Making the sign of the cross is a ritual request for a blessing made by many Christians. It is common to invoke the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit simultaneously. Until the twelfth century, both the western and eastern churches made the sign of the cross similarly - from above to below and then from right to left. However, western churches gradually changed to a left to right pattern, which is our current Episcopal tradition. Pope Innocent III commented that the newer formula (from left to right) mimicked the passing from misery (left) to glory (right). Current Orthodox and Roman Catholic sources curiously argue that their opposite actions are responding to the motions of a priest’s blessing. Catholics note that the priest makes the sign of the cross over the people from left to right, and laypersons crossing themselves from left to right “imitate” the priest. Orthodox counter that parishioners are “mirroring” the priest by crossing themselves right to left. Orthodox bunch the larger two fingers and their thumb together to symbolize the trinity while the two smallest fingers are bent against the palm symbolizing Christ’s dual nature. Many Catholics use an open hand symbolizing the five wounds of Christ.
~ Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
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