While the reforms that took place in the Russian Church touched upon the many minutiae of church life, the sign of the cross was the single most visible change, and arguably the one that contributed most to the frequent bloody polemics and the later tragic schism. In this module, we will briefly present the history of the (practice of the) sign of the cross in the Christian Church.
We will then focus more strictly on the reforms and its main changes. As this is not a liturgical course, the analysis will be basic enough to allow students to develop a greater understanding of the main points of contention.
Apart from the sign of the cross (and blessing), we will briefly consider the spelling of the name of Jesus in Slavonic, the number of “Alleluia” to be said during prayer, the bows to be made during prayer and some other smaller changes that took place during the reforms. We will present both sides of the arguments and ensure students understand why this was so important to both sides.
Outcome of the fourth week:
Students should have sufficient understanding to be able to explain the historical background behind the Christian sign of the Cross. They should have an awareness of the major changes of the Nikonian reforms and be able to explain why these changes caused so much controversy, even violence and eventually the tragic schism.