From the St. Nicholas monthly bulletin…
On the Christian Life
On the Wearing of the Cross
The following is translated from the Russian "Answers of a Priest" column on the Pravoslavie.ru website.
Question: Are we allowed go about without wearing a cross? I am baptized but I do not wear a cross. Is this important? – Elena.
Hieromonk Job (Gumerov) replies: We have the obligation to wear a cross, so as to keep an ancient Christian tradition. When a person is baptized, the priest puts the cross on him with his own hand, and so let the hand of no un-ordained layman dare to take it off. The cross accompanies us throughout our life. We may replace it only in case of necessity. We may wear a consecrated wooden cross in the bath or during an operation.
The Cross is a material sign of a person's membership in the Church of Christ. At the same time it is a sharp sword in our spiritual warfare:
"Let us make the sign of the Cross over our doors, and on our brow, and on our breast, and on our lips, and over every member of our body, and let us arm ourselves with this invincible weapon of Christianity, the vanquisher of death, the hope of the faithful, the light of all the ends of the earth, the key that opens Paradise and overcomes heresies, the confirmation of the Faith, the great preserver and the saving boast of the Orthodox. We shall, O Christians, wear this weapon on our person in every place, by day and by night, and at every hour and every minute. Do nothing without it, whether you sleep, or rise from sleep, work, eat, drink, find yourself along the way, or sail upon the sea, or cross a stream – adorn all the members of your body with the life-giving Cross, and no evil will come to you, and no wound will touch your body (cf. Psalm 90:10)."
(St Ephraim the Syrian, Homily on the Universal Resurrection, on Repentance and Love, on the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, Part 1, Homily 103).
A person who takes off his cross, or neglects to wear it after Baptism, suffers from a lack of faith, and absence of a real consciousness of the Church. In ancient Rus it was said of immoral persons, "He wears no cross." In the story of I. A. Bunin, "The Fowls of Heaven," a poor man, to whom a student offers money, says, "Only the Devil is poor, for he wears no cross."
Editor's note: So important is the wearing of the cross that the New Martyr Eugene Rodionov preferred to be beheaded by Chechen Islamists rather than take off his cross. He suffered for Christ at Bamut, Chechnya, on his nineteenth birthday, 10/23 May 1996.∎