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Q: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   24 Comments )
Subject: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
Category: Relationships and Society > Religion
Asked by: garyking-ga
List Price: $2.50
Posted: 15 Feb 2005 19:31 PST
Expires: 17 Mar 2005 19:31 PST
Question ID: 475238
What is the movement that a Christian (or Catholic?) sometimes makes
across his or her body (where you move your hands from up and down,
and left and right - I'm not sure of the order.) What is this movement
'called', what does it signify? Any external sources, maybe including
images of the correct movement, for instance, would help as well.

Thanks in advance!
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
Answered By: pinkfreud-ga on 15 Feb 2005 20:51 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
The gesture to which you refer is called "the sign of the cross" or
"signum crucis." This gesture is used by Catholics, as well as some
Anglicans, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and other Christian
denominations. It symbolizes the cross upon which Jesus Christ was
crucified. The sign of the cross is an important part of many worship
services, and it is also used in the daily lives of individual
believers as a sign of faith and trust in the Lord.

When the gesture is performed, the worshipper traces a symbolic shape
of a cross with the movement of the right hand: up, down, left, and
right, touching the forehead, the chest, and the left and right

From the Catholic Enyclopedia:

"Most commonly and properly the words 'sign of the cross' are used of
the large cross traced from forehead to breast and from shoulder to
shoulder, such as Catholics are taught to make upon themselves when
they begin their prayers, and such also as the priest makes at the
foot of the altar when he commences Mass with the words: 'In nomine
Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti'. (At the beginning of Mass the
celebrant makes the sign of the cross by placing his left hand
extended under his breast; then raising his right to his forehead,
which he touches with the extremities of his fingers, he says: In
nomine Patris; then, touching his breast with the same hand, he says:
et Filii; touching his left and right shoulders, he says; et Spiritus
Sancti; and as he joins his hands again adds: Amen.) The same sign
recurs frequently during Mass, e.g. at the words 'Adjutorium nostrum
in nomine Domini', at the 'Indulgentiam' after the Confiteor, etc., as
also in the Divine Office, for example at the invocation 'Deus in
adjutorium nostrum intende', at the beginning of the 'Magnificat', the
'Benedictus', the 'Nunc Dimittis', and on many other occasions."

New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia: Sign of the Cross

Another Catholic source:

"The Sign of the Cross is more than an action. It is a statement of
faith in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. We follow
it with, Amen, which means, 'Yes, it?s true!' Tertullian, writing in
the third century, tells us that Christians made the Sign of the Cross
upon rising, as they were dressing, upon entering or leaving their
houses, going to the bath, sitting down at table, and in fact before
taking any significant action. Second Exodus suggests making the Sign
of the Cross today at any of these times, but especially before taking
actions such as driving a car, boarding an airplane, or taking any
important action at work. St. Augustine tells us, 'It is by the sign
of the Cross that the Body of the Lord is consecrated, that baptismal
fonts are sanctified, that priests and other ranks in the Church are
admitted to their respective orders, and everything that is to be made
holy is consecrated by the sign of our Lord?s cross, with the
invocation of the name of Christ.' Sermon LXXXI

Catholics make the Sign of the Cross in public places openly. It is a
sign of our faith, addressed to God, a quiet witness to all who might
see us. If someone asks what it means, we explain that it represents
our faith in Almighty God."

Second Exodus: Sign of the Cross

An Anglican perspective on the Sign of the Cross:

"This is a very ancient practice going back to the earliest
Christians. Hippolytus speaks of making the sign of the cross as a
regular habit of faithful Christians around 220. It was developed as a
reminder and symbol of the power of the cross of Jesus Christ from top
(forehead) to center (chest) to left (shoulder) to right (shoulder).
It is used as a form of blessing and is sometimes used at the mention
of death or the deceased to remind us that death is not the final word
and that it has been triumphed over by the cross and the resurrection.
We also make 'mini' crosses at the reading of the Gospel on our
foreheads 'God be in my mind,' on our lips 'God be in my words,' and
on our hearts 'God be in my heart.' Making the sign of the cross is
merely an optional outward symbol and reminder of the reality of the
power of the cross in faith, and is not an act of magic or

Franciscan-Anglican: Making the Sign of the Cross

How the gesture is performed by Western and Eastern Catholics:

"When making the Sign of the Cross, one uses the right hand, which
symbolizes Christ who sits at the right hand of the Father. Starting
at the forehead, which symbolizes the Father, the Creator and source
of all things, one then descends to the lower chest. This symbolizes
the Incarnation, for Christ came down from heaven from the Father and
became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary through the power of the
Holy Spirit.

In the West, one then proceeds from the left shoulder to the right
shoulder to finish the Sign of the Cross. The left in this case is
usually associated with death and darkness, while the right symbolizes
truth and light. Thus the action represents the transition from misery
to glory, from death to life, and from hell to paradise. As Christ
passed from death to life and sits at the right hand of the Father
(left to right), so too may we pass from death to life in Christ
through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. In Eastern Christian
traditions, the opposite direction is taken. One proceeds from the
right to the left, so the symbolism is somewhat different."

Ecclesiastical Latin: Signum Crucis, Sign of the Cross

By Lutherans (Missouri Synod):

"As for the matter of how to make the sign of the cross, there are
different traditions. The practice most common in The Lutheran
Church--Missouri Synod is to bring together the thumb and first two
fingers (three being the number of the Holy Trinity). As the
Invocation is spoken, touch the forehead lightly, then move down to
the middle of the chest. Then touch the right shoulder and finally the
left shoulder."

The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod: Sign of the Cross

By Episcopalians:

"Making the sign of the cross is one of the most ancient and universal
of Christian customs. The cross is a sign of our salvation and a
symbol of our communion with God. To make the sign of the cross upon
yourself, your right hand should be gently open, your left hand lying
flat against your lower chest. With your fingertips touch first your
forehead, then your chest, then left shoulder, then right shoulder,
then bring both hands together in prayer."

Parish of St. Patrick's: Instructed Eucharists

My Google search strategy:

Google Web Search: "sign of the cross"

I hope this is precisely what you need to know. If anything is unclear
or incomplete, please request clarification; I'll gladly offer further
assistance before you rate my answer.

Best regards,
garyking-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $1.00
Good response! Thanks!

Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: pugwashjw-ga on 15 Feb 2005 22:55 PST
Would God appreciate people making a sign of the cross on themselves,
when the device that His dear son died on was described in the Bible
as a " Staurus" or "Xy'lon"...a stake or piece of wood?. Or would he
rather have people follow Jesus' example, in prayer and deed. Matthew
6;9,10, 33 and 10;7. The preaching must extend beyond the Apostles to
comply with Matthew 24;14." And this good news OF THE KINGDOM "WILL"
be preached in all the inhabited earth, for a witness to all the
nations, and then the end will come.
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: frde-ga on 16 Feb 2005 03:25 PST
Another variation is:  Watch, Wallet, Testicles, Spectacles

I think it dates from the 1930's
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 16 Feb 2005 05:30 PST

Following Jesus' example in prayer and deed is in fact something that
he desires of us.  But he also asked us to remember his death:

"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them,
saying, ?This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.?
--Luke 22:19

The eating of his body and drinking of his blood (communion as it is
often referred to today) is clearly in remembrance that he gave his
physical self completely to us (including his death on the cross). 
And he asked us to "do this in remembrance of me", so I can't see why
he wouldn't want us to remember what he did for us on the cross.  For
isn't that the basis of the "good news"?

To make a sign of the cross is simply 1 more way that people choose to
remember Jesus' death for us (as he said we should remember).  I agree
that we shouldn't constantly focus on his death, but we do need to
remember it.
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: pinkfreud-ga on 16 Feb 2005 14:43 PST
Thank you very much for the five stars and the nice tip!

Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: nelson-ga on 17 Feb 2005 17:24 PST
frde-ga, you have the order reversed.
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: pugwashjw-ga on 20 Feb 2005 19:31 PST
Hi Jack, You are right basically. We must remember Jesus' death. He
asked us to do so. But [?] EVERY TIME. The jewish system in Jesus' day
celebrated things annually. The remembrance should be annually. And
was the torture pole a cross[?] The Bible says only ' staurus'
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 22 Feb 2005 02:10 PST
Yes, i'll agree that remembrance of his death doesn't have to be
publicly displayed constantly, and it is not in most Christian
denominations, but I won't begin to say that it is wrong to do so.  We
were in fact asked to do so as you claimed, and I can't see doing
often what He asked us to do as being a sin whether it's necessary or
As far as Jesus' method of death, by every referrence I've ever read
it was the cross... whether a Christian referrence or not.  To my
understanding it was the most common way of putting a hated man to
death during this time in Roman history.  I would be interested in
well researched articles on the contrary though.
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: myoarin-ga on 22 Feb 2005 18:24 PST
To explain frde-ga's brief comment, the joke goes:

The priest saw his parishioner coming out of the local brothel and
spoke to him after he saw that he "crossed" himself.
"John, I know you go in there, 'cause you come to confession and
repent about doing it, but I don't think it is appropriate that you
cross yourself when you come out."
"Oh, Father, I wasn't crossing myself; I was just checking that I
hadn't forgotten my hat, zipped up my pants, and remembered my glasses
and my wallet."
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: pugwashjw-ga on 23 Feb 2005 12:04 PST
Hi Jack, As to whether or not the instrument used was a cross, as we
see depicted all the time, or a vertical stake. The original Greek
word used is 'stau-ros'. This translates as stake. The Greek word for
cross is 'crux'. Stau-ros should not be translated 'cross'. "The
Imperial Bible-Dictionary, edited P. Fairbairn [ London, 1874], vol 1,
A Greek-English Lexicon, by Liddell and Scott, Oxford 1968, pp. 1191, 1192
The Non Christian Cross, J.D. Parsons [London, 1896] pp. 23, 24
The Companion Bible [ London, 1885] Appendix No. 162.
Encyclopaedia Brittannica [ 1946], Vol. 6, p. 753. Origins of Christendoms Cross.
An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words [ London 1962], W.E. VINE, p. 256.
The Cross in Ritual Architecture and Art, [London, 1900], G.S. Tyack, p.1.
The Worship if the Dead [London,1904], Colonel J. Garnier, p. 226
Happy reading!
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 24 Feb 2005 09:24 PST
"Stauros refers to a wooden pole or timber with or without a crosspiece."

I found this definition all over the place, it or a similar one with
the same meaning I found in the first 10 places I looked.  If that is
the only evidence you have (it's the only evidence you've presented)
then that leaves 50% chance of a stake and 50% chance of a stake with
a crosspiece (a cross if you will).

"Though information is limited, historical and archaeological evidence
shows that the Romans generally used a crossbar, not a vertical post
alone, when crucifying individuals."

Now consider Paul's words:
"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world"
--Galatians 6:14
Crucify: "To put (a person) to death by nailing or binding to a cross."

Why would Paul draw mention to the fact that Jesus was crucified if
that was not the case?  Sure Paul wasn't there to witness it, but
surely after persecuting Christians for years and then associating
with them closely for quite a while he had heard what everyone else
thought about how Jesus died.
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: pugwashjw-ga on 05 Mar 2005 01:05 PST
Hi Jack, It was very interesting that you quoted Galations 6;14. In
the Bible I use, the New World Translation, the word 'stauros' in the
original, has been translated 'torture stake' and where you had '
crucified', the text reads ' impaled'. e.g. 6;14 " Never may it occur
that I should boast, except in the torture stake of our Lord Jesus
Christ, through whom the world has been impaled to me, and I to the
world". An honest translation would not treat 'stauros' as 'crux'.
Crucified is an aspect of 'crux' . Where 'stauros' appears, the word
stake should be used. The scriptures meaning has not changed but
accurate translations should always be sought.
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: myoarin-ga on 05 Mar 2005 03:12 PST
Pugwash, different party, same guests:
no argument with your initial and latest comments, but perhaps you
also have an explanation for all the lore about crucifixion as a Roman
practice: breaking the legs, the number of nails.  See Pinkfreud's
first website with references from Tactitus, Josephus and others, and
third century references to the cross, though by then the sources
could have been based on later interpretations of earlier texts, but
it would seem that the the cross would not have become a symbol if the
apostles hadn't witnessed Christ's crucifixion on one.
Any ideas?
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 09 Mar 2005 07:54 PST
Pug, again you question the common definition of Stauros, which as I
showed before is defined as a stake with or without a cross section. 
To declare it was simply a vertical stake without giving good reason
for your belief when it is commonly accepted (for many good reasons
given in this discussion) that it was a stake with a cross secion...
is not a good declaration.

Unfortunately the bible you quote is very controvertial.  I don't mind
controversy, as controversy doesn't in itself imply incorrectness...
however this one version of the bible goes against almost every other
version of the bible in many instances.  And frankly that concerns me
greatly about its validity.  I don't believe God would allow 5 to 10
more popular versions of the bible to have incorrect doctrine in them,
and I don't believe the good Christian translators/researchers would
purposefully dillute the word of God in all these various versions of
the bible that were translated and researched in different ways.
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: myoarin-ga on 11 Mar 2005 07:44 PST
Pugwash and Jack,
Y'all are never going to settle the matter, which kind of points out
the astuteness of the Jews and Muslims in insisting to accept only the
original language texts of the Torah and Koran as valid, putting all
translation in the realm of frail human interpretation.
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: myoarin-ga on 12 Mar 2005 09:07 PST
And it later occurred to me:  The RC church for centureies took the
same course, fairly successfully  - Latin -, and suggesting that
laypersons shouldn't interpret (not translate) the Bible by
themselves.  But then came along Martin Luther ...,
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 14 Mar 2005 04:58 PST
If everyone in the world and in the past did use the same language
then things would be much easier, but that isn't the case.  If we only
used the origional languages for the bible today then only a select
few individuals would be able to read it.  Of course more people would
learn those languages in order to read it or share it with others, but
still only a select few in relation to the vast majority of

Reading the bible in English is definately a special thing for me.  I
know with great certainty that it brings me closer to God, and I can't
imagine the millions of other people who read the bible daily not
experiencing the same thing.  I also know the bible much better than I
would if I only learned from it what I hear in church.  And of course
another benefit of it being in English is that I can look up
individual concerns as they occur, I don't have to wait until Sunday
to ask a priest to find/interperate a subject for me in the bible.

There will be disputes due to language, but the benefits in the matter
seem to greatly outweigh the costs.  Of course if the text was only in
the origional language then I along with most people in the world
would rely on an individuals interperitation rather than on a group of
experts/scholars (those who write today's bibles).
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: myoarin-ga on 14 Mar 2005 06:57 PST
Hi Jack,
I agree with you, and it certainly is easier in religions that keep
their Book out  of the hands of laymen to control its interpretation. 
But then ...
Reminds me of the story of my grandmother, a theologian's wife in
Europe before WW II, who was in study group of women that were reading
the Bible straight through and discussing it.  When asked what they
did with passages which they couldn't understand, she replied:  "What
we can't understand, we explain to each other."
My German Newspaper today had a bit about a new translation of the
Bible that is "supposed to avoid misinterpretations, that the Holy
Scripture contains references to drug misuse.  Instead of simply
"stoned", now the passages read: "stoned to death" (as if that weren't
really drug misuse! :) )  "The New Church Times" reports that Prof
Ronald Youngblood, responsible for the new version, explains that the
present generation needs a language that it understands and to which
it relates.  Also concessions to Political Correctness have been made:
 instead of the masculine "he" or "man" now "person" is used.  In all,
7 % of the text has been replaced.  To avoid antisemitic
interpretations of Christ's passion, instead of "the Jews" now "the
leaders of the Jews" is used,
and !! instead of "Christ"  - an expression more from the Greek
cultural world - it has been replaced by the Hebrew expression
"That's virtually a translation of the whole article.)
Oh, I see now that this is the New International Version (NIV) and
that Youngblood is at the Bethel Baptist Seminary.  Apparently the NIV
(and the NWV, that Pughwashjw-ga uses) is controversial  - at least in
some circles as I discovered at this site .
But I expect you are much more familiar than I am with all this.
I saw a great (large) 17th c. Bible in England that was a remarkable
example of  early printing.  The English text (KJV?) on each page was
surrounded by the relative text in Greek, Hebrew, ...; six languages,
I believe, at least one other in a non-Roman alphabet, for comparison.
It's printing was started under James I, but continued under Cromwell,
who also wanted justification for his beliefs.
Anyway, if people are reading different versions of the Bible - and
some succomb so much to political correctness  (sacrificing religious
correctness?) -  controversy is assured.
Best regards, Myoarin
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 14 Mar 2005 12:13 PST
I was also intrigued when I had a Baptist friend who insisted on the
horribleness of the NIV.  She didn't have examples, but she told me
(as she was told in church) that it has missing verses and missing
parts of verses and some other oddities that shouldn't exist.  So I
looked it up in my curiousity (since I do sometimes read the NIV).

I did in fact find the controversial sites saying how horrible the NIV
is and their evidence as such.  Then I went to the NIV web page
itself.  They have an great tool at their site:
"Accuracy Defined & Illustrated
- An NIV Translator Answers Your Questions
To help others understand the NIV's passion for accuracy, Kenneth L.
Barker explains the translation of 150 Scripture passages in the NIV."

This Adobe Acrobat file had my attention for a good couple hours.  I
read their reasons for their interperitations and even for leaving a
verse or 2 out.  I was truly impressed by the methodology and care
they give to translating the bible.  They definately convinced me of
the validaty of the NIV after I had my slight doubts thanks to the

I do recommend reading through even just a little of this file if you
care to see some of their thought process.
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: myoarin-ga on 14 Mar 2005 13:43 PST
Thanks Jack,
I am sure the NIV people have their hearts in the right place and know
what they are doing  - but so do the other people  - and all can
justify their version. But since they do argue about which is right  -
or more argue that all the others are not, it seems to me that any
theological controversy that results from using different versions has
more to do with "mere" human interpretations than with the "truth of
the Word."   I will go check the site you mention.
I just found the little article very interesting  - 7% of the Bible rewritten,
7% of which version? - and then that website.  I wonder if the NIV
supporters are also no longer going to use the word Christ in their
services?  And I found it funny that someone referred to something as
their "holy cow," a figure from the Hindu religion.
Anyway, none of my remarks is meant personally.
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 16 Mar 2005 04:53 PST
I wish I could agree with you Myoarin.  I do believe most bible
writers have their heart set on God and do want to make a translation
that is pleasing to Him, but unfortunately there are those out there
who are pushing an agenda.
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: fireandmirth-ga on 21 Mar 2005 15:14 PST
Three thoughts to add to this interesting dialog.
First, on topic, the Orthodox and members of Eastern Rite Catholicism
cross themselves the reverse of Western Rite Catholics and
Protestants. Sadly, this was one cause, or contributing factor, to the
schism of 1054 between the Western and Eastern Church.
Secondly, the Bible that Jack and Myoarin refer to with 'PC
corrections' and '7% change' is not, in fact, the NIV but the TNIV.
The TNIV has been repudated by numerous Christian leaders, and
supported by almost as many. It is  an attempt to revise the NIV for
the 21st century and has come under much debate. The NIV, by contrast,
does not make any of the adaptions Myoarin notes in her post.
Thirdly, the NWT is a translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Pugwash,
who I'm guessing is a Jehovah's Witness due to other posts and the jw
at the end of his/her name (correct me if I'm wrong) has a vested
interest in supporting this translation. However, the major Christian
traditions do not accept either the NWT or the Jehovah's Witnesses as
being legitimate members of the Church. I do not say this to accuse,
just as a point of fact, for the Jehovah's Witnesses don't subscribe
to basic tenents of the historical Christian church embodied in the
Church's creeds.
I realize, in saying all this, that you smart people were probably
already aware of everything I mention here...but, I guess I just
couldn't resist adding my two cents into this interesting dialog.
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 22 Mar 2005 11:51 PST
That's a nice addition Fireandmirth.  I actually was under the
impression that the NIV (as opposed to the TNIV) was in questions, as
it has been many times in the past... so my posts were in fact
directed towards backing up the NIV.

I have never actually seen the TNIV and don't know much of anything
about it except what you just mentioned.  I'll check it out and see
what the buzz is all about.
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: myoarin-ga on 24 Mar 2005 09:06 PST
fireandmirth-ga , I thank you too.  I was also unaware that the TNIV
is not the NIV, and am still  a little confused.  What is the T in
And yes, I also come to think that Pugwash is a JW, and that's fine. 
I expect that he cares more about his beliefs than many of us do, and
certainly enlivens the discussions and give them more breadth.

And  - fireandmrith -  I am intriqued that you think I'm a woman.  I'm
not, but take no offense, just really interested in why you thought
Please tell!
Regards, Myoarin
Subject: Re: Christian (or Catholic?) movement across the body
From: nelson-ga on 24 Mar 2005 09:22 PST
Hi, myoarin. I also thought you were female. You name looks female to
me.(I am an American male.)

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