The sign of the cross is a common liturgical practice by Christians of various churches, mainly (but not only) of the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican (Episcopal) Church. It is used at the beginning and end of prayers and ceremonies, and from time to time as a stand-alone practice that expresses a request for God's blessing. Many Christians also make the sign of the cross when they hear the name of the Holy Trinity.
Method 1 of 2: Western Tradition
Step 1. Follow this tradition for the Latin rite and in Protestant churches
This method is most common in the Western Catholic Church and in the Protestant traditions that make the sign of the cross, including most Anglican and Lutheran churches.
Step 2. Raise your right hand
Many believers make the sign of the cross with an open hand, the five fingers remembering the five wounds of Christ. Others join their index and middle fingers and lift them up, which symbolizes the divine and human nature of Jesus. The thumb is usually bent and touching the ring finger in the two-finger option.
There are many other ways to use your hand to signal. There is no requirement to position your hand in a certain way, but most leaders encourage the faithful to follow their congregation's tradition unless you have a spiritual benefit in some other way
Step 3. Place the fingertips of your right hand against your forehead
The sign of the cross is done in many contexts, both privately and in the church. At the beginning of the prayer or when blessing himself outside the church, he is usually accompanied by the invocation of the Holy Trinity. Start with: "In the name of the Father…"
Or, in Latin: "In nomine Patris…"
Step 4. Touch the middle of the chest
Lower your hand to the region of the sternum. Say, "Son's…" Some people place their left hand on their chest during the sign and place their right hand slightly above the other.
In Latin: "…et Filii…"
Step 5. Touch the front of your left shoulder and say:
"And of the Spirit…"
In Latin: "…et Spiritus…"
Step 6. Touch the right shoulder at roughly the same height and location, saying:
In Latin: "…Sancti."
Step 7. Say:
"Amen". You can join hands.
In many Latin countries, it is common to make a small cross with your thumb (see below) and kiss it before saying Amen. In the Philippines, the gesture evolved into just the touch of the thumb on the chin
Step 8. Learn the little cross
Some of the early Christians to bless themselves formed a cross with their thumb and forefinger on their foreheads. Today, the Roman Catholic Church makes the same sign before beginning the reading of the Gospel at mass. Make the small cross on the forehead first, then on the mouth and last on the chest.
There are many interpretations for this blessing. A common interpretation is that which calls for the faithful to approach the Gospel with an open mind, confess it with their mouth and keep it in their hearts
Step 9. Make the sign of the cross when entering the church
If you are part of the Latin rite, it is a tradition to make the sign when entering the church. Dip your fingers in the source of holy water and then make the gesture. You can make the cross big or small.
Many Catholics also make the sign of the cross when passing in front of a church and after receiving Communion
Method 2 of 2: Byzantine Tradition
Step 1. Bring the index, thumb and middle finger of your right hand together
In the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Byzantine Catholic Churches, most people do the blessing with three fingers. The fingers represent the three Persons of the Trinity gathered in God. Bring the other two fingers together in the palm of your hand to represent the two natures of Jesus Christ (meaning that he is completely human and completely divine). This ancient practice probably started in the 400s.
Step 2. Move your hand from your forehead to your upper belly
First, bring your hand to your forehead and then down to your solar plexus. Some people put their hands on their chests, just as in the Western tradition, but others worry that it might look like an inverted cross with a shorter end (the inverted cross traditionally symbolizes humility but is used by anti-Christian groups.)
Instead, it is possible to reach down to the ground, which is sometimes done during Great Easter Lent or at times of trial
Step 3. Cross from right to left
Unlike the Latin tradition, the Orthodox cross starts on the right shoulder and ends on the left. This is a tradition of many centuries and, until a time in the past, was shared by the Western Church.
Step 4. Recite the blessing
There are several ways to do this. Here are two examples, separated by slashes to mark the time to move the hand:
- "Lord / Jesus Christ / Son of God / have mercy on us."
- "My hope is the Father. / My refuge is the Son. / My protection is the Holy Spirit. / Most Holy Trinity, glory to Thee."
- The words or "formulas" can be said out loud or silently, depending on the situation.
- Middle Eastern Orthodox Churches often make the sign of the cross from left to right, just as in the Western tradition, but sometimes use the choice of fingers from the Byzantine Church or from the traditions themselves (such as the finger to symbolize the unique nature of Jesus Christ). The same applies to the Byzantine Orthodox Churches located in these same countries, that is, in the Alexandrian, Armenian and Syrian rites.