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Lutherans and the Sign of the Cross

Discussion in 'Theologia Crucis - Lutherans' started by CaliforniaJosiah, Jul 6, 2009.

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  1. CaliforniaJosiah

    CaliforniaJosiah I now post at CARM Supporter

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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?




    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. CaliforniaJosiah

    CaliforniaJosiah I now post at CARM Supporter

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    This comes from the ELCA (Page Not Found - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America





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  3. NorrinRadd

    NorrinRadd Xian, Biblicist, Fideist, Pneumatic, Antinomian

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    :confused: :scratch:

    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.
     
  4. BreadAlone

    BreadAlone Hylian Knight

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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. :/
     
  5. seajoy

    seajoy Senior Veteran

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    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.
     
  6. seajoy

    seajoy Senior Veteran

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    Most don't.
     
  7. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Staff Member Administrator Supporter

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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.
     
  8. Aino

    Aino God's own

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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.. :)
     
  9. doulos_tou_kuriou

    doulos_tou_kuriou Located at the intersection of Forde and Giertz

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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
     
  10. filosofer

    filosofer Senior Veteran

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    or we impose a burden on consciences of others.
     
  11. BigNorsk

    BigNorsk Contributor

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    I'm an occassional crosser. I have no idea what to call my style. I use the thumb, start at the head, go down, pop over to the right finish on the left.

    Do your pastors do it differently standing in front facing the congregration when they speak of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Or do they do it like they were personally crossing?

    Every pastor I've seen does it with the hand facing the congregation and a bigger motion. I can't remember any who would cross the fingers but maybe I just didn't notice.

    Marv
     
  12. LutheranHawkeye

    LutheranHawkeye Regular Member

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    3 people do it in my congregation at home, and about 1/4 of the congregation does it at my college church. I personally use the RC way of signing the cross, due to the number of people familiar in America with the RC faith. I at least feel like when people stare at me they are thinking that I'm a Catholic instead of doing it the EO way and looking like I don't know what I'm doing. I might switch it up though after reading CJ's info.
     
  13. CaliforniaJosiah

    CaliforniaJosiah I now post at CARM Supporter

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    Thanks everyone!

    I've been kinda under the impression that this practice varies a LOT among Lutherans in the USA, and is more common in the ELCA than in my LCMS; more common in the LCMS than in WELS. I agree with the general view here that it's pure adiaphoron, although for ME, it has meaning and significance.

    Thanks again! Keep the replies coming!



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  14. joyfulthanks

    joyfulthanks The long day is over. Praise the Lord!

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    I'd guess about a half a dozen people in our church do it, including the pastor, who makes the sign of the cross toward the congregation, but not over himself.

    I'm one of them. None of us seems to be consistent in our practice, though. For example, sometimes I make the sign of the cross at the invocation of the Holy Trinity, but other times not. Sometimes I do after receiving holy communion, but other times not. I guess I feel I have the freedom to either cross myself or not, depending on what I feel like doing at the moment.

    Most of the folks who do cross themselves at our church seem to do it western-style, except me. They probably think I'm doing it backwards, but although I sometimes think about what others think of it, most of the time, I don't really care. I started making the sign of the cross when I was checking out Eastern Orthodoxy, so I just learned to do it that way, and it stuck.
     
  15. CaliforniaJosiah

    CaliforniaJosiah I now post at CARM Supporter

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    I NEVER did it before that memorable first Mass that I attended with my good friend, Mark. He had me over for a sleep over (we were probably 11 at the time), and his family did what mine did - with parent's okay, friends came to church with the family.

    I remember that first Catholic Mass very clearly! It was very majestic and impressive, but also very confusing. I found myself distracted by all the "choreography" as I referred to it (his family laughed about that term I used for years!). But I was determined to learn it all - and I did. Once I got into the grove and understood the what, why and when - it became SURPRISINGLY helpful. Not a distraction but actually helped me focused on what was going on, including the deapth and richness of it.

    MOST of that disappeared as I moved from Catholic to Lutheran, although I kept what Lutherans still do (although to this day, I have some silent things I say - just seems I should, and I WANT to genuflect as I approach the Altar, say for the Eucharist, but I don't).

    Changing from the western to eastern style of the Sign took some thought for awhile, but now I just do it that way.



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  16. servingtheking

    servingtheking Senior Member

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    I'd say at my congregation it's more common than it appears to be here, it's probably a 70% that don't and 30% who do. It isn't uncommon in our church for people to do it.
     
  17. Spike511

    Spike511 Newbie

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    During my first communion in a Lutheran church I was taught to cross. I don't think it's necessarily right or wrong, and I know many people don't.

    I cross after prayer. Waist to head, left to right. I guess right is just better than left in my opinion, and I just sort of naturally go to the right, sometimes a second time over the heart and then kind of my brow from left to right. It gets kind of crazy sometimes.

    --
    Eric
     
  18. DaRev

    DaRev New Member

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  19. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Staff Member Administrator Supporter

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  20. LutheranHawkeye

    LutheranHawkeye Regular Member

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