Sign of the Cross

During a Coptic Orthodox service the sign of the cross is performed several times.  What is the meaning or purpose of the sign of the cross?  What is the proper way to make the sign of the cross? And when is it proper to make the sign of the cross?


  • No one knows the teachings on the Sign of the Cross or resources where that information may be found?
  • Hi,
    The Cross is meant to symbolize salvation and strength for it reminds us of how Christ died to save us and that he conquered the devil. Anytime is proper to make the sign of the cross... whenever you need strength, wisdom, or guidance, or when you're praying. In the Coptic Church we make the sign of the cross by putting our thumb, index, and middle fingers together (symbolize the Trinity) and then go from our heads to our torsos and then the left shoulder to the right shoulder.

    Remember 1 Corinthians 1:18 "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

    Hope this helps a little bit!

    God Bless
  • it's a big subject, justin. people started doing it very early in Christian history and the oriental orthodox churches (eg us) and the catholics do forehead, lower chest, left shoulder, right shoulder, as Jesus came down from heaven and took us from a sinful state (left) to righteousness (right). the eastern orthodox take the cross a bit lower to the upper abdomen (just custom) and go from the right to left shoulder (our sins are as far away from us as the east to the west, taking the sins 'away' to the left).

    i have yet to find anyone who can explain why we do it like the catholics when they were together (in dogma and ritual) with the eastern orthodox church from 451AD to 1056AD (or is it 1054?).

    anyway we do it firstly to remember Jesus' great sacrifice to us, in humility (we are sinners) and gratitude (we are forgiven). in the coptic liturgy we do it whenever we or the priest says 'worship' or 'glorify' (a lot!) to indicate we are joining in, and also whenever we say 'in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit' (a lot!) because we say 'father' when we touch our forehead, 'son' at the lower chest, 'Holy Spirit' at the left shoulder and 'one God, amen' at the right shoulder.
    we also do it when the priest passes by with the incense, to show we are joining in the prayers of the church (incense symbolises the prayers of the saints) and, most importantly we do it when the priest brings out the consecrated bread and wine and we say 'blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord' as this is the highest point in the service when God is present among us in the consecrated bread and wine and He calls us to come close to Him and to partake of His blessings.
    people also do it at times when they feel like showing gratitude when worshipping during the liturgy.

    people may do it outside church when going past a church, or when evading a dangerous situation, i did it when the car in front on the motorway (freeway) just swerved away from a near-collision at the last minute. my muslim friend in the car gave me a funny look, but was too pleased to not have crashed to actually say anything!

    the eastern orthodox seem to do it very similarly to us, the catholics do it less, if i visit a catholic church, i always seem to do it more than everyone else! eg they don't do it at the end of the Lord's prayer, like we do (in the last line).

    i hope this starts to answer your question, there is more but i have no more time right now!
  • +by service, do u mean the liturgy??...
    if yes..the purpose of the sign of the Cross: Since Jesus, the Son of God, died on the Cross, eternal death has been destroyed and He gave us the power to overcome the devil and to be united with God. Jesus was the ultimate everlasting sacrifce for all mankind. He died for all our sins. The Sign of the Cross is used as a weapon against the devil..remember the Saints, as soon as u do the sign of the Cross the devil flees. the sign of the Cross is also a sign to bless-eg, deacons tunia before service, through bless the congregration, the bless the bread and wine before it becomes transformed into the Body and Blood of our beloved Saviour. If u have realised that after the Holy Spirit has transformed the Bread and the sacramental wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus, we dont do the sign of the Cross anymore, because we dont bless them anymore but we obtain the blessings from the Lord Himself.

    the proper way to make the sign of the Cross-the Coptic Orthodox way is: on our forehead to our middle(under our diaphram), then left to right....because the top because God was in Heaven, then the middle because He was incarnated, then the left to the right, because we were in the darkness and have been converted to light through the incarnation-also wen we do the sign of the Cross, we say in the Name of the Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit, because ^=Father v=Son <>=Holy Spirit(born again)!

    When is the proper time to make the Sign of the Cross-ALLLL THE TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! when u wake, sleep, through the day, to resist temptations from the devil, praying, walking, eating, talking,
    i dont know if these are the answers u are looking for..let us know..there is a story in a sunday school curriculum-"A new monk entered one of the monasteries. The custom was that he should be tested first so that the abbot might decide whether he would be fit as a monk or not. The new monk was very simple, sweet, clean and tidy. He went to church as soon as he heard the church bell. He received the Holy Communion once a week. He kept silent during the mass prayers. He neither looked right or left... He loved his brothers the monks and served them... He cleaned the Monastery courtyard and watered it... He was very active and energetic but he could not study anything... They tried to make him study the psalms or any prayers but he could not... He could not study the Lord&#146;s prayer &#147;Our Father who art in heaven&#148;. But he knew how to make the sign of the cross. He used to say: &#147;The power of the cross protects me&#148;. The Abbot was perplexed. He said, &#147;This brother is unfit&#148;. He decided to drive him out. He slept and had a dream. The room was filled with wonderful bright light. From the middle of the light came Jesus. The abbot bowed down to Jesus. Jesus said to him &#147;Why do you think of driving the new monk out? Do not dismiss him. Come and see the devils how they are&#148;. The abbot saw a group of devils holding a meeting and they were all discussing a serious problem. What is the matter? They were plotting against the new monk. They wanted to make him fall but they could not do that... how? he heard the following conversation:
    The chief devil said: who will go to cause this silly monk to fall?
    Another devil answered: I shall go.
    The chief devil said: If you make him commit sin I&#146;ll give you a wonderful crown.
    The devil answered: Yes, your majesty
    The devil ran quickly...He tried to enter the monk&#146;s cell but he could not... He came back ashamed with his face to the ground. He said, &#147;I am sorry I cannot&#148;. The chief devil was furious and cried loudly, &#147;Who will go?&#148; Another devil said, &#147;I shall go, your majesty&#148;.
    Another devil ran…went up and tried to come down to him but he could not because he saw the sign of the cross in flames of fire... He could not stay, he ran away. &#147;I cannot&#148;, he said. The chief devil cried more loudly, left a chain and sat on another, struck his hands together and asked them how they couldn&#146;t cause the fall of a silly monk...why ...What does he do? ...He sent a big group of devils and they all came back ashamed of themselves and said, &#147;We could not enter the monk&#146;s cell&#148;. He said to them, &#147;What does he do? Does he pray?&#148; and they said, &#147;he does not know the Lord&#146;s Prayer even... Does he recite the psalm? No, neither can he read the Bible. He does not know how to read or how to write&#148;. The chief said, &#147;Then this monk is an empty vessel. Why cannot you defeat him?&#148; They said, &#147;He is all the time making the sing of the cross over himself, his face, his heart…before he does anything, he says, &#147;The power of the cross protects me and keeps me safe. Before he sleeps, he makes the sign of the cross up, down, on his right side, and on his left side and says the same words&#148;. The chief shook his head and said, &#147;Ah, this is an empty vessel but it is sealed&#148;. The abbot woke up and knew the meaning of his dream. He kissed the new monk, accepted him, put the monk&#146;s robe on him and gave him the cross."

    i dont know if this is a real story but i will try to look for it in the "paradise of the desert fathers" book and tell you if i find it..
    The Sign of the Cross gives us comfort, strength, protects us from ALL evil, it is the sign of God's love to us, a sign of Salvation, Glory, to remind us to carry the cross/es in our lives, joy, reconciliation with God, forgiveness, new life, Crucifixion to the world and the self...
    we literally put crosses nearly everywhere and use crosses for nearly everything....
    &#147;God forbid that I should glory except in the Cross of our Lord &#147; (Galatians 6:14).

    There is a saint who went to paradise on 21st March 1979, his name is Abouna Bishoy Kamel..he loved the Cross, he wrote two books about it.

    H.H. Pope Shenouda III also wrote a book about the Cross:

    There are A LOT of articles and books about the Cross...if u want them, i can send them to u by email. and if anyone else wants them i can send them.
  • The Spiritual Meaning of the Cross
    by H.H. Pope Shenouda III

    Let us examine the spiritual meaning of the Cross, and its importance and benediction in our lives. The Cross is every difficulty which we suffer in view of our love for God, or for our love for people, for the Kingdom of God in general.

    When we make the sign of the cross, we remember many of the theological and spiritual meanings that are connected to it. 

    1. We remember the love of God for us, who accepted death instead of us, in view of our salvation. "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Is. 53:6). When we make the sign of the cross, we remember "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world" (1 John 2:2).

    2. And in the Cross, we remember our sins. Our sins that He has borne on the Cross, and for which He Incarnated and was crucified. With this remembrance, we become humiliated, our souls become contrite, and we thank for the price which He paid for us "For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:20).

    3. And in the Cross, we remember the divine justice: How forgiveness was not on account of justice. But the divine justice took his right on the Cross. We do not then consider sin as a slight matter, the sin whose price is such as that.

    4. In our signing of the Cross, we declare our discipleship to this crucified One. Those who take the cross simply by its spiritual meaning, inside the heart, without any apparent sign, do not openly manifest this discipleship, which we declare by signing the cross, by carrying the cross on our breasts, by kissing the cross in front of everybody, by drawing it on our hands, and by raising it above the places in which we worship. With all this, we openly declare our faith, and we are not ashamed of the Cross of Christ in front of people, but rather we boast of it, we hold fast to it, we celebrate feasts for it. Even without speaking, our plain aspect manifests our faith.

    5. We do not make the sign of the cross on ourselves in a silent manner, but we say with that: In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Thus each time we declare our faith in the Holy Trinity who is One God for ever to eternity, amen. Thus the Holy Trinity is continually in our thoughts, and that is not available to those who do not make the sign of the cross as we do.

    6. In making the sign of the cross, we also declare our belief in Incarnation and Redemption: When we make the sign of the cross from upward to downward, and from the left side to the right side, we remember that God has come down from heaven downward to our earth, and transported people from the left side to the right side, from obscurity to light, and from death to life; and how many are the meditations which come to our hearts and minds from the signing of the cross!

    7. We remember forgiveness in the Cross, how our sins were forgiven on the Cross, and how our Lord addressed the heavenly Father saying (while He was on the Cross): "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34).

    8. In the signing of the cross, there is a religious instruction for our sons and for others:
    Whoever makes the sign of the cross, when he prays, when he enters the church, when he eats, when he sleeps, and at every moment, he remembers the Cross. This remembrance is spiritually useful and scripturally desirable. In it there is also an instruction for people, that Christ was crucified, and an instruction especially for our small children who grow from their childhood being used to the cross.

    9. By making the sign of the cross we preach the death of the Lord for us, conforming to his commandment. This is the commandment of the Lord who has redeemed us, to preach His "death till He comes" (1 Cor. 11:26). In making the sign the cross we remember His death at all times, and we keep remembering Him till He comes. We also remember Him in the sacrament of Eucharist. But this sacrament is not done every moment, while we can make the sign of the cross at every moment, remembering the death of Christ for our sake.

    10. In making the sign of the cross, we remember that the retribution of sin is death: because otherwise Christ would not have died; "we were dead in trespasses" (Eph. 2:5). But Christ died instead us upon the Cross and gave us life. Having paid the price on the Cross, He said to the Father: "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34).

    11. In making the sign of the cross, we remember the love of God for us. We remember that the cross is a sacrifice of love. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). We remember that "God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us… and we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son" (Rom. 5: 8,10). In the Cross, we remember the love of God for us, because "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John: 15:13).

    12. We make the sign of the cross because it gives us power. The apostle Saint Paul felt that power of the Cross, and said: "by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14). And he also said: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18). Note that he did not say that the crucifixion is the power of God, but he said that the simple word of the cross is the power of God. Therefore when we make the sign of the cross, and when we mention the cross, we are filled with power; because we remember that the Lord trampled death by the cross, and He granted life to everybody, and forced and defeated Satan. Therefore, we make the sign of the cross, because Satan dreads it: All the labor of Satan since he fought Adam until the end of time, has been lost on the Cross, because the Lord has paid the price, and erased all the sins of people with His blood, for those who believe and obey. Thus, whenever Satan sees the cross, he is terrified and remembers his greatest defeat and the loss of his labor, and so he is ashamed and runs away. Thus all the sons of God constantly use the sign of the cross, considering that it is the sign of conquest and victory, that it is the power of God. As for our part, we are filled with power inside. But the enemy outside is scared. And as in ancient times the bronze serpent was lifted up, as a healing for people and salvation from death, even so the Lord of glory was lifted up on the Cross. (John 3:14). Thus is the sign of the cross in its effect.

    14. We make the sign of the cross, and take its blessing: In ancient times, the cross was the sign of malediction and death because of sin. But on the Cross, the Lord bore all our maledictions, in order to grant us the benediction of the reconciliation with God (Rom. 5:10), and the benediction of the new life. Therefore all the gracious things of the New Testament come from the Cross. The clergy use this cross in the giving of benediction, as an indication that the benediction is not issued from them personally, but from the cross of the Lord who has entrusted them to use it for granting benediction, and because they take their ministry from the ministry of Him who was crucified. All the blessings of the New Testament follow the cross of the Lord and its effect.

    15. Thus, we use the cross in all the holy sacraments of Christianity, because they all have their source in the merits of the blood of Christ on the cross. Without the cross, we could not deserve to come near to God as sons in Baptism; and we could not deserve the communion of his body and blood in the mystery of Eucharist (1 Cor. 11:26), and we could not enjoy the blessings of any mystery from the mysteries of the Church.

    16. We pay attention to the Cross in order to remember our participation in it. We remember the word of the apostle Saint Paul: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). And also his word: "that I may know Him and the power of
    His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being comforted to His death" (Philippians 3:10). Here we ask ourselves when shall we enter into participation with the sufferings of the Lord and shall be crucified with Him. And here we remember the thief who was crucified with Him, and deserved to be with Him in paradise. Probably he is in paradise singing with the song that Saint Paul said later "I have been crucified with Christ." All our wishes are that we ascend on the cross with Christ, and to boast about this cross, which we remember now whenever we touch it with our senses.

    17. We honor the cross, because it is a subject of joy for the Father: The Father who has accepted Christ on the cross with all joy, as a sin sacrifice and also as "a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord" (Lev.1: 5,13,17). The Lord Christ has satisfied the Father with the perfection of His life on earth, but He entered into the fullness of this satisfaction on the Cross, where He "became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8 ). Each time we look at the cross, we remember the perfection of obedience, and the perfection of subjection, in order to imitate the Lord Christ in his obedience, to the point of death. As the cross was a subject of joy for the Father, so also it was a subject of joy as regards the Son who was crucified, of whom it was said: "who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb. 12:2). Thus was the fullness of Christ's joy in His crucifixion. May we be like that.

    18. In the cross, "we go forth to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach" (Heb. 13:12) with the same feelings that we have in the holy week, and in that, we remember what was said about the prophet Moses: "esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt" (Heb. 11:26). The reproach of Christ is His crucifixion and His sufferings.

    19. On the cross, we remember the salvation that the thief who was crucified with the Lord obtained: That gives us a wonderful hope. How could a man be saved in the last hours of his life on earth, and get a promise to enter the paradise. How the Lord with His spiritual influence on this thief, had been able to draw him to Himself, and remember his faith and his confession, without remembering any of his previous sins. How great is that hope which was realized on the cross.

    20. We bear the cross which reminds us of His second coming: As it has been mentioned in the gospel about the end of the world and the coming of the Lord: "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven [i.e., the cross], and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds." (Matt. 24:30).

    Let us remember the sign of the Son of Man on earth, so long as we expect this sign of His in heaven in His majestic coming.

    *Reprinted and revised for grammar and formatting.

  • Thanks Maboosta and +iloveJesus!

    That is the type of information that I was looking for  :)
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