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The Venerable Cross

In ancient times, Greeks and Romans used crosses for the execution of their worst criminals. It was called crucifixion. It was regarded as the most horrible and most shameful kind of punishment. Our Lord Jesus Christ was executed that way.

That shameful cross and crucifixion, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and …the mean things of the world to confound the things which are mighty”. (1 Kgs. 1-27).

During His  ministry on earth, Jesus Christ predicted that He would suffer and that He would be crucified. "And I, when I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. (This He said signifying what death He should die)”. (St. John 12:32-33). Accordingly He taught, "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”. (St. Mark 8:34).

Every person in the Roman Empire condemned to die on the cross had to carry his own cross to the place of execution. Jesus Christ carried His Cross as an act of highest sacrifice, since He didn’t deserve punishment because He didn’t commit any crime or sin. But by shedding His Holy Blood on the Cross, Jesus Christ sanctified the Cross, and elected it as His sign, so that the Holy Cross became the main symbol of Christ and of Christianity.

To His Venerable Cross Jesus Christ gave a special spiritual power so that it became the most powerful weapon of Christians. From the very beginning of Christianity the Holy Cross has been in use. With that holy sign we cross ourselves confessing our belief in Christ. With that holy sign we bless everything needed to be blessed. This is the sign which appeared in the sky before the Emperor Constantine the Great. Many nations, as well as our own Serbian nations, have on their national banners, the sign of the Holy Cross.With this holy sign and as lightning, Jesus Christ will appear at the Last Judgment.

The Orthodox Christian should kiss piously the Venerable Cross in church and make upon himself that all-powerful sign very often and on every occasion during his life.

It is interesting to note that in the Serbian language "Baptism” is called Krštenje, and „to Baptize" is krstiti. Both words are derived from Krst meaning "Cross". In other words, in the Serbian language, Baptism means putting cross upon the person who is becoming a Christian, and to be together with Jesus Christ.

The Venerable Cross is used everywhere: in churches, at homes, in fields, on ikons, in books, and in pictures. Orthodox people carry it in their lapels and on the chain round the neck; they venerate it and kiss it. The past history is full of miracles effected by the venerable Cross.

The Orthodox Church has set apart  three days in the year in commemoration of the Holy Cross. "The Exaltation of the Holy Cross", 27th of september, "The Holy Cross Day”, before Holy Theophany, January 18th, and the "Third Sunday of Easter Lent”.

With the Sign of the Cross (or by crossing ourselves) we call on God’s blessing to descend upon us. Therefore, we should know how to make the Sign of the Cross properly.

When we want to cross ourselves properly, we put our left hand on our chest and we raise the right hand to the level of our forehead; closing together its three fingers – the thumb, the index, and the big or middle, so that the tips are touching each other, and then we curve the last two fingers – the ring and the little, close to the palm of the right hand.

Why do we do it this way? First of all the right hand should remind us that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, after His Ascension into Heaven, sat at the right hand of God the Father. It should also remind us that God has designated a place for the siners on His left side where everlasting punishment is, according to Matthew, chapter 25, verses 31 to 46.

The thumb symbolically represents God the Father, Who is the All-Powerful Creator and Keeper of all creation. The thumb as the most powerful finger of all and keeps all the fngers into one unity.

The index finger symbolically represents God the Son, Who, through His Holy Gospel, showed us the road for our own salvation, the road that leads into the  Kingdom of Heaven. As you all know, it is the index finger with which we show the way to someone if he asks us for a direction.

The big finger of our hand (or middle) symbolically represents the fullness and greatness of the immeasurable grace of God the Holy Spirit.

Thus gathered, the three fingers of our right hand represent the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when we make the Sign of the Cross, all three should equally be touching the places of our body that will shortly be explained.

The other two fingers, the ring and the little finger, represent the dual nature in Jesus Christ, the Divine and the Human.

The palm represents earth. The two fingers curved close to the palm symbolically represent the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to earth and becoming man. Therefore, when crossing ourselves, if we do not curve these two fingers close to the palm, then we do not really believe that Jesus Christ came down to earth for us and for our salvation.

Thus prepared to make the Sign of the Cross, we bless ourselves first on our forehead saying; "IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER”! Why do we say; "IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER” when touching our forehead? Because, God the Father is Almighty Creator of all visible and invisible and He is the All Powerful Lord of everything. Since the mind is the center of all thoughts and ideas, and because every move of an individual is directed from there, when we touch our forehead, we are asking God to help us so that in our mind we will only create and do what is good and beneficial for us and those around us.

Then, we bring  our right hand down to the center of our chest and say;"AND OF THE SON”! It is known that the individual’s heart is the center of love and effection.

We all know that no one had more love for mankind than the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ! By placing our right hand on our chest we should feel and pray that the Lord God will fill our hearts with love and understanding for each other, the same love and affection that His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ has shown to all mankind.

Now we move our right hand (in the act of embracing) and touching our right shoulder, we say; "AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”! At this point we should be praying to God that the Holy Spirit will help us to gather for ourselves all that is good and beneficial to our souls, so that through our good deeds God will place us on His right side when He comes to judge both the living and the   dead  (Matt. 25, 31:46).

And then we move our right hand to the left as if we want to push something away from us, thus still saying; "AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”,  we touch our left shoulder. By this we pray to God that our livig burdens will be easy and that He will help us to push away all the works of the devil, and remember that because of him all sinners will go to everlasting punishment, which is on the Lord’s left side (Matt. 25, 31:46).

Than we place our right hand over the left (remembering our left hand was on our chest when we started to make the Sign of the Cross) and we bow our head slightly and say; "AMIN”!  "AMIN” is the Hebrew word that means "Truth”. In the Old Testament it was used as assurance that it is so, so be it, or let it be done (Numbers 5,22, Jeremiah 28, 6).

In the New Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ used this word to convince us, "Verily, Verily I say to you…” It is also used in the Book of Revelation as one of God’s names; "AMEN said” … (Rev. 3, 14).

In our use it should mean;  "LORD, THY WILL BE DONE” !