Sunday, July 11, 2010

Three's...A Little Ridiculous

So, two fingers, two natures, and a desire for a bigger gesture to show it all off. Maybe. That's the 4th or 5th century, if it happened like that at all.

400 years later, move over two fingers. I got a little something for you -- three!

And why the change? Conflicts over the Trinity. Actually, it came down to a word -- "filioque". That is, "And the son".

In the Creed, the Western Church represented the Holy Spirit as proceeding from the Father and the Son. The Eastern Church didn't like that. It seemed to make the Holy Spirit lesser. Shouldn't it proceed from the Father, just like Jesus?

And so, intuting that this called for protest in the form of another incredibly subtle hand gesture, and that Monty Python would someday exist and need things like this as source material for bringing the funny, Western presiders began to do the sign of the cross with three digits -- thumb and two fingers.

And, if that weren't bold enough for you, they also had the thumb behind the two fingers. In fact, if you were looking straight on, you wouldn't even know that thumb was there. Which was to say, yeah, the Spirit's there, but it's not an equal partner.

I know, I know, thumb behind the fingers... that's some bold words, yo. Consider yourself served, Eastern Church!

In the East, the practice developed instead to use the thumb and two fingers, all pressed together. Hence the lead photo from yesterday:

And that's still the proper hand position for the sign of the Cross in the Eastern church today. (And also the gesture guys in my dorm used before punching me in the shoulder.)

Tomorrow: Left and Right (Finally!)