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Author Topic: Sign of the cross... does it matter ?  (Read 335 times) Average Rating: 0
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Urban_Monk
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« on: May 14, 2014, 02:15:31 AM »

So how did the way of doing the sign of the cross become different for Catholics and Orthodox ? And does the way you do it matter ?
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Nephi
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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2014, 02:25:26 AM »

So how did the way of doing the sign of the cross become different for Catholics and Orthodox ?

I don't know the specifics, but it's worth mentioning that there are different ways within Catholicism and within Orthodoxy.

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And does the way you do it matter ?

One way isn't superior to all others, but one should do it according to their respective Church's tradition. For example, it makes no sense for a Latin to start crossing themselves like an Old Believer.
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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2014, 11:37:34 AM »

So how did the way of doing the sign of the cross become different for Catholics and Orthodox ? And does the way you do it matter ?
This article from the Catholic Encyclopedia gives a history of the changes.
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2014, 11:45:51 AM »

So how did the way of doing the sign of the cross become different for Catholics and Orthodox ?

I don't know the specifics, but it's worth mentioning that there are different ways within Catholicism and within Orthodoxy.

Quote
And does the way you do it matter ?

One way isn't superior to all others, but one should do it according to their respective Church's tradition. For example, it makes no sense for a Latin to start crossing themselves like an Old Believer.

I attend Catholic mass maybe once a year because nobody else in my family goes with my mother.  When I go, I use the Latin form of the sign of the cross.  Why would I make a show of myself?  So yeah, I completely agree.
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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2014, 11:53:25 AM »

The Orthodox way is more ancient, but not the most ancient. I heard that the Roman signing was medieval in origin.

Orientals and Old Believers do it differently than Byzantines.

I don't think it really matters, unless the meaning behind the sign of the cross is lost.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2014, 11:53:44 AM by xOrthodox4Christx » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2014, 12:10:24 PM »

I attend Catholic mass maybe once a year because nobody else in my family goes with my mother.  When I go, I use the Latin form of the sign of the cross.  Why would I make a show of myself?  So yeah, I completely agree.

Whenever I attend a Catholic Mass I cross myself like I normally do. Absolutely nobody notices that I'm doing it differently (the directions - there are Latin Catholics that hold their hands the same way as Byzantines), and if they do notice they probably just think I'm an Eastern Catholic or something.

Now, if I crossed like an Old Believer it'd probably draw more attention.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2014, 12:10:52 PM by Nephi » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2014, 12:36:03 PM »

I think following your own tradition, regardless of the name on the front of the building that you happen to be in on any particular Sunday, is what I'd do. Things have changed over the years, and there is something to be said for 'doing in Rome what the Romans do,'  but there's also something to be said for having a line you stop at and worshiping God how you know best and how best works for you. Similarly I also wouldn't say 'holy Ghost,' the filioque, or other things. These things (or at least most of them) are not in any way some kind of judgment about superiority, it's just about keeping my mind on God rather than spend it trying to fit in and learn 50 new variations. Then again, maybe I would cross myself in the Latin manner after all, out of pride, for fear that if I do it the Eastern Orthodox way the people next to me would think: "Man, this guy doesn't even know how to cross himself."   police
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« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2014, 04:17:51 PM »

I attend Catholic mass maybe once a year because nobody else in my family goes with my mother.  When I go, I use the Latin form of the sign of the cross.  Why would I make a show of myself?  So yeah, I completely agree.

Whenever I attend a Catholic Mass I cross myself like I normally do. Absolutely nobody notices that I'm doing it differently (the directions - there are Latin Catholics that hold their hands the same way as Byzantines), and if they do notice they probably just think I'm an Eastern Catholic or something.

Now, if I crossed like an Old Believer it'd probably draw more attention.

If you're sitting beside a Catholic, they'll notice if they're paying attention at all.  So, they wouldn't notice you crossing yourself like an Orthodox but would notice the two finger Old Believer way?  What about if you crossed yourself in the Slavic way and bowed your head each time?  Would people notice then?

What a silly point to contend with.  It's a matter up to the individual to which I said what I do to not draw attention or try to be 'different'.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2014, 04:24:51 PM by Hamartolos » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2014, 04:28:18 PM »

What a silly point to contend with.  It's a matter up to the individual.

Not really.  Though it is true that different regional traditions developed the sign differently, and while like Asteriktos one can argue about the merits of following one's own custom vs following local custom where it differs from yours, it's not the case that the sign of the Cross is a silly point of contention left up to the individual's discretion.  IIRC, St Basil used the example of the sign of the Cross to argue in favour of unwritten but nevertheless fully authoritative "tradition", and we know that other Fathers wrote of its significance, power, and even admonished their hearers for not doing it properly. 
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« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2014, 04:35:22 PM »

What a silly point to contend with.  It's a matter up to the individual.

Not really.  Though it is true that different regional traditions developed the sign differently, and while like Asteriktos one can argue about the merits of following one's own custom vs following local custom where it differs from yours, it's not the case that the sign of the Cross is a silly point of contention left up to the individual's discretion.  IIRC, St Basil used the example of the sign of the Cross to argue in favour of unwritten but nevertheless fully authoritative "tradition", and we know that other Fathers wrote of its significance, power, and even admonished their hearers for not doing it properly.  

Two things.  A.) I'm talking about when you are in another church especially when it's one that you came from.  The Orthodox custom is my custom now but how much does it really matter that I go 'left to right' or 'right to left' when in a Roman Catholic Church?  I use the Catholic way out of respect for my mother and so I don't draw attention to myself.  

B.) The silly point of contention I referred to was in the fact that I said what I do to not make a 'show' of myself to which Nephi disagreed and said nobody notices.  I wasn't referring to making the sign of the cross in the Orthodox or Catholic way as the point of contention.  How could you possibly know what people in my former parish notice?  Also, why would they notice the Old Believer way over the Greek or Russian way?
« Last Edit: May 14, 2014, 04:37:07 PM by Hamartolos » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2014, 05:27:04 PM »

If you're sitting beside a Catholic, they'll notice if they're paying attention at all.  So, they wouldn't notice you crossing yourself like an Orthodox but would notice the two finger Old Believer way?  What about if you crossed yourself in the Slavic way and bowed your head each time?  Would people notice then?

What a silly point to contend with.  It's a matter up to the individual to which I said what I do to not draw attention or try to be 'different'.

I don't think anyone's ever noticed that I've crossed differently, especially since people only cross a few times in the OF Masses I end up at.

Don't Old Believers cross themselves with their palms facing outward? That's why I think it would be more noticeable.
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« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2014, 06:42:32 PM »

Don't Old Believers cross themselves with their palms facing outward? That's why I think it would be more noticeable.

Except for the re-positioning of the fingers, Old Believers cross themselves in an identical fashion to the Orthodox. Unless you're specifically staring at someone's fingers, I'd imagine it's indistinguishable.
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« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2014, 06:48:27 PM »

Don't Old Believers cross themselves with their palms facing outward? That's why I think it would be more noticeable.

Except for the re-positioning of the fingers, Old Believers cross themselves in an identical fashion to the Orthodox. Unless you're specifically staring at someone's fingers, I'd imagine it's indistinguishable.

Oops, my bad. I'm not sure why I was under the impression that it was so different.
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« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2014, 06:54:08 PM »

What a silly point to contend with.  It's a matter up to the individual.

Not really.  Though it is true that different regional traditions developed the sign differently, and while like Asteriktos one can argue about the merits of following one's own custom vs following local custom where it differs from yours, it's not the case that the sign of the Cross is a silly point of contention left up to the individual's discretion.  IIRC, St Basil used the example of the sign of the Cross to argue in favour of unwritten but nevertheless fully authoritative "tradition", and we know that other Fathers wrote of its significance, power, and even admonished their hearers for not doing it properly. 

I'm wondering about something here, if you could clarify. Diversity apparently existed in the Church, though obviously not diversity to the point of a hundred different variations. Let's say that there are 4-5 variations. Do you have a problem with something choosing one of those variations, perhaps not willy nilly, but nonetheless according to personal preference? I am thinking more of visiting other parishes, not so much picking and choosing in your home/main parish, where it would seem odd if everyone did it one way and you chose to do another. But for visiting, can one choose in your opinion? Or do you think that St. Basil (and others?) had a specific form of crossing yourself by the mid-to-late 4th century? Or are you rather arguing that one simply can't choose, that it is too important or linked with the mind/will of the Church, and that one must be obedient to a certain form or practice?
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« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2014, 07:52:58 PM »

This is an interesting discussion.  I never really thought about many of the points being brought up here.  My question is, "Is there one authorized way and how did it come about, in order to support its execution of crossing ones self above all others?"
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« Reply #15 on: May 14, 2014, 08:04:50 PM »

I'm wondering about something here, if you could clarify. Diversity apparently existed in the Church, though obviously not diversity to the point of a hundred different variations. Let's say that there are 4-5 variations. Do you have a problem with something choosing one of those variations, perhaps not willy nilly, but nonetheless according to personal preference? I am thinking more of visiting other parishes, not so much picking and choosing in your home/main parish, where it would seem odd if everyone did it one way and you chose to do another. But for visiting, can one choose in your opinion?

Since you asked for my opinion, I'd say choosing is acceptable within limits (e.g., choose to observe "local" practice or your own, but not some third practice).  I've visited EO churches and crossed myself in either the EO or OO manner: my rule of thumb has been to stick with my practice if doing so would not be looked at negatively or lead to confusion, and otherwise to switch.  When I visit RC churches, the sign is the same other than the position of the fingers, and so I will cross myself when entering and exiting out of reverence for the Cross enshrined there, but I don't recite/chant prayers with them, I don't sign myself when they do during services, etc.  I used to, but I more or less spontaneously "grew away" from that years ago, so it's not really an issue for me and no one seems to be offended by it at the traditional Masses I visit (certainly it hasn't stopped them from asking me to lead the pre-Mass Rosary!). 

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Or do you think that St. Basil (and others?) had a specific form of crossing yourself by the mid-to-late 4th century? Or are you rather arguing that one simply can't choose, that it is too important or linked with the mind/will of the Church, and that one must be obedient to a certain form or practice?

I'm not sure what form the sign took in St Basil's day, I'd have to look through some books and see if we know that information.  At the Third Hour on Fridays, we sing some hymns in honour of the Cross, and they are fairly old because "the sign" they mention is the signing of the forehead with the thumb which we find referenced in some early writings.  If I had to guess right now, I would think this was St Basil's "sign". 

My argument wasn't that one cannot choose at all (as I hope is now clear), but merely that the possibility of choosing and the existence of variety does not mean that this is "an individual matter" or a "silly point" of no consequence.  Besides the fact that just about every variety of signing has some later "theological explanation" attached to its movements and finger posture (and thus "switching" may represent a bad theology in a particular "system"), the existence of the sign itself was used as an early proof of "unwritten tradition" that is nevertheless authoritative and "canonical" in the Church and probably also of the principle lex orandi, lex credendi.   
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