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On Wearing the Cross

The Cross of Jesus Christ is the joy and boast of Christians. By the Cross we were saved and by the Cross the demons are put to flight. Wearing the Cross on our person is a fundamental and simple way to keep Christ in our daily life and to fight the influence of the devil.

Who wears the Cross and when?

Infants and adults who are baptized in the Coptic Orthodox Church typically receive a small image of the Holy Cross to be worn around the neck. From this time until the time of a person’s departure, every Orthodox Christian should wear the Holy Cross at every moment.

The cross is not merely jewelry or decoration for our person, but the sign of the triumph of Christ over death and our belonging to Christ. It is not Orthodox simply to “decorate” ourselves or our children with the cross on Sundays to come to Church and then leave the cross off the rest of the week. A Christian wears the Cross at all times.

Do we wear the cross on the inside or the outside?

Except for the clergy, we normally wear the cross on the inside of our shirt or blouse, not the outside. It is not outward adornment but rather a reminder of our baptism, an act of prayer, and a protection against the devil. It is not bad to wear the cross on the outside, if we desire, but this is not actually the ancient custom.

What about cross tattoos?

A tradition developed among Coptic Christians from the earliest days of persecution to have a small image of the Holy Cross tattooed on their wrists.

While the practice is common, it is unfortunately being abused in modern times. Believers are not tattooing small crosses on their wrists, but instead, large elaborate crosses on their forehands and even images of the saints and other religious images throughout their bodies. While admirable, this practice is not accepted in Orthodox Christianity, which teaches about the holiness of the body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

A small and simple image of the cross on the right wrist is acceptable; anything beyond that is inconsistent with Orthodox custom.

What about hieroglyphics, eyes, etc.?

Many people forego wearing images of the Holy Cross in favor of wearing images of hieroglyphics, eyes, and other things. This is not an Orthodox Christian practice. Indeed, wearing eyes to ward off “evil eye” is a pagan practice of magicians, not Christians.

The most effective protection against the power of evil spirits is the image of the Holy Cross. We should teach our children this fact and encourage them to always choose the Holy Cross over other pendants and adornments.


Posted by Fr. Moses Samaan

August 25, 2010