History of the sign of the cross
“Every time you protect yourself with the sign of the cross, be filled with great boldness and present yourself as a gracious sacrifice to God” (St. John Chrysostom). From early childhood until his death, the believing Christian wears on himself, on his chest, a cross as a sign of Christ's victory, protection and strength. Every day during the morning and evening prayers, during the service and before eating, before the beginning of the teaching and after it ends, we impose upon ourselves the sign of the Honorable and Life-giving Cross of Christ. By the sign of the cross, the Christian begins the day and with the sign of the cross he goes to sleep, ending the day. What does the sign of the cross symbolize, and under what circumstances did the image of the cross appear?
The sign of the cross is a small religious rite, in which a Christian, depicting the sign of the Holy Cross with the invocation of the name of God, attracts the Divine grace of the Holy Spirit.
Old Testament Cross
The history of the development of the sign of the Cross originates from the Old Testament times.When Jerusalem and the temple built by Solomon were burned to the ground by the warriors of King Nebuchadnezzar, and most of the Judeans were taken to Babylon, the Old Testament church was shocked by the tragedy that befell it. Influenced by the experience of the tragedy in the Old Testament church, a custom arises during prayer at the moments of greatest tension to drive a finger over your forehead, depicting the last letter of the ת (taf) alphabet, which was the conditional mark of the name of God. This movement of the finger on the forehead is a manifestation of the prayer that the angel of the Lord put a mark on the prayer’s forehead, in accordance with the prophecy of Ezekiel: make a sign among them, ”(Ezek. 9: 4).
When the Old Testament Church was introduced by the Lord God in the New Testament period, the custom did not disappear during a prayer to lead a finger across the forehead, because for Christians to have the inscription of God's name on their foreheads signified their sign of belonging to those chosen by God. In Revelation, the Apostle John the Theologian writes: “And I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with him one hundred and forty-four thousand, in whom His Father's name is written on the foreheads” (Rev. 14: 1).
God's name on the forehead
What is the name of God and how can it be depicted on the forehead? According to the ancient Jewish tradition, the name of God was symbolically imprinted with the first and last letters of the Jewish alphabet, which were Aleph and Tav.
The meaning of this image is that a man who depicts the name of God on his forehead, outwardly shows his devotion to God. Over time, in order to simplify this symbolic action, the Jews began to portray the letter “tav” alone. The study of the manuscripts of that era showed that in the Hebrew writing of the turn of the epochs the capital “tav” had the form of a small cross. This little cross meant the name of God. In fact, for the Christian of that era, the image of the cross on his brow meant, as in Judaism, the dedication of his whole life to God. Moreover, the imposition of a cross on the forehead reminded not so much the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, as the Savior’s cross sacrifice. When the Christian church finally got rid of the Jewish influence, the understanding of the sign of the cross as the image through the letter “tav” of the name of God was lost. The main semantic emphasis was placed on the display of the Cross of Christ.
Forgetting the first meaning, the Christians of later eras filled the sign of the cross with new meaning and content. The sign of the cross is the outward confession of one’s faith in Christ crucified (1 Cor. 2: 2; 2 Tim. 1: 8). It should be noted that for persecutors of Christians of the first centuries, the sign of the cross served as the main distinguishing feature by which they recognized a person as a Christian. In one of the acts of martyrdom, the pagan of the first centuries said: "I therefore find out that they are Christians, that they make the sign of the cross on their foreheads every minute."
At the end of the third century, the famous Carthaginian church teacher, Tertullian, wrote: "In every ward and in, in dressing and shoes, in baths, at tables, at lampadas, on couches and seats, and in every case, we draw on the brow the sign of the cross." A century after Tertullian, St. John Chrysostom wrote the following: "Never leave home without having crossed yourself."
As we see, the sign of the cross has come down to us from the depth of ages and without it our daily worship of God is inconceivable. In the history of the Christian church, there were three forms of perostage: single-feather, two-feather, and three-feather.
Approximately to the 4th century, Christians began to cross the cross over their whole body, that is, the “wide cross” known to us appeared. However, the imposition of the sign of the cross at that time still remained single-feather. In the 9th century, single-feathers gradually began to be replaced by two-feathers, which was due to the widespread monophysitism in the Middle East and Egypt. When the monophysites heresy (rejecting human nature in Jesus Christ) appeared, she used the honeysopersion of single-pepper to propagate her teaching, because she saw in the single-finger of a symbolic expression of her teaching about the united nature in Christ. Then the Orthodox, in spite of the Monophysites, began to use in their sign of the cross two-feathers, as a symbolic expression of the Orthodox teaching about two natures in Christ. It so happened that the one-fist in the sign of the cross began to serve as an external, visual sign of monophysitism, and the two-fingered - Orthodoxy. Thereby, the Church again put deep doctrinal truths into the external forms of worship.
Approximately in the XII century in the Greek-speaking local Orthodox churches (of Constantinople,The Alexandrian, Antiochian, Jerusalem, and Cypriot) twofolds were replaced by triplets. The reason for this was as follows. Since the struggle with the Monophysites had already ended by the 12th century, the two-feathers lost their demonstrative and polemical character. However, it related Orthodox Christians to the Nestorians, who also used the twine. Wanting to make a change in the external form of their worship, the Orthodox Greeks began to overshadow themselves with the sign of the Cross of the Cross, thus emphasizing the veneration of the Most Holy Trinity. In Russia, triple-feathers were introduced in the 17th century during the reforms of Patriarch Nikon.
Based on the centuries-old experience of the manifestation of the miraculous power of the Cross of the Lord, Orthodox Christians have always expressed and expressed their faith in the power of the Life-giving Cross in that they are crowned with churches, mark dwellings, bless their children, wear it on their chests and constantly use prayer.godfatherthe Omen. Unfortunately, many of the Orthodox Christians do not know the meaning of the sign of the cross, use it carelessly and incorrectly, and some very often leave it to be used in necessary cases.
Priest Vladimir Kashlyuk