Sign of the Cross and Creed
The connection of the sign of the cross with the process of catechism is especially pronounced in the Orthodox interpretations of the sign of the cross: unlike the Catholic interpretations, which reveal great diversity, the Orthodox interpretations of the sign of the cross, as a rule, differ little from each other; it is essential that they closely correspond to the Creed. It must be assumed that the correlation of the sign of the cross with the Symbol of Faith also goes back to the ancient practice of catechism: The Symbol of faith is generally the main text pronounced during catechism, just as the sign of the cross is the main action performed.
The Sign of the Cross and the Nicene Creed
It can be said that, according to these interpretations, the sign of the cross is intended to express the same dogmatic content, which is expressed in verbal form in the confession of faith: the sign of the cross appears, in this way, as an ideographic correspondence to this text.Indeed, the position of the hand on the forehead symbolizes God's sojourn in heaven and the birth of Christ from God the Father (in the Creed: "Like the Father born before all ages"); the downward movement expresses the descent of Christ from heaven to earth (Symbol of Faith: “For the sake of man and ours for the sake of salvation come from heaven and incarnate from the Holy Spirit and Mary the Virgin, and man”); transferring a hand up to the right shoulder corresponds to the words: "And he ascended to heaven, and sat at the right hand of the Father"; Finally, transferring a hand from right to left means separating the righteous from sinners at the Last Judgment (“And packs of the coming with glory judge the living and the dead”). At the same time, the very image of the cross, of course, should symbolize the crucifixion (“Crucified for us under Pontius Pilate”).
The Descent into Hell in the Orthodox Interpretations of the Sign of the Cross
This basic and initial content may be distributed by some additional points of Christian dogma that are missing in the Nicene Creed; thus, it can be considered that the movement of the hand from top to bottom symbolizes not only the descent of Christ on earth (the Incarnation), but also its descent into hell, which corresponds to the so-called Apostolic Creed.The Apostolic Symbol of Faith appeared in the West in the 6th — 7th centuries (it was adopted in the Catholic and Protestant churches, being unknown in the Orthodox tradition), but the mention in it of descent into hell seems to go back to the early Eastern confessions of faith. The mention of the descent into hell in the Orthodox interpretations of the sign of the cross can in principle be explained by Western influence; it is possible, however, that it reflects the early confessions of faith that preceded the adoption of the Nicene Symbol.
Divine History and Divine Nature in the Sign of the Cross
Thus, according to Orthodox interpretations, the Divine history (which is also the history of human salvation) is transmitted by the movement of the hand when making the sign of the cross; At the same time, the way of the addition of the fingers is called upon to express the Divine nature (the unity of God in three persons or the union in Christ of the Divine and human principles). Otherwise, it can be said that the movement of the hand in the Orthodox tradition transmits the plot associated with time, that is, with human history, and the perception of the plot is the immutable essence of the Divine.
Symbolic expression of theological truth
Both the movement of the hand and the addition of the fingers when making the sign of the cross expresses the basic dogmatic ideas of the Orthodox; accordingly, this or that method of its commission is of fundamental importance. From here, in particular, controversy controversies can have precisely religious nature in Russia.
Here is a description of the sign of the cross at Christopher Angel (1575-1638), a Greek who left for England in 1608 and wrote an essay about his countrymen at Cambridge about each of his compatriots: “Everyone ... thinks three connected fingers, first on the forehead, that the Holy Trinity is in heaven; and then he puts it on the womb to signify that the Son and the Word of God came down to earth, and became flesh, and was crucified, and died for our sins. He further believes on his right shoulder, showing that he ascended from hell and sat on the right hand of the Father; finally, he believes on his left shoulder, expressing [a prayer] that he does not leave us in our wrong way [at the Last Judgment], but delivered us from the left country ... And thus this sign depicts the Cross of Christ, that is, the laying on of the hand on the forehead and on the womb, then transferring it to the right and left shoulders forms a cross and points to the Cross of Christ, that is, that Christ was crucified for our sins. ”
The fall of the cross in the Orthodox tradition is understood as the confession of faith, which should express the theological and, above all, the dogmatic content of Orthodox dogma as precisely as possible: one can say that the sign of the cross appears as a symbolic expression of theological truth. Thus, the correct mark of the sign of the cross is a necessary condition for the Orthodox religion: deviation from the accepted method of baptism is as unacceptable as deviation from the text of the Creed; such an attitude, in particular, manifested itself in the schism of the Russian Church, when Patriarch Nikon ordered to be baptized not by two, but by three fingers: a change in the identity of the church led to a confessional conflict.
According to the materials:B.A.Assumption. The Sign of the Cross and sacred space