Why Do Some People Cross Themselves at Certain Times During the Service?

Crossing oneself is an ancient form of what is known as a body prayer. It is typically done either at the beginning and/or the ending of prayers. It is also done as a prayer by itself. It is a way of asking God to bless oneself. To those who practice this form of prayer, it is a humble, silent way of reminding ourselves of Christ’s sacrifice and also the cross we are all called to bear. And it reminds us of Jesus’ ultimate victory over evil and life over death. Here are the places you are most likely to see people crossing themselves during the service:

  1. After dipping fingers in the holy water font at the door, upon entering and leaving the church
  2. At the beginning of the opening acclamation (“Blessed be God…”)
  3. At the end of the Nicene Creed
  4. During the Prayers of the People when prayers are offered for the departed
  5. During the Absolution which comes after the Confession
  6. During the Eucharistic Prayer when the priest says “Sanctify us also…”
  7. Before and after receiving the bread and wine at communion
  8. During the blessing at the end of the service

This making the sign of the cross is a personal act of piety and is completely optional in Episcopal worship. If you should wish to make the sign of the cross, here is how it is done:

  1. Touch the fingertip of your right hand to your forehead.
  2. Touch your breastbone.
  3. Touch the front side of your left shoulder.
  4. Touch your right shoulder in roughly the same location.
  5. Return your hand to your heart or to your side.

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