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Author Topic: Do any Roman Catholics still make the sign of the Cross this way?  (Read 3300 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: July 14, 2005, 01:32:13 AM »

This may sound a bit odd but I have been wondering about it for a while. When my dad made the sign of the Cross, before he began his conversion to Orthodoxy, he would always have the index and middle fingers extended together while having his thumb, ring finger and pinky clasped in his palm. Basically he would make the sign of the Cross with two fingers but still left shoulder to right like all RCs. A few years ago I was going through our attic and I came across my dad's 1950's St.Joseph's Missal from parochial school and it showed how to make the sign of the Cross properly and low and behold it said to use two fingers when crossing oneself. Well you can imagine how suprised I was when I started noticing that none of the RCs I knew made the sign of the cross this way but instead used five fingers.
What I am curious about is if anyone else here has known RCs who make the sign of the Cross the way I previously described.

P.S. I am not bashing RCs who use five fingers I am just curious.
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« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2005, 01:50:07 AM »

My mom was taught to cross herself with her hand in the Orthodox position when she converted to be a RC in college. The way you describe is the Old Believer style of crossing yourself actually!
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« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2005, 01:52:12 AM »

  Yeah, I've known some Catholics to cross themselves with their hand in the same shape as ours, but I've not seen the two finger method.  I actually like the open hand, but since the Church tells me not to do it...
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« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2005, 09:27:55 AM »

I have always (when invoking the Holy Trinity) crossed myself with two fingers from left to right.
But, now that I married my Greek Orthodox wife and when I attend an Orthodox or Eastern Catholic Church as a sign of respect  I use two fingers and a thumb and go from right to left.

hate to use the cliche here but "when in Rome"

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« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2005, 11:35:13 AM »

 I have been using the Eastern way for the last 3 years or so, what I did before is a blur...

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« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2005, 05:33:27 PM »

I am Roman Catholic and I also use 2 fingers. I honestly haven't looked into the appropriate method perscribed. I try to correct it when I can because I picked it up from a priest, not for any other reason. Although what is it about using 5 fingers that is disrespectful or not right? I'm curious.

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« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2005, 01:03:58 AM »

I am Roman Catholic and I make the sign of the cross in the Orthodox manner, as was taught me by an Orthodox priest I used to know - first two fingers join together with the thumb (representing the Trinity) and my ring finger and pinky tucked towards the base of my thumb (representing the two natures of our Lord).  Ever since I learned to cross myself in this manner it seemed silly to do it any other way.  There are some who cross themselves in a rather sloppy manner.
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« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2005, 10:58:02 PM »

[quote author=Νικολάος Διάκονος link=topic=6648.msg86958#msg86958 date=1121320207]
My mom was taught to cross herself with her hand in the Orthodox position when she converted to be a RC in college. The way you describe is the Old Believer style of crossing yourself actually!
[/quote]

I am suprised that RCs decided to use the Orthodox position of the hand when making the sign of the Cross.
As for using two fingers instead of three and the Old Believers: I am not sure there is a relation though I have heard the use of two fingers is actually older. The Old Believers often use the this quote as the reason why they use two fingers:
Quote
A dogmatic explanation from Saint Theodoret:
This is how to bless someone with your hand and make the sign of the cross over them. Hold three fingers, as equals, together, to represent the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These are not three gods, but one God in Trinity. The names are separate, but the divinity one. The Father was never incarnate; the Son incarnate, but not created; the Holy Spirit neither incarnate nor created, but issued from the Godhead: three in a single divinity. Divinity is one force and has one honor. They receive one obeisance from all creation, both angels and people. This the decree for those three fingers.
You should hold the other two fingers slightly bent, not completely straight. This is because these represent the dual nature of Christ, divine and human. God in His divinity, and human in His incarnation, yet perfect in both. The upper finger represents divinity, and the lower humanity; this way salvation goes from the higher finger to the lower. So is the bending of the fingers interpreted, for the worship of Heaven comes down for our salvation., This is how you must cross yourselves and give a blessing, as the holy fathers have commanded.

Also I found this at www.newadvent.org
Quote
It appears on the whole probable that the general introduction of our present larger cross (from brow to breast and from shoulder to shoulder) was an indirect result of the Monophysite controversy. The use of the thumb alone or the single forefinger, which so long as only a small cross was traced upon the forehead was almost inevitable, seems to have given way for symbolic reasons to the use of two fingers (the forefinger and middle finger, or thumb and forefinger) as typifying the two natures and two wills in Jesus Christ. But if two fingers were to be employed, the large cross, in which forehead, breast, etc. were merely touched, suggested itself as the only natural gesture. Indeed some large movement of the sort was required to make it perceptible that a man was using two fingers rather than one. At a somewhat later date, throughout the greater part of the East, three fingers, or rather the thumb and two fingers were displayed, while the ring and little finger were folded back upon the palm. These two were held to symbolize the two natures or wills in Christ, while the extended three denoted the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. At the same time these fingers were so held as to indicate the common abbreviation I X C (Iesous Christos Soter), the forefinger representing the I, the middle finger crossed with the thumb standing for the X and the bent middle finger serving to suggest the C. In Armenia, however, the sign of the cross made with two fingers is still retained to the present day. Much of this symbolism passed to the West, though at a later date.

On the whole it seems probable that the ultimate prevalence of the larger cross is due to an instruction of Leo IV in the middle of the ninth century. "Sign the chalice and the host", he wrote, "with a right cross and not with circles or with a varying of the fingers, but with two fingers stretched out and the thumb hidden within them, by which the Trinity is symbolized. Take heed to make this sign rightly, for otherwise you can bless nothing" (see Georgi, "Liturg. Rom. Pont.", III, 37).
So apparently the use of two extended fingers came before the extension of three.

You may want to read the whole article particularly the sections that tell about the strong evidence that the West made the Sign of the Cross like the East up until the Middle Ages.
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13785a.htm

Yeah, I've known some Catholics to cross themselves with their hand in the same shape as ours, but I've not seen the two finger method. I actually like the open hand, but since the Church tells me not to do it...
I cannot come up with some great argument against using the open hand or having alll five fingers extended except to that I can think of no theological reason for it. The extension of two fingers or three clearly relates to the Trinity and the Two Natures of Christ but five fingers seems to have no reason.

I have always (when invoking the Holy Trinity) crossed myself with two fingers from left to right.
But, now that I married my Greek Orthodox wife and when I attend an Orthodox or Eastern Catholic Church as a sign of respect I use two fingers and a thumb and go from right to left.

hate to use the cliche here but "when in Rome"

Brad
Did you grow up being taught this? Did others at the RC parish you attended make the sign of the Cross this way? And, out of curiosity, what part of the country are we talking about? By the way
Quote
hate to use the cliche here but "when in Rome"
I thought that was hilarious! Cheesy

I have been using the Eastern way for the last 3 years or so, what I did before is a blur...

james
Does anyone at your Latin Mass parish find it odd? Just curious. Most RC traditionalists seem to be sticklers about that sort of thing.

I am Roman Catholic and I also use 2 fingers. I honestly haven't looked into the appropriate method perscribed. I try to correct it when I can because I picked it up from a priest, not for any other reason. Although what is it about using 5 fingers that is disrespectful or not right? I'm curious.

The Least
~Victor
Same questions I asked Intrigued Latin: Did you grow up being taught this? Did others at the RC parish you attended make the sign of the Cross this way? And, out of curiosity, what part of the country are we talking about?

Also I am not saying it is disrespectful to extend all five fingers but I am at a loss as to the reasoning behind it. Believe me I would never go up to an RC and say, "You are doing it wrong! Let me show you the right way."

I am Roman Catholic and I make the sign of the cross in the Orthodox manner, as was taught me by an Orthodox priest I used to know - first two fingers join together with the thumb (representing the Trinity) and my ring finger and pinky tucked towards the base of my thumb (representing the two natures of our Lord). Ever since I learned to cross myself in this manner it seemed silly to do it any other way. There are some who cross themselves in a rather sloppy manner.
I used to think that too until I started reading more about the Russian Old Believers. I was suprised to find that the extension of two fingers has a Patristic basis. Of course I think their narrow adherence to this method of making the sign of the Cross was a bit silly but I can see why they took the issue seriously.

I have also been looking into the history of the sign of the Cross because it is an issue in the Orthodox Western Rite. Various parishes specifically ask the congregation to use three extended fingers and from right shoulder to left while others, such as St.Mark's in Denver, allow them to go from left to right but still using three extended fingers. At first I thought they should be made to adhere to the Eastern way of making the sign of the Cross but from further study I have come to realize that they should not only be allowed to go from left to right but extend two fingers rather than three as was common in the West and, apparently, still is found among many RCs.
I want to thank all of you for responding and if you find out anything else or know anyone else who makes the sign of the Cross this way please post.
Also, I am pretty sure it was not the St.Joseph's Missal that I mentioned in my previous post. I will do some rummaging in my parents attic and see if I can find the book again. Unfortunately I have no scanner so I cannot show you the page but I will find out the name of the book and its publisher.
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« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2005, 11:43:59 PM »

Five fingers for the five wounds of Christ.
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« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2005, 12:21:09 AM »

Five fingers for the five wounds of Christ.
AHHH!!!
Thank You! Now I am not sure what to think. I am not a bishop but I wonder why not allow people to use five fingers if that is the reasoning behind it? Of course I can see the argument that it is more important to affirm your faith in the Trinity and two natures of Christ and that there needs to be uniformity in worship but if the reason for using five fingers is the five wounds of Christ I can certainly see nothing wrong with people making the sign of the Cross that way.
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« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2005, 02:04:10 AM »

Four fingers for the 4 Evangelists
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« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2005, 09:04:43 PM »

I'm Latin Rite Catholic, and I can't remember exactly what I was taught by my church in regard to the sign of the cross, but I remember until recently doing it with the fore finger and the middle finger together, and the thumb casually resting on the other two fingers.ÂÂ  For the past few months I have been doing the sign of the cross more or less the Orthodox/Eastern way.ÂÂ  

I personally don't think that the way one crosses oneself makes a large difference, so long as the symbolism is intact and presserves orthodox Christological teaching.  Perhaps one form of the signing of the cross is better when different heresies are around.  ÃƒÆ’‚  

The modern Catholic Church unfortunately does not emphasize symbolism as much as it should.ÂÂ  I think that the Tridentine Latin Mass, for one, is more symbolic of Catholic belief than is the modern Novus Ordo Mass.ÂÂ  

One thing that I don't understand is why the West crosses itself left to right, whereas the East crosses itself right to left.ÂÂ  When and where did this come in?ÂÂ  How did the early Christians sign themselves?ÂÂ  

In any case, my favorite form is the Vulcan sign of the cross--the pinky and fourth finger together represent the two natures of Christ united but with no confusion or mingling; the index and middle finger together represent the two wills of Christ, his divine and human will, but neither conflicting with the other; the V created by the four fingers represents the Latin word "victoria," and it is a symbol of Christ's victory over death and sin.ÂÂ  The thumb represents the oneness of God.ÂÂ  

 Cheesy
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« Reply #12 on: July 21, 2005, 11:35:38 AM »

Quote
One thing that I don't understand is why the West crosses itself left to right, whereas the East crosses itself right to left.  When and where did this come in?  How did the early Christians sign themselves?
There is actually an interesting, tiny article on this http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/crossing_self.aspx but I am not convinced by its stating that the earlier, more ancient way of making the sign of the Cross was from right to left. The Oriental churches, as far as I know, all make the sign of the Cross from left to right like the Roman Catholics. If right to left were the more ancient and universal form I would have a hard time understanding how churches such as Ethiopia and Armenia, serparated by thousands of miles, could have obstinately chaged the form from right to left to left to right just because of the Roman Catholics. Rather the practice of the Oriental churches making the sign of the Cross from left to right indicates there never was a universal agreement on whether it should be right to left or left to right and that it is impossible to ascertain which developed first.
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« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2005, 04:51:19 AM »

SACRED SIGNS AND ACTIVE PARTICIPATION AT MASS
What Do These Actions Mean, and Why Are They So Important?
Rev. Cassian Folsom, OSB
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
FATHER CASSIAN FOLSOM is a Benedictine monk who is vice-rector of the Pontifical University of Sant' Anselmo and pro-president of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome.

Quote
You know how the Byzantine tradition makes the sign of the cross: with the thumb, forefinger and middle finger held together and the last two fingers held together against the palm.

The three fingers symbolize the Trinity, and the two fingers symbolized the double nature of Christ: divine and human. Making the sign of the cross then, becomes a mini-catechesis, a self-reminder of the most basic mysteries of our faith.

But the way of holding your fingers is not the only difference. The eastern tradition makes the sign of the cross from right to left, whereas we make it from left to right. Why?

It's interesting to note that in the 13th century, Pope Innocent III (contemporary with St. Francis of Assisi) instructed the faithful on the meaning of the sign of the cross in these words:  "The sign of the cross is made with three fingers, because the signing is done together with the invocation of the Trinity. ...This is how it is done: from above to below, and from the right to the left, because Christ descended from the heavens to the earth, and from the Jews (right) he passed to the Gentiles (left)".

Note that Pope Innocent is describing what the custom was in the West. In the 13th century the East and the West still made the sign of the cross in the same way. The pope goes on to say: "Others, however, make the sign of the cross from the left to the right, because from misery (left) we must cross over to glory (right), just as Christ crossed over Paradise. [Some priests] do it this way so that they and the people will be signing themselves in the same way. You can easily verify this picture the priest facing the people for the blessing - when we make the sign of the cross over the people, it is from left to right..."

So the people, imitating the blessing of the priest, began to sign themselves from left to right. Be that as it may, centuries have gone by since then, and we in the West make the sign of the cross from left to right, with the palm open.

Does time delete holy tradition? I wonder if people stopped veneration Icons would this mean that it was a positive development of the Church that shiould be followed? I believe that although the method of the Cross is not as important as other traditions, it is a very important issue.

I know that until recently in Scotland and Ireland people were still doing the sign of the cross in the 'normal' way (as opposed to excentric). The five and four finger method are not the traditional methods, nor is the signing of oneself from the left to righ the norm or common custom. It was excentric to do it this way as Pope Pius III explained.

In Christ

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