MY ORTHODOX NOTEBOOK
ANSWERS TO PRACTICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ORTHODOX WAY OF LIFE
No. 1 - 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?
At holy Baptism, every Orthodox Christian receives an image of the Precious Cross to be worn around the neck. From the moment of Baptism until the moment of death, every Orthodox Christian should wear the 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 Small Icon Medallions and Phylakta*?
It is Christian and praiseworthy to bear these on ourselves, for they are holy and grace-giving. But wearing the Cross is “square one” - more basic and necessary.
*(Phylakta are small squares of fabric enclosing ribbons or cloth touched to the True Cross or the relics of the saints. Wearing them is a holy custom from the earliest times of the Church.)
What about Wearing an Eye?
Wearing the image of an eye is not a Christian practice but rather a practice of magicians. It is powerless and will not protect us from the activity of evil spirits. Perhaps older relatives or friends taught us this custom because they did not understand its origins, but we should not pass on such a practice to our children.
After Baptism, put away your child’s “official” baptismal cross, which normally is very beautiful and costly, until he is old enough to take care of it properly. Then obtain small, inexpensive images of the cross - metal, wood, or cloth - and pin one to the baby’s clothing. As children grow older, they can wear an inexpensive cross on a simple chain or string. Of course, they will lose them, but this should not stop us from striving for our children always to wear the image of the Cross. Check them every day to see that they have their cross!
What is Available Here at St. Spyridon?
We have simple crosses for wearing about the neck, available in the Church bookstore. More expensive crosses can be ordered through the bookstore.
We also have phylakta as a blessing from our bishop, to be given to Christians upon request.