Inward Sign of the Cross

Throughout its history the sign of the cross has been seen as a mark of Christian identity. From this perspective it is performed so that the sign may be seen by others. This was the case especially in earlier Christian centuries, as well as during times when Christianity became threatened.

According to the sign's other meaning, which has become more prominent in the last twelve centuries, the gesture of the cross is also a self-blessing, a gesture that imitates and reflects the sacramental blessing of the priest.

As both interpretations suggest, it is not directed towards God - unlike the gesture of the outstretched arms. In the first case, as the mark of Christian identity, it is directed at someone else. And in the second case, as a gesture of blessing, the sign is turned toward the self. In both cases, since it is traced over the body, its conceptual start is the most graspable sense of the self, which is the body. Where the gesture of the outstretched arms formed an invocation, the inward direction of the sign of the cross creates a gesture of profession of and acceptance of the faith. Both the sign of the cross and the gesture of the outstretched arms signify prayer, but the direction, and therefore the meaning of the prayer formed by the gesture, is different in each case.

Lifting the hands is something we do when we address God in heaven. This form of address works similarly to the way we communicate among oursleves. We speak, and our words are sent, offered toward and heard by the other person. Tracing the sign of the cross over one's body is different. We gesture the sign of the cross when we invite God to talk to us, to accept and clean our body and our entire being, so that our body becomes a temple for God to dwell in. This kind of prayer is more contemplative in nature. It starts with the self and is directed to God in heaven through an inward journey.

Andreas Andreopoulos
The Sign of the Cross: The Gesture, The Mystery, The History
Paraclete Press, 2006
pp 72-73


What Worship in Spirit and Truth really means

> respected father Brian,
> When/if you get time, would you explain what worship in Spirit and Truth really means?
> Susan Eapen
> Thiruvananthapuram

Dearest Susan,

This is a good question and worthy of our attention. However, I can only give what I have been given know of this, which may be incomplete and anemic in an attempt to answer fully.

Bishop John, a bihsop of my youth to whom I asked many questions (probably to the point of annoyance), once responded to one of my questions by saying something like:

"I could answer this for you, but I am sure you will find it insuffecient for your curiousity. There may not be a full and true answer anywhere in this world. Then again your curiousity may be bigger than your willingness to understand the truth. In Holy Orthodoxy we accept that there will always be mystery since we cannot comprehend the fullness and the entirety of the Godhead. So, you may be asking something that is intended to be a mystery. Nevertheless, I will take your question with the intent that you have a God-given reason in your heart for this knowledge."

But he did not answer. Whem I asked him again, he said, "Let me pray about this some more. I will ask you to pray for the naswer as well, maybe in our lifetime God will answer the question for our understanding and spiritual development." (Yes, talked like that even if I am not quoting directly.)

So, to your request for an explanation of "worship in Spirit and in Truth" - I have prayed about it and will ask that you say a prayer at this moment (before you read further) that He will enlighten all of us in spiritual knowledge.

{May the Lord guide me to the doing of His will}

To worship is to dedicate and sanctify our human time and energy to the fullness of who and what we have been created to be. In our worship, we let go of the worldly conditions and seek to align ourselves with the spiritual conditions of eternity, that is to say eternal life. This means to purify our physical bodies, our minds and our hearts so that we can be more like that reflected image in which we were created. This requires honesty, clarifying and microscopic honesty, that engages our conscience to the release of anything that prevents us from being one with God. So to say we worship in Spirit and in Truth - is also t say that we do NOT worship in materialism and in deception - even more, that we CAN NOT worship except in Spirit and in Truth.


Hope this has helped.
Forgive me anything I may have done knowingly or unknowingly.
Pray for me, a servant

Fr John Brian


On Those Who Accuse the Clergy

We once asked Father Paisios:
Father, you constantly tell us to have positive thinking. We would like you to give us some advice on how to deal with the following problem:
Often people come to us to tell us that some priests charge a lot of money for performing the Holy Sacraments; they say that they smoke, or hang around coffee shops; they even say that some priests are involved in immoral acts, and in general, make strong accusations against them and present evidence to justify them. What answers can we give to people who accuse the clergy?
The Elder started telling us:
I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories. A third category does not exist; people either belong to one or the other. The first one resembles the fly. The main characteristic of the fly is that it is attracted by dirt. For example, when a fly is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt found on the ground. It will start messing around with it and feel comfortable with the bad smell. If the fly could talk, and you asked it to show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: "I don't even know what a rose looks like. I only know where to find garbage, toilets and dirt." There are some people who resemble the fly. People belonging to this category have learned to think negatively and always look for the bad things in life, ignoring and refusing the presence of good.
The other category is like the bee whose main characteristic is to always look for something sweet and nice to sit on. When a bee is found in a room full of dirt and there is a small piece of sweet in a corner, it will ignore the dirt and will go to sit on top of the sweet. Now, if we ask the bee to show us where the garbage is, it will answer: "I don't know. I can only tell you where to find flowers, sweets, honey and sugar; it only knows the good things in life and is ignorant of all evil." This is the second category of people who have a positive thinking and see only the good side of things. They always try to cover up the evil in order to protect their fellow men; on the contrary, people in the first category try to expose the evil and bring it to the surface.
When someone comes to me and starts accusing other people and puts me in a difficult situation, I tell him the above example. Then, I ask him to decide to which category he wishes to belong, so he may find people of the same kind to socialize with.
From Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, Priestmonk Christodoulos (1998), pp. 43-44.
From: Jason H.