An Irish Welcome

Céad Míle Fáilte friend and rover ...
Wherever you come from and whosoever you may be.
That's an Irish greeting and it means

you are welcome
a thousand times over.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Sign of the Cross

Cross: the guardian of the world,
Cross: the beauty of the Church,
Cross: the strength of kings,
Cross: the support of the faithful,
Cross: the angels' glory and the demons' injury.
The sign of the Cross dominates in the life of the Church.

But why?

Because from the time God, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself was nailed to the Cross and died for the salvation of the world, this instrument of punishment became an instrument of salvation. "... for no more it is an indictment to punishment but a proven trophy of our salvation" says a troparion. The object of shame became the glory of the Church. The symbol of a curse became "the release payment for the ancient curse". The wood, from mourning and death, became "sign of joy" and "treasury of life". And all these because upon the wood of the Cross with His immaculate body, the Lord nailed also our sins. As saint Paul writes; He gave us "the document erasing all our trespasses..... and nailed it on the Cross".

The Cross of Christ reconciled us with our heavenly Father, from Whom the devil separated us, by deceiving our forefathers. The Cross of Christ opened the kingdom of heavens to us, which, up until the Crucifixion, Hades swallowed insatiably even the righteous. That is why it has so much power and grace, the power and grace of Christ, which while He was crucified, He transferred it in a mystical and incomprehensible way to His holy Cross as the hymnology wisely tells us. "Your Cross, Christ, being visible wood in essence, yet it represents a divine reign and appearing perceptible to the world, noetically miraculously works our salvation...."

The Cross therefore has become the symbol of Christ Himself.
Symbol that causes the demons to tremble.

If therefore it is so, why then there are people who deny, detest and dishonour the Cross? "For those who trespass" writes the Apostle Paul, "to whom I would tell, now even crying I say, the enemies of the Cross of Christ, their end is perdition".

Truly, certain heretics are "enemies if the Cross". They say, the Cross is a tool of crime and granting it honour constitutes idolatry. They even maintain that the early Church did not use the sign of the Cross.

This view is fallacious.

Firstly, because our Church does not honour the Cross as though a random geometrical shape.
Secondly, because the honour given to the sign of the Cross already has its beginning from apostolic times.
Thirdly, because God Himself showed with supernatural events on different occasions and times that the Cross is His symbol.
And fourthly, because with the sign of the Cross were performed and are performed amazing miracles.

Let us however take things in their order:

A. The honour given to the Cross is inseparably tied with our Crucified and Resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ.
B. The honour to the sign of the Cross existed always and from the beginning in the Church.
C. God reveals the power of the Holy Cross with supernatural events.
D. The sign of the Cross is miraculous.

How can the sign of the Cross become a protection for us?
How can it become in our hands the terror of the demons?

If we do it correctly. If we do it as our Church shows us and teaches us, that is, with faith, piety, consciously, sacredly, humbly and with discretion.

In other words, how?

Firstly we bring together the three first fingers of the right hand, thus confessing our faith to God, who is at the same time three hypostases, three persons- "The Father , the Son and the Holy Spirit- of the same essence, united between them "inseparably" and "indivisibly". The other two fingers that touch against the palm, symbolize the two natures, the two wills and the two energies of our Lord, Jesus Christ, namely the divine and the human. This way we make a symbolic confession of our Orthodox faith, whose bases and foundations constitute the Trinitarian and Christological dogma.

Then we bring our hand to the forehead, the physical spot of our thought function, revealing in this way that we love God with all our mind and we dedicate all our thoughts to Him.

The hand then goes to the abdomen. This way we symbolically declare that we dedicate to the Lord all our desires and all our emotions.

Finally, we bring our hand to our shoulders, first to the right one and then to the left one, this way confessing that every bodily activity belongs to Him.

One other complementary interpretation, most theological in its simplicity is given to us in the fifth teaching of Saint Cosmas the Aitolian:

"Listen my Christians how the Cross is made and what it means. The Bible tells us that the Holy Trinity, God, is glorified in heaven more than the angels. What should you also do? You bring your three fingers of your right hand and not being able to ascend to heaven to worship, you place your hand to your head because your head is round and indicates the heaven and you say with your mouth; Just as Your angels glorify the Holy Trinity in heaven likewise I as an unworthy servant, glorify and worship the Holy Trinity. And as these fingers are three-they are separate and they are together- this way is also the Holy Trinity, God, three persons and a single God. You then lower your hand from your head and place it on your belly and say; I submit and worship You, my Lord, for You condescended and were incarnated in the belly of the Theotokos for our sins. You then place on your right shoulder and say; I supplicate You, my God, to forgive me and place me at Your right, along with the just. Then placing the hand on the left shoulder, you say; I implore You my Lord, do not place me at Your left, with the sinners. Then bending down to the ground you say; I glorify You my God, I submit and worship You, for as You were placed in the Tomb, so too will I be placed in the tomb. And when you stand erect, you indicate the Resurrection and say; I glorify You my Lord, I submit and worship You, for You arose from the dead, to grant us eternal life".
That is what is the meaning of the most holy Cross.

Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship,
O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify. (Thrice)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
And Thy holy Resurrection we glorify.
Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship,
O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify.

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