Different understandings on Making Sign of Cross by different Traditions
In the Holy Tradition of Christianity, making of sign of cross is a rich and meaningful practice. For We orthodox Christians it’s a sacrament, because when oneself make a sign of Cross, this action itself purifying that person, because making the sign of the Cross sums up the whole Christian faith in a single ritual act. The sign of the cross is made on one’s body, the body, mind and soul of that person are consecrated to God and that person will be protected from the trap of Satan and visible means can be achieved invisible grace.
But in each tradition of churches having different style of making of cross. We Malankara Orthodox Christians, will put together the fingers of right hand symbolizes the Holy Trinity, touching the forehead first and then moving down to the chest, then moving from the left shoulder, to the right shoulder. At the same time, the Byzantine Orthodox Churches like Russian Orthodox,make the sign of The Cross from right to left., it’s basically a difference in culture/cultural understanding. While we make the sign of cross from left to right emphasizing the He incarnated so that we who were sinful (represented by the left side) could taste salvation (symbolized by right side). However, in the Byzantine Churches, the meaning is that the Gospel of salvation was first proclaimed to Jews (symbolized by right side) and then passed onto Gentiles (symbolized by left).
While the Roman Catholics do it in a different way, After making the cross with their right hand they kiss their hand. Asked a explanation about this to Fr.Milton George, who is a Catholic Priest and a friend of mine. Achen gave this explanation…”The sign of the cross is closely tied to baptism. Jesus told the apostles, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that when Catholics are baptized “the sign of the cross, on the threshold of the celebration, marks with the imprint of Christ the one who is going to belong to him and signifies the grace of the Redemption Christ won for us by his cross” .Thereafter, each time we make the sign of the cross we remember that we belong to Christ.
The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the sign of the cross: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father. The sign of the cross strengthens us in temptations and difficulties.Why do Roman Catholics make the Sign of the Cross when they say, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”?Making the Sign of the Cross may be the most common of all actions that Catholics do. We make it when we begin and end our prayers; we make it when we enter and leave a church; we start each Mass with it; we may even make it when we hear the Holy Name taken in vain and when we pass a church where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved.
But do you know why we make the Sign of the Cross? The answer is both simple and profound.
In the Sign of the Cross, we profess the deepest mysteries of the Christian Faith: the Trinity–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–and the saving work of Christ on the Cross. The combination of the words and the action are a creed–a statement of belief. We mark ourselves as Christians through the Sign of the Cross. And yet, because we make the Sign of the Cross so often, we may be tempted to rush through it, to say the words without listening to them, to ignore the symbolism of tracing the shape of the Cross on our own bodies. A creed is not simply a statement of belief–it is a vow to defend that belief, even if it means following Our Lord and Savior to our own cross.”Whatever the understanding may be, we ought to remember that while making the sign of cross all our faculties (mental and physical) are dedicated to the Triune God.