign of the Cross.  We do not do this to boast or show-off, but neither do we refrain out of fear.  

I hope this helps you on your journey to Holy Orthodoxy.  Smiley  If I have miss-spoke, it is out of my ignorance and should not reflect on The Orthodox Church.



*What The Church Fathers Say About... Vol. 1 pg 51 under 'Prayer'.
**The Law of God by Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy (Of blessed memory). Pg 26 under 'Different Types of Prayer'.
+ ibid. Pg 24 under 'The Sign of the Cross'
++The Truth Of Our Faith by Elder Cleopa of Romania (Of blessed memory). Pg 118 under 'The Sign of the Cross'.
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« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2010, 03:14:58 PM »

I have a similar situation, in the high school lungh room.  I do, because my priest told me that he did when he was my age.

it doesn't matter what people think, only that you are trying to include your faith in your every-day life!
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« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2010, 03:17:46 PM »

It's sad to say, but you're likely to get the greatest opposition from those Evangelicals you see bowing their heads before a meal.

I second this!  I get a LOT more grief about my Orthodoxy from the evangelical kids, and only respect from the Roman Catholic/Atheist/Pagan/Jewish friends I useually eat with!!!
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« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2010, 03:48:05 PM »

I second this!  I get a LOT more grief about my Orthodoxy from the evangelical kids, and only respect from the Roman Catholic/Atheist/Pagan/Jewish friends I useually eat with!!!

While on one hand I was about to agree that it seems odd that they are the only ones willing to confront you about your praxis, and to say that based on that there might be something fundamentally wrong with them. But upon further consideration, it has occurred to me that perhaps they are really the only ones that care enough about you to try and correct you.

There are a lot of apples in the air on this one. The Evangelicals might be being "disrespectful", or them again they might be the only group around with any real moral compass and conviction, even if it is misguided at times. Your other friends might be being respectful, or then again they might just be totally apathetic, and not care what you do at all. Make the sign of the cross, sleep around, get drunk, do prostrations. Whatever works for you. This sort of dismissive indifference doesn't necessarily indicate friendship.

Just food for thought. Pray for me.
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« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2010, 08:28:58 PM »

I'd say go ahead and cross yourself.  If someone wants to make the assumption that you are showing off when you aren't, well that is because of their own issues and has nothing to do with you. 

I agree.  If other's think you're showing off, that's their problem.  I'm sure some of my Protestant friends think I'm worshiping idols. So, do I stop kissing icons?  Of course not. 

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« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2010, 09:41:00 PM »

I'm sure some of my Protestant friends think I'm worshiping idols.

Which is a bit ridiculous, considering that most people have never seen real good ol' fashion idolatry in action. They only have hypothetical notions, nothing based in real experience.
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« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2010, 10:29:04 PM »

This is a topic that I have been wondering about as of late; not necessarily "should I cross myself in public?", but "when is it not appropriate to cross myself in public?" The problem for me is that I do military funerals on a daily basis, so standing tall and looking good is part of the job description. In all of the pomp and circumstance whilst I'm standing at either the head or foot of the casket waiting for my signal to start folding the flag, would it be appropriate for me to cross myself before, during, or after the prayers given by the pastor/priest (most of the funerals in my area are predominantly protestant), or do I just stand there?

I know many times, when relating to matters spiritual, one hears "ask your priest" and it would seem that in this instance it would be "ask your team leader/NCOIC/OIC" but nobody really knows the answer from the military point of view. It leaves me wondering, and to have the almost irresistible urge to cross myself the "proper way" during a RC service. 
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« Reply #15 on: October 11, 2010, 02:44:00 AM »

I wouldn't cross myself back in Finland or the US, as the society there is not Orthodox or even very devoutly Christian, and it might look like showing off.

Well, actually most Finns are pretty respectable to religious people so I don't see how crossing oneself in Finland would constitute a problem. I crossed myself even before becoming an Orthodox and nobody seemed to care about it. So go ahead and cross yourself freely. Smiley I don't know where you are from but if you look a little different than the regular Finns* people will be even more understandable since they think that crossing oneself is part of your culture.

*Unlike US, Finland is pretty homogenous country so non-Finns usually stick-out quite easily.
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« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2010, 05:51:42 AM »

Sometimes I pray with a prayerbook in the subway, which includes crossing myself, and no one ever talked to me about it.
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« Reply #17 on: October 11, 2010, 09:56:11 AM »

We should never be ashamed of Christ, nor should we ever foresake him. So as long it is not done out of pride, crossing is correct and not crossing would be incorrect.
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« Reply #18 on: October 12, 2010, 02:25:46 AM »

This is a topic that I have been wondering about as of late; not necessarily "should I cross myself in public?", but "when is it not appropriate to cross myself in public?" The problem for me is that I do military funerals on a daily basis, so standing tall and looking good is part of the job description. In all of the pomp and circumstance whilst I'm standing at either the head or foot of the casket waiting for my signal to start folding the flag, would it be appropriate for me to cross myself before, during, or after the prayers given by the pastor/priest (most of the funerals in my area are predominantly protestant), or do I just stand there?

I know many times, when relating to matters spiritual, one hears "ask your priest" and it would seem that in this instance it would be "ask your team leader/NCOIC/OIC" but nobody really knows the answer from the military point of view. It leaves me wondering, and to have the almost irresistible urge to cross myself the "proper way" during a RC service. 

I am in the Air Force Reserves and I think it would be inappropriate to cross yourself as part of an honor guard. Especially since symmetry is very important in military processesions, etc.  Now if you were in uniform and part of the congregation during funeral/service, that would be a different story....then again, why don't you ask  a chaplain?
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« Reply #19 on: October 12, 2010, 02:28:07 AM »

I don't think it would be too showy. Fwiw, while my situation/question was different, I asked about crossing yourself in public earlier this year.

...thanks, your link was helpful...kinda the same question... Smiley
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« Reply #20 on: October 12, 2010, 02:29:52 AM »

Thanks to everyone for their response...I think that I should cross myself without shame! At least that seems to be what most think...I kinda thought that anyway but, I really don't like to bring attention to myself but I believe it is one of those things that God would have me do.....now if I could just get up the nerve.... Grin
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« Reply #21 on: October 12, 2010, 11:07:57 AM »

This is a topic that I have been wondering about as of late; not necessarily "should I cross myself in public?", but "when is it not appropriate to cross myself in public?" The problem for me is that I do military funerals on a daily basis, so standing tall and looking good is part of the job description. In all of the pomp and circumstance whilst I'm standing at either the head or foot of the casket waiting for my signal to start folding the flag, would it be appropriate for me to cross myself before, during, or after the prayers given by the pastor/priest (most of the funerals in my area are predominantly protestant), or do I just stand there?

I know many times, when relating to matters spiritual, one hears "ask your priest" and it would seem that in this instance it would be "ask your team leader/NCOIC/OIC" but nobody really knows the answer from the military point of view. It leaves me wondering, and to have the almost irresistible urge to cross myself the "proper way" during a RC service. 

I generally do not cross myself if attending non-Orthodox services, no matter what is going on. I say the Jesus Prayer to myself. This, of course, depends on the situation. Outside of the prayers said, if there's an icon, relic, or body there, I cross myself and venerate.

Certainly, it is appropriate to cross yourself in any profession in any situation, I would say. You are in good company as an Orthodox soldier.
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« Reply #22 on: October 13, 2010, 08:41:20 PM »

This is a topic that I have been wondering about as of late; not necessarily "should I cross myself in public?", but "when is it not appropriate to cross myself in public?" The problem for me is that I do military funerals on a daily basis, so standing tall and looking good is part of the job description. In all of the pomp and circumstance whilst I'm standing at either the head or foot of the casket waiting for my signal to start folding the flag, would it be appropriate for me to cross myself before, during, or after the prayers given by the pastor/priest (most of the funerals in my area are predominantly protestant), or do I just stand there?

I know many times, when relating to matters spiritual, one hears "ask your priest" and it would seem that in this instance it would be "ask your team leader/NCOIC/OIC" but nobody really knows the answer from the military point of view. It leaves me wondering, and to have the almost irresistible urge to cross myself the "proper way" during a RC service. 

I generally do not cross myself if attending non-Orthodox services, no matter what is going on. I say the Jesus Prayer to myself. This, of course, depends on the situation. Outside of the prayers said, if there's an icon, relic, or body there, I cross myself and venerate.

Certainly, it is appropriate to cross yourself in any profession in any situation, I would say. You are in good company as an Orthodox soldier.

Usually I do not cross myself either, but in an instance like today when the pastor actually said, "In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit," I feel an urge to cross myself.

@ Jim Dude... being apart of the Honor Guard and having to be "uniform" with everybody else is the only reason I have not crossed myself during a service, but I was wondering if it might be appropriate since we on the Honor Guard do bow our heads when a prayer is being said, and if the Lord's Prayer is said I say it in my head with minimal lip movement just to show that I am faithful - not to show off, rather so the family can be comforted by the fact that somebody honoring their dearly departed is a Christian (some people have gotten really surprised when they find out that one of our guys is not a Christian and he is doing funerals, idk why).
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« Reply #23 on: October 27, 2010, 03:03:48 PM »

If I can add a slightly different angle to the question . . .

What if you are beginning to develop a prayer rule and not Orthodox and far from living a Gospel centered life and are concerned that your outward appearance of piety might cause others to look poorly at Christianity in general or if they know a bit of your interest in Orthodoxy bring poor attention to the faith?

Most folks think that in AA for example anonymity is for the sake of the person to avoid embarrassment and public shame. This is not the case, at least originally. Most of the early members were known drunkards and certainly no one who knew them were unaware of their problems. Rather anonymity was to protect AA from being seen poorly by those who might be too zealous to quickly and be back to drinking and their old behavior after "preaching" the message from the rafters to those outside the fellowship or those in need. This anonymity was consider of particular importance at the level of mass media.

For me, my struggle with Orthodoxy has been rather private, except to those inside the Church and I am cautious to bring any poor attention to the faith with what might amount to mere sound and fury on my part.

 

 
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