Why Do Some Christians Make the Sign of the Cross While Others Don’t?

All may.
Some should.
None must.
This is a handy formula that covers a whole host of different concepts in the way we Christians live our faith, particularly when it comes to practices and actions -like the so-called “manual acts.”  Get it? A HAND-y formula. I crack me up some times.
Signs an symbols made with hands and arms have been a part of Christian practice and symbolism since the very beginning. If you’ve ever looked at an ancient stained-glass window or icon and noticed that Jesus or another character is doing something strange with their hands, you know what I’m talking about. But for most contemporary church goers, the principle act is the making of the sign of the cross over one’s upper body – “forehead, zipper, wallet, watch.”
Though some of the more complex hand-signs are as deeply symbolic as they are difficult to form – in both iconography and liturgy, priests are often trying to force their fingers into the shape of the Greek letters Chi and Rho – none of them are meant to be secret or to convey any source of magical influence. They are very literally physical images meant to convey very simple concepts. If the priest of blessing you in the name of Christ and his crucifixion, then she will bless you in the shape of the cross with  fingers held in the shape of the first two letter of the word Christ – or as near as her fingers can go. Likewise, when we receive such a blessing, we can choose to receive it in the same way it was offered, in the shape of the cross. It’s kind of like “covering” ourselves with Jesus. Manual acts remind us to be present to what what’s going on and to pay attention to what we’re doing.
They are not, however, mandatory. Particularly to the extent that they distract us from what’s going on, reminding us of other things or bringing to mind questions like, “I wonder why we do this?”, the manual acts can actual do the opposite work. In such cases, they should be avoided.
There is probably a good blog-post worth of info on just about all of the manual acts. So, I’ll save greater exploration of particular motions for then. I’d love to hear about your experience of these types of things and what specific questions you have.

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