The Wrong Way?

Everyone notices that Orthodox Christians cross themselves differently from the Roman Catholics and Episcopalians.  People often describe it as “backwards” or “the wrong way”, because they move the cross from the right shoulder to the left shoulder.

Not that this is a matter of great theological dispute, it is a matter of historical interest.  How did the two different ways of crossing yourself become distinct?   Is there a right or wrong direction to cross yourself?

Well there certainly is a traditional way: and that is (drum roll please) the Orthodox way.  Even as late as the 13th century Pope Innocent III described the sign of the cross as moving from right to left, the Orthodox way.  He  mentioned that some very western Christians had started the odd practice of crossing themselves from left to right – with two fingers.

Pope Innocent III explained the sign in a manner familiar to Orthodox believers.

“The sign of the cross is made with three fingers, because the signing is done together with the invocation of the Trinity. This is how it is done: from above to below, and from the right to the left, because Christ descended from the heavens to the earth, and from the Jews (right) he passed to the Gentiles (left).”


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