Making the Sign of the Cross | Tradition Explained

You'll notice that Orthodox Christians cross themselves a lot and that we make the sign of the cross a little differently than other Christian denominations. Here we'll explain how and why we cross ourselves so you can better understand the hidden symbolism behind this ancient gesture.

How and why to cross yourself the Orthodox way:

  1. Pinch your thumb and first two fingers together in a point, and rest your last two fingers flat against your palm. The three fingers pinched together represent the Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three persons forming one God. The two fingers in the palm represent the two natures of Christ, both human and divine. This reminds In this way, we remind ourselves who God is and that he was incarnated as a human being for the sake of our salvation.

  2. We now touch our forehead, then our torso, tracing the vertical part of the cross. From our torso, we bring our hand up to our right shoulder, touching it. We finish placing the cross on ourself by touching our left shoulder. Again, there is a symbolic reason we touch these specific points. Jesus has told us to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbour as yourself." Luke 10:27. We touch our forehead to represent our mind, our torso to represent our heart and soul, and our shoulders to represent our strength. In this way, we're dedicating all our faculties to the sign of the cross.

You may be wondering, by why cross ourselves at all?

Christ sacrificed himself on the cross for the salvation of humankind, and in the process, conquered death. The crucifix, which was used as weapon against Christ by men, was transformed by Christ into a weapon against the devil. The cross is a sign of humility and victory! When we make it over ourselves, we are asking for God's blessing.

You'll see Orthodox Christians cross themselves all the time: when entering a church, when saying a prayer, when venerating an icon, when mentioning the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, before a meal, before an exam, before a plane takes off - the list goes on. There's never a wrong time to do the sign of the cross as long as it is done with sincerity. It is a way to dedicate ourselves to God and seek his blessing and protection over us.

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