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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Cross, Sign of the

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a rite in the Roman Church, and in the Greek and other Eastern churches. It is used by officiating priests as a form of blessing at all liturgical actions and consecrations, and by all the members of the Church at the beginning of a prayer during divine service, on entering a church, on passing the host, and on many other occasions. It is always made with the right hand. In the 6th century it became customary to make the sign of the cross with the thumb on forehead, mouth, and chest. Since the 8th century the so-called "large" or "Latin" cross has been in common use among the laity. It is made with the palm of the hand by touching first the forehead; next, in direct line downward, the chest; next, in horizontal line, the left and the right shoulder. The same form of cross is used in liturgical actions, if the cross is to be made over the object to be blessed without touching it. While among the Latins the cross beam is drawn from the left to the right, the reverse is the case among the Greeks and Russians. In making the sign of the cross, it is common to pronounce the words, "In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen." Formerly there were also other forms in common use (Binterim enumerates eight), but all have been displaced by the above. The different ways of making the sign of the cross, and the number of fingers used, have called forth in the Church of Rome the most fanciful and mystical significations, and a special power has commonly been attributed to the sign of the cross. It is, therefore, also made over water, salt, oil, etc. In the Greek Church the sign of the cross is of even more frequent use than in the Roman Catholic. Among the Protestants it is almost universally abandoned (in the Lutheran Church of Saxony it was in use until the introduction of a new liturgy in 1812). In the Church of England and in the Protestant Episcopal Church its use in baptism is optional.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Cross, Sign of the'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/c/cross-sign-of-the.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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