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  #1  
Unread 6th July 2009, 09:45 PM
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Kiss Lutherans and the Sign of the Cross

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When I "moved" from Catholicism to Lutheranism, I was pleasantly surprised by the GREAT similarities in customs. One of these was the sign of the Cross.

In Catholicism, this is done primarily at the mention of the Trinity and at the reception of the Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. But, like so many things in Catholicism, some seem to do it at all kinds of times.

It took me months before I noticed that not all Lutherans do this alike! Some were following the typical Catholic practice - going from head to heart (the vertical part of the Cross), then from left to right (for the horizonal part of the Cross), then often to the center to end. But some where doing it backwards! When I asked by pastor about this, he commented that in Luthers day, it was common to do the right to left as is still the practice among Eastern Orthodox Christians, but for reasons he had forgotten (he's a former Catholic), Catholics changed it. Lutherans just didn't. But, he stressed, the Catholic style is simply far better known in the west and many Lutherans do it the newer, Western way - and that's okay, too. He told me he learned in Lutheran seminary that either is okay. And so he's never bothered to "instruct" people - one way or the other, but he does it the eastern way.

This is from Why do Orthodox Christians "cross themselves" different than Roman Catholics?


Why do Orthodox Christians "cross themselves" different than Roman Catholics?


They touch their right shoulder first, then their left, whereas the Roman Catholics first touch their left shoulder. Is this difference important? Does it make any difference?


Orthodox cross themselves from right to left. first we will describe the mechanics of making the cross, then explain why it is indeed important that we make the sign of the cross correctly.



"Placing the cross on oneself"
  1. We place our thumb and first two fingers together in a point, and our last we fingers flat against our palm. The three fingers together represent the Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the two fingers in the palm represent the two natures of Christ.
  2. We touch our forehead, then our belly, tracing the vertical part of the cross.
  3. From our belly, we bring our hand up to our right shoulder, touching it.
  4. We finish placing the cross on ourself by touching our left shoulder.
The act of "Placing the cross on oneself" is a request for a blessing from God. We make if from right to left to mirror the actions of the priest when he blesses us. The priest, looking at the parishioners, blesses from left to right. Therefore, the parishioners, putting on the sign of the cross on themselves, do it from right to left.
Because the Lord separated the sheep from the goats, putting the faithful sheep on His right side, and the goats on the left, the Church always treats the right side as the preferred side. We only cross ourselves with our RIGHT hand. The priest, when blessing a person, first touches or points to their RIGHT side, then their left. Also the censing of the Holy Table in the Altar is always done from the RIGHT side first; censing of the Ikonostasis, the Congregation and of the Church itself always begins with the right side. The priest always gives communion with his RIGHT hand, even if he is left handed. There are other examples of this right side preference.
When a parent makes the sign of the cross over a child, they will cross them from left to right, just as the priest blesses. When they make the sign of the cross over themselves, they would do it, logically, the other way.
The Catholic Encyclopedia states that in the Roman Catholic Church, the faithful crossed themselves from right to left, just as the Orthodox do, until the 16th century. They must explain why they have changed an ancient and apostolic tradition. We cannot answer as to their motivations.
Is it important to cross ourselves a particular way? In a word, YES. We do not have the authority to choose willy-nilly what parts of the Christina Tradition we want to follow. Our fathers, and countless saints crossed themselves from right to left. Ancient icons show Christ or bishops beginning a blessing from right to left. the right side is referred to in a preferential way many times in scripture and our sacred hymns What should we want to change?


I've changed to the Eastern, right-to-left form, but I return to the center at the end (a kind of blend of the two, perhaps). But I agree with my Lutheran pastor and disagree with this Orthdox article that it matters. It's simply an act of remembrance of our Baptism and an affirmation of the Trinity - it's just custom. It can be done variously - or not at all (as is also the custom of some in my church).


I found one thing in the Orthodox article interesting. The Priest there does it backwards so that the congregation doesn't need to reverse it! Interesting! In any case, in an unfamiliar congregation, I often tend to follow the minister. If he does it, I do it - together with him. My Lutheran pastor is pretty generous with the Signs - so I am, too.




What's the practice of your pastor? Of the people in your Lutheran church?











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  #2  
Unread 6th July 2009, 09:57 PM
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This comes from the ELCA (Page Not Found - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Why do Lutherans make the sign of the cross?


"In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit." These words begin the orders for Confession and Forgiveness in Evangelical Lutheran Worship. The rubric that accompanies these words says: "The minister leads the congregation in the invocation. The sign of the cross may be made by all in remembrance of their Baptism."
As this invocation is made, an increasing number of Lutherans trace the sign of the cross over their bodies from forehead to breast, then from shoulder to shoulder; and others trace a small cross on their foreheads.
The sign of the cross, whether traced over the body or on the forehead, is a sign and remembrance of Baptism. The sign of the cross is ecumenical, in that is used by the Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Episcopalians, and is slowly increasing in use among mainline Protestants. It is also a remembrance of the death and resurrection of our Lord: the center of our faith.
The sign of the cross is a treasured part of our liturgical heritage as Lutherans, because the practice was encouraged and used by Martin Luther himself. Luther made provisions for using the sign of the cross on at least four occasions.
The text of Luther’s 1526 Order of Baptism called for the sign of the cross to be made over the candidate as a part of Baptism. "Receive the sign of the holy cross on both your forehead and your breast" (Luther’s Works 53:107).
In his order for the Ordination of Ministers of the Word, Luther says of the benediction: "The ordinator blesses them with the sign of the cross" (Luther’s Works, 53:126).
Luther instructed his followers to make the sign of the cross at both the beginning and the end of the day as a beginning to daily prayers. In the Small Catechism, in the section on morning and evening prayers Luther says: "When you get out of bed, bless yourself with the holy cross and say ‘In the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen." This same instruction is given for bedtime.
In current ecumenical usage, the sign of the cross is made or may be made at the following times or occasions:
  • At Baptism: "The minister marks the sign of the cross on the forehead of each of the baptized. Oil prepared for this purpose may be used. As the sign of the cross is made, the minister says: "______, child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever" (ELW, page 231).
  • At the invocation in orders for confession and forgiveness in the Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Lutheran Book of Worship, With One Voice, Libro de Liturgia y Cantico, and This Far by Faith.
  • At the absolution in orders for confession and forgiveness. For example, in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Confession and Forgiveness, the sign of the cross is made as the minister says, "I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit."
  • At reading of the Gospel, as the words "A reading from the holy Gospel according to ____" are said, a small cross may be traced with the thumb, first on the forehead, then lips, and finally on the breast. Signing the cross at the gospel is used most often by Roman Catholics and in varying degrees by some Lutherans and Episcopalians.
  • At conclusion of the Nicene Creed, when the phrase "and the life of the world to come" is said. Making the sign of the cross here is a remembrance that resurrected life is promised to those baptized into Christ.
  • In Holy Communion, as the "Blessed is He" is sung in the Sanctus, and immediately before or after receiving the elements of bread and wine.
  • At the benediction when a trinitarian form of benediction (one that includes the words "Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit") is used, and during the final phrase of the Aaronic benediction.
  • As part of the Rite of Welcome, the first in a series of the rites used in the catechumenal process to welcome inquirers who may be discerning the call to baptism. During this rite, sponsors make sign of the cross on over their inquirers’ forehead, ears, eyes, lips, hands, and feet, or may simply trace a single cross over or on the forehead. The Rite of Welcome, along with other provisional catechumenate rites, are found in the volume Welcome to Christ: Lutheran Rites for the Catechumenate (Augsburg Fortress, 1997).



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  #3  
Unread 7th July 2009, 03:07 AM
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Most of my family is Lutheran. Mum used to teach Sunday school in the little Transylvanian Saxon Lutheran church she attended here in small-town PA. My grandfather on the other side of the family considered becoming a "minister" in his younger days. My college roommate got a degree in meteorology, but then went on to become a Lutheran pastor.

I never had the slightest clue Lutherans ever "crossed" themselves.
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Unread 7th July 2009, 04:16 AM
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Yeah, honestly, no one in my Church, and for that matter anyone I've ever seen in my synod, cross themselves either. :/
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Unread 7th July 2009, 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by BreadAlone View Post
Yeah, honestly, no one in my Church, and for that matter anyone I've ever seen in my synod, cross themselves either. :/
It's not a common practice in the Lutheran church. In all my years of going to LCMS and WELS churches, I've only seen one person cross themselves. There's not really anything wrong with it, it's just not common.
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Unread 7th July 2009, 07:17 AM
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Originally Posted by NorrinRadd View Post

I never had the slightest clue Lutherans ever "crossed" themselves.
Most don't.
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Unread 7th July 2009, 07:19 AM
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There are only three adults in our congregation (4 if you count the Pastor) that do.

Pastor and I do it the eastern way, the others western. There are two children in our Sunday School who do it the western way, they learned in the RC French Immersion School that they attend.

Like CJ, we all return to center, over our heart.

BTW, I actually started using the western form as a Funeral Director; I did a lot of Catholic funerals.
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Unread 7th July 2009, 08:12 AM
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Well in my church (the finnish evangelical-lutheran church) quite many actually use the sign, and I'm actually quite surprised, that so many other lutherans here don't seem to use it. Perhaps not quite the most, but many of us use the sign of the cross whenever trinity is in mentioned in a mass and often when a prayer or blessing ends. Could be a cultural thing, though; Finland used to be a rather catholic country too...

Edit// Oh, and to come back to the actual topic I want to mention that I've heard an actual instruction about doing the sign of the cross, but the pastor said right after telling us, that it doesn't really matter too much how you do it..
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Unread 7th July 2009, 08:50 AM
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It all depends where you are, but I have been to many places where Lutherans do the sign of the cross, I myself being one of them.
I knew one pastor who personally insisted (to himself, not others) on doing it the orthodox way as a means of distinction from the catholic church. I know also that many do not do it on account of the fact that it seems "too catholic" to them.
It is all a matter of evangelical freedom. I think it is a great practice, but we should not require it or a certain form (western or eastern) of it among us or we are destroying adiaphora and Christian freedom.
pax
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Unread 7th July 2009, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by doulos_tou_kuriou View Post
... or we are destroying adiaphora and Christian freedom.
pax

or we impose a burden on consciences of others.
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