Re: sign of the cross - Beware! :-) Long answer!

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Posted by Tracey on January 07, 2001 at 08:33:31:

In Reply to: sign of the cross posted by Maria on January 06, 2001 at 22:07:24:

Hi, Maria,

Let's casually call it a matter of fashion and politics. (No offense intended!)

The sign of the first christians included making a small cross in the middle of their foreheads with one finger. First evidence of this goes back to the 2nd cebtury A.D. and continues all the way to the 9th. In Serbian christians continued this practice until around 1600 AD.

From the 8th century on, the sign is more and more often made with two fingers (to show christ's duality as god and human), as a protest against those christians who considered Christ a god and his appearance in the flesh irrelevant. This was a protest especially strong among greeks. At the same time, also especially among greeks, the use of all three fingers to make the sign is developed, along with the wording "The father, the son, and the holy ghost" (That's what the three fingers signify) becomes a summary and testimony of belief.
By the 13th century almost all greek-orthodox make the large sign with three fingers up-down-right-left over head, body and shoulders. Even roman-catholics popes of that time suggest this.

Only much later , the use of the whole hand (all five fingers, signifying the five wounds of the crucified), up-down-left-right is developed among roman-catholics.

Though the sign as such has undergone many changes, it's meaning has remained the same, the testimony of belief in Jesus Christ. These changes often indicated an interpretational shift in doctrine or served to distinguish denominations.

BTW: No, I didn't know this, went digging for it in the Web and this is a brief summary of several German and English webpages. Have often wondered myself about these differences. :)

Best wishes for the new year,


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