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Author Topic: The Sign in Oriental Orthodoxy  (Read 3894 times) Average Rating: 0
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Ghazar
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« on: February 26, 2005, 02:20:38 PM »

Dear OO Brethren,

Am I right in my understanding that we all make the Holy Sign from right to left?  Also, are there any of us who use only one finger joined with the thumb?  I am told some Oriental Orthodox do this to represent the "One Incarnate Nature of our Lord Jesus Christ."  Is this true?  In the Armenian Church, I am accustomed to using two fingers with the thumb, the three of which represent the Holy Trinity?  Then we tuck our other two fingers into the hand.  These two represent that Christ was true God and true Man.

What is the practice of your Churches?
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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2005, 02:22:48 PM »

What you describe as Armenian practice is also Indian practice as I've been taught, although I've seen a lot of lazy people. 
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« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2005, 02:44:25 PM »

Most Copts (virtually all of us) go from left to right with the first three fingers together (Holy Trinity).  It's a matter of culture, as ours views the left side as the side representing evil and the right as good.  So, through the cross, we are taken from evil to good.
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« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2005, 03:20:55 PM »

We make it as you describe with the finger pointed up connected to the thumb to represent the “One incarnate nature” and the remaining three fingers connected to represent the Trinity. Then we go from left to right.

But as Mor said there are plenty of lazy people who look like they are doing “wax on, wax off” with the Karate Kid more so than making the cross.
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« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2005, 07:17:00 PM »

Most Copts (virtually all of us) go from left to right with the first three fingers together (Holy Trinity). It's a matter of culture, as ours views the left side as the side representing evil and the right as good. So, through the cross, we are taken from evil to good.
Actually, from the left to the right has biblical roots as well, for the sheep were on the right of the Lord and the goats on the left, and we believe that the Lord with his Cross has transferred us from the slavery to being His children, from Hades to His Kingdom.

A number of Copts, although not many, also use only their thumb in making the sign of the Cross. ALso acceptable traditionally.

How do the EO make the sign ?
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« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2005, 07:51:06 PM »

With 2 fingers and thumb joined, representing the Trinity, and the ring and pinkie fingers pressed down to the palm, for the human and divine brought down to earth in the person of Christ. This makes a little physiological sense to me  because the ring finger and pinkie finger are joined in bone and musculature. (trivia) Schuman ruined his hand trying to make those fingers more separate with painful stretching devises to improve his piano playing, but they are designed to work together.

We also cross from right to left.
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« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2005, 11:41:58 PM »

Brethren,

Silly man that I am, I wrote the exact opposite of what I meant to (thank the Lord for such humiliations, I need them).  I meant from left to right.  Apparently all Oriental Orthodox are agreed on this practice.  Seeing that Latins do it this way as well, it appears that only the Byzantine Orthodox go from right to left shoulders.  Interesting.

Thank you all for your input.  It was informitive.
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« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2005, 11:46:25 PM »

IC XC NIKA
I believe some Eastern Rite Catholics also make the sign from right to left as well, but maybe I'm mistaken. Huh

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« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2005, 10:42:15 AM »

IC XC NIKA
I believe some Eastern Rite Catholics also make the sign from right to left as well, but maybe I'm mistaken. Huh

copticorthodoxboy

Yep, that's right Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2005, 01:32:49 PM »

IC XC NIKA
I believe some Eastern Rite Catholics also make the sign from right to left as well, but maybe I'm mistaken. Huh

copticorthodoxboy

Correct as to the Eastern/Byzantine Catholics.  The Oriental Catholics sign in the same manner as their  Oriental Orthodox counterparts.  The Maronites do it in the same style as the Latins (left to right), although I can't remember how they configure their fingers.  I don't know what the practice is among the Assyrians and the Chaldean Catholics.

Many years,

Neil
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« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2005, 02:50:48 PM »

The Assyrians cross themselves in the Byzantine manner.
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« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2005, 06:12:15 PM »

Thank you all for this info. So we have:

Oriental Orthodox, Latin Catholics and Oriental Catholics: from left to right.

Byzantine Orthodox, Assyrians and Byzantine Catholics: from right to left.

Anyone else? Smiley

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« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2005, 06:37:32 PM »


I would guess that the Anglicans (and any other Protestants who still cross themselves) would do so from left to right.
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« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2005, 03:14:14 PM »

Thank you all for this info. So we have:

Oriental Orthodox, Latin Catholics and Oriental Catholics: from left to right.

Byzantine Orthodox, Assyrians and Byzantine Catholics: from right to left.

Anyone else? Smiley

Bill,

In your original post, as you noted later, you mistakenly described the Armenian practice as right to left. Phil agreed that (right to left) to be the manner of the Malankarese Orthodox (actually, he said "Indian", so he may be including others, e.g., Malankarese Catholics, Malabarese Orthodox and Catholics, as well). That's probably worth clarifying, since it would break up the Oriental Orthodox (and possibly also the Oriental Catholic) grouping.

I pm'ed a Syro-Malabarese friend on ByzForum to get clarification on their practice; will let you know what I hear back from him. Meanwhile, Phil?

Many years,

Neil
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« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2005, 09:05:37 PM »

Sorry, I didn't read the original post carefully enough. 

Indian: thumb, index, and middle fingers together (the Trinity), the remaining two fingers together (Christ: true God and true Man).  Start at the forehead and go down to below the breast (the Son of God descended from heaven to earth...), then from left shoulder to right shoulder (...to bring those who stood condemned to salvation). 

If the Assyrians sign themselves as the Byzantines, then the Indian Assyrians may do likewise.  The Eastern Catholics in India, in my experience (I've been to a couple of Syro-Malabar services), follow RC practice. 
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« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2005, 02:42:41 PM »

Thank you all for this info. So we have:

Oriental Orthodox, Latin Catholics and Oriental Catholics: from left to right.

Byzantine Orthodox, Assyrians and Byzantine Catholics: from right to left.

Anyone else? Smiley

Bill,

Add Chaldean Catholics to the Byzantine Orthodox, Byzantine Catholic, Assyrian grouping

(Syro-Malarbarese Catholics, though sharing liturgical patrimony with the Assyrians and Chaldeans, sign in the manner of the Latins and Oriental Orthodox and Catholics, as Phil's observations indicated)

Dustin,

I was asked how the Assyrians configure their hand in signing. The only info I could find on the web was a confirmation of your statement that they sign right to left. Do you happen to know if they conform their hand in the same manner as the Byzantines? (If you don't know, I'll try and corner my Eparch, who's on the Assyrian-Catholic Dialogue Commission, and ask him.)

Many years,

Neil
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« Reply #16 on: March 02, 2005, 01:35:26 AM »

What does the cross signify?

A cross signifies the essence of the gospels. We make a sign of the
cross by bringing down the hand from the forehead to the chest and
from chest to the left shoulder and then to the right shoulder.
Moving your hand from forehead to the chest signifies that Jesus came
down from heaven to earth for our sins, and moving the hand from
chest to the left shoulder says that his beloved people were under
the sins of Satan, and by moving from the left to the right shoulder
signifies that Jesus liberated us from the shackles of Satan to the
status of children of God.

This practice of signing ourselves with the cross did not develop in
the church over a period of time as is alleged. The early church
members had this practice.

Tertullian (AD 155) "We take anxious care lest something of our Cup
or Bread should fall upon the ground. At every forward step and
movement, when coming in and going out, when putting on our clothes,
when putting on our shoes, when bathing, when at table, when lighting
the lamps, when reclining, when sitting, in all the ordinary
occupations of our daily lives, we furrow our forehead with the sign
of the cross." (367)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 315 - 386) St. Cyril who was the Bishop of
Jerusalem has written about the cross on which Christ was crucified
and was discovered by Queen Helane from Jerusalem. "The Holy wood of
the Cross among us seen to the present day and now fillings almost
the whole world by means of those, who in faith, take away from here
portions of it."

St. Jerome who was the contemporary of Queen of Helena
says "Prostrate before the cross, she worshipped as though she saw
the Lord hanging thereon." The Biblical Encyclopedia says that it is
certain that the Christians made the sign of the cross on themselves
in the 2nd century.

Mar Baselious (AD 329-379) says that `the apostles established the
practice of crossing themselves. Before dining they used to draw a
cross on the food. Soldiers would cross on his forehead. When we pray
or when we read the Bible or when we preach we will do a cross.
During the time of Baptism we draw a cross on the forehead and chest.
Also one would do a cross in our prayers (Majority of the modern
churches do not sign themselves a cross). Eusebious has stated that
there were crosses with jewels embedded in it during his time (4th
century).

Mt. 10:38 - "He who does not take the cross and follow me is not
worthy of me."

Luke 9:23 - "If any man would come after me let him deny himself and
take up the cross daily & follow me."

Gal 6:14 - "Our glory is on the cross of the Lord."

1 Cor. 1:17 - "The cross of Christ is God's power over us."

Phil. 3:18-19 - "The end of the enemies of the cross is decay."

Eph. 2:14 - "The enmity is stopped and we are reconciled in the
Cross."

The cross reminds the church that it is the basis of Christianity and
all of the sacraments. When we bow and kiss the cross, it is a kiss
in respect to Jesus Christ who died on the cross for us.

Source:http://www.stignatious.com/orthodox.htm
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« Reply #17 on: March 02, 2005, 09:16:10 AM »

Byzantines cross from right to left because the Son ascended to the Father's right hand and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father's right hand.

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« Reply #18 on: March 04, 2005, 07:33:29 PM »

I heard that the byzantine practise results from an error when people tried to imitate the way priest made the sign.

-Paul
 
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« Reply #19 on: March 04, 2005, 09:47:01 PM »

I heard that the byzantine practise results from an error when people tried to imitate the way priest made the sign.

-Paul
 

Nope; that is what is said of the Roman Catholic manner.
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« Reply #20 on: March 04, 2005, 09:59:08 PM »


I would guess that the Anglicans (and any other Protestants who still cross themselves) would do so from left to right.

You are correct. Anglicans cross themselves from left to right. 

One thing I was told long long ago was that left to right had the "Spiritus" closer to the heart (left side) and then over to the right for "Sanctus" and it stuck that way when English started to be used.  ymmv

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« Reply #21 on: June 10, 2005, 09:17:49 AM »

Syrian Orthodox in India use two fingers and and thump of right hand start in forehead  come down to chest and then left sholder and go to right               
    we were taught at sunday school it represent Our lord who is part of trinity come down for us human crusified for us and brought us from left to the right of Father
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« Reply #22 on: September 07, 2009, 01:37:34 AM »

My Priest showed me how to cross myself. Take your right hand and hold it up in front of your face as if you were about to make a karate chop. Now bend the middle, ring, and pinky fingers and keep the index finger pointing straight up. The middle finger should naturally bend behind the index finger so that it makes the shape of the Cross. Now say "Haile Meskel" (Power of the Cross.) Then touch your thumb to the ring and pinky fingers to symbolize the Trinity and say "Tewahedo" (Unity or Oneness). Now cross yourself downward from your forehead saying "Besime Ab" (In the Name of the Father) to your chest saying "WeWolde" (the Son)  and then from left saying "WeMenfesQidus" (the Holy Spirit) to right saying "Ahadu Amlak" (One God). Then bow and say "Amen." We make the sign of the cross from our head downward to our chest to indicate that Our Lord came down from heaven to earth, and from left to right to indicate that Our Lord came to take us from a sinful life to a "right" life.

Hope that helps. Smiley

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« Reply #23 on: September 07, 2009, 02:51:26 AM »


Seeing that Latins do it this way as well, it appears that only the Byzantine Orthodox go from right to left shoulders.  Interesting.

The Church of Rome used three fingers and right to left for the first 1000 years and even longer.  So they were in tune with the Eastern Orthodox.

Please see this message for some information.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,19362.msg351155.html#msg351155
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« Reply #24 on: September 07, 2009, 07:51:13 AM »

I think the question is easily solved when looking at the way the priest blesses the people. Afaik both Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian priests bless from the left to the right, am I right? Now, I suppose that it's the same for the Oriental Orthodox, but I can't be sure. Anybody can provide a clarification for this?
Anyway, the fact that the Assyrians follow the same use of the Eastern Orthodox, and that the same practice of responding to the priest mirroring the gesture of the priest from right to the left was common also among the Roman Catholics up to the 12th century, a possibility is that the Oriental Orthodox under the Patriarchate of Alexandria were the first one not to "mirror" the priest, but to "imitate" him, so that they used to cross from left to right. The same practice progressively came to spread in Western Catholicism after the 1054 AD schism, so that Pope Innocent found it necessary to repeat and stregthen the original right-to-left Sign of the Cross. Of course his efforts came to be useless, and the practice of "repeating" the gesture of the priest was prevalent in the West as it was in the Oriental Churches.

My conclusion is that probably the Oriental Orthodox churches under the Patriarchate of Alexandria anticipated the process of changing the direction when they were still in communion with the other Orthodox Patriarchates, and that the prevalent practice was still to have priests blessing from left to right, and laypeople blessing from right to left. In substance, all of these variations are equally worthy, and none is superior to the other. A possible explanation for variety in the first four centuries might have been that the Sign of the Cross was originally performed by laypeople with one finger and over forehead, mouth and breast, so that no direction had been established by the Apostles; the practice of the larger Cross came to be used in imitation of the priests, probably around the 3rd century, and might have become widespread thanks to the territorial unity of the Church within the Empire. Who knows?

In Christ,    Alex
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« Reply #25 on: September 07, 2009, 07:52:56 AM »

Now I've got a question for the Oriental Orthodox: how do the bishops bless? Do they double-cross the people like in Eastern Orthodoxy, or do they use the left-to-right manner? Just curious to know when the aforemantioned EO practice came to exist.

In Christ,   Alex
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« Reply #26 on: September 07, 2009, 01:21:05 PM »

Here is a short video of Archbishop Derderian blessing some people:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tK_6o02bmv0
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« Reply #27 on: September 07, 2009, 03:22:19 PM »

He is still blessing in the Eastern Orthodox manner, since he is using a cross. The double-crossing only occurs, if I'm not wrong, only when the bishop isn't using any cross, relic, icon etc. to bless. In case I'm wrong, correct me of course.

In Christ,   Alex
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« Reply #28 on: September 07, 2009, 03:30:24 PM »

He is still blessing in the Eastern Orthodox manner, since he is using a cross.

The way he's doing it is very Armenian.  You guys must have gotten it from us.   Grin

Quote
The double-crossing only occurs, if I'm not wrong, only when the bishop isn't using any cross, relic, icon etc. to bless. In case I'm wrong, correct me of course.

What do you mean by double-crossing?  Can you show an example?
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« Reply #29 on: September 07, 2009, 05:05:59 PM »

He is still blessing in the Eastern Orthodox manner, since he is using a cross.

The way he's doing it is very Armenian.  You guys must have gotten it from us.   Grin

Quote
The double-crossing only occurs, if I'm not wrong, only when the bishop isn't using any cross, relic, icon etc. to bless. In case I'm wrong, correct me of course.

What do you mean by double-crossing?  Can you show an example?

Like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjRVWN0Gtrg

Anyway, we didn't derive it from Armenians... we all derived it from common tradition, which is very different, don't you think?

In Christ,  Alex
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« Reply #30 on: September 07, 2009, 05:18:12 PM »

OK, now I know what you mean by double crossing.  Thanks for the video.   

I've never seen an Armenian bishop or priest do that.  I don't think I've ever seen that in any other OO Church either.  It looks cool though.   Smiley

And you're right.  The other way of blessing must be from a very ancient and common tradition.

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« Reply #31 on: September 07, 2009, 05:37:47 PM »

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuLtMUbCpGY

At the end of this video you see an Ethiopian bishop giving a blessing.  The Ethiopians have the most beautiful blessing crosses!
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« Reply #32 on: September 07, 2009, 06:24:20 PM »


and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father's right hand.

Huh? Where does this idea come from?
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« Reply #33 on: September 08, 2009, 07:30:03 AM »


and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father's right hand.

Huh? Where does this idea come from?

I don't know where this interpretation comes from, but my personal explanation was also the victory of good (right hand) over evil (the left hand). Others discuss the use of different directions saying that it depends on the order of the words "Holy Spirit" in the liturgical language, so that "Holy" is associated with the right hand, and "Spirit" with the left hand. This explanation seems so inconsistent to me that I immediately forgot where I read it in the past... LOL

In Christ,   Alex

PS: Nice vid, Salpy! The blessing cross is indeed beautiful!
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"Also in the Catholic Church itself we take great care that we hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and properly Catholic" (St. Vincent of Lérins, "The Commonitory")
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