Friday, June 10, 2011

Things Every Orthodox Should Know

       The sign of the cross
a.       The Cross has been used by Christians from the early centuries as the most sacred emblem of the Christian Church, because it was made holy by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died on the Cross to save us all from sin and death.  That is why we venerate the Cross, kiss it, place it in our churches and homes, and wear it around our necks – so that we should never forget Jesus' love and death for us.
b.       A person looking around on a Sunday morning may notice that different people cross themselves at different times. To a certain extent, when to cross oneself is a matter of personal piety and not of dogma. However, there are times in the service when crossing oneself is called for.

To cross: when you hear one of the variations of the phrase "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit"; before venerating an icon, Gospel, or Cross; when blessed with an icon, Cross, Gospel, or Chalice; entering and exiting the temple; when passing before the Altar

Not necessary to Cross: (only bowing of the head): when blessed with hand (as in "Peace be unto all"), or censed. In receiving a blessing from a bishop or priest one does not make the sign of the Cross beforehand. "In this way ought we to distinguish between reverence toward holy things and toward persons"
c.       We make the sign of the cross when we pray.  In order to make the sign of the Holy and Life-giving Cross, the Orthodox Christian must join the tips of the thumb and two first fingers of the right hand, in memory of and to form the Holy Trinity.  The union of the tips of these three fingers signify the equality and union of the Holy Trinity, at the same time, unmixed and unconfused.  We bend the remaining fingers into our palm, in order to represent the two natures of Jesus Christ – True God and True Man.  We raise our fingers to our forehead to respect the Holy Trinity ("Father, Son and Word of God, without beginning, and the Holy and Life-giving Spirit, Who together with the Father is worshiped and glorified") and make holy our minds and thoughts.  We touch our abdomen signifying that the same Son of God descended from the heavens down to earth and was incarnated by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, becoming Man for our salvation.  We touch our right shoulder (representing the right hand of God), then left, signifying that our Savior Jesus Christ stretched His spotless hands upon the cross for our sins and iniquities.  He descended into Hades, then ascended into the heavens and sat at the right hand of the Father. 
d.      With this sign, we give our mind, our heart and our strength to the service of God.

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