The Feast Day of The Holy Cross is celebrated on 14th September every year. It is called Elevation of the Holy Cross – Ὕψωσις τοῦ Τιμίου καὶ Ζωοποιοῦ Σταυρο. It is also the name day for Stavroula and Stavros which are names that come from Stavros, the Greek word for Cross.
Stavros is the word that is used to describe the action that we take to make the sign of the cross. The Orthodox sign of the cross is unique and different to the sign of the cross that other religions do.
The Catholic Way To Make The Sign Of The Cross
I remember learning about this when I was just 5 years old. I went to a Catholic primary school and attended Mass as a part of the school curriculum. One day, I was at Church on a Sunday with my family and I did the sign of the cross using all of my hand and all my fingers moving from my head to my chest and then from my left shoulder to my right. That is what we learnt at school, so that is what I thought I was supposed to do.
My aunty saw me do this and she got upset. She quickly corrected my fingers and showed me how to do it “the proper way”.
The Orthodox Way To Make The Sign Of The Cross
The Orthodox way to make the sign of the cross is to use the first 3 fingers of your right hand. That is your thumb, your index finger and your middle finger. The thumb stays on the bottom and the other two fingers are on top. Bend your ring finger and the little finger in to the palm of your hand. You then move your hand from your head, to your heart, then from your right shoulder to your left.
“In the name of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen”.
Repeat 3 times and bow your head while you do it.
Symbolic Meanings Of Your Stavro
The action is very symbolic of the theology and practice of the Orthodox religion. Here is why:
- We use three fingers to symbolise the unity of the Holy Trinity – The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit.
- The two fingers (index finger + middle finger) are bent in to the palm of the hand to signify that Christ had two natures: a human nature and a divine nature
- The ring finger and the little finger are bent into the palm of the hand to signify that Christ had two natures: a human nature and a divine nature
- The Orthodox Church always prefers to begin with the right side that is why you move from right to left and not the opposite way around.
- You repeat the sign of the Cross three times to symbolise the Holy Trinity.
Fr Dimitri Tsakas explains when to make the sign of the cross in another article here: When To Make The Sign Of The Cross
Do you know any other symbolic meanings that are related to the Holy Cross? Please share in the comments.
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Sia Aristidou is fascinated by the rituals and traditions celebrated in Greek culture. She writes about love, marriage, family and tradition and sells beautiful handmade wedding gifts at the Greek Wedding Shop.
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