Medallions, pendants, and bracelets with images of the saints: there are so many products in some church stores! How should we treat them? Shall we wear them? Can a cross be a piece of jewelry? What if cross-shaped earrings are trendy now? Here are the answers by Archpriest Nikolay Markovsky, the parish priest of Holy Protection Church in v. Zaitsevo.
We have to bear in mind that the Cross is the symbol of our salvation. We all know perfectly well that it used to be a tool used for humiliating execution of lower-class criminals in the Roman Empire. When Jesus redeemed our sins on Mt. Golgotha, the Cross became the sign of His victory over death and a sacred object for every Christian. You cannot replace the Cross with anything else, with any icon, medallion, or ladanka.
If an individual wants to wear a medallion with the image of a saint, it’s fine. Each one of us has a heavenly patron. There are many people who venerate St. Spyridon of Trimythous, St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, St. Seraphim of Sarov, and other saints. You mustn’t replace your cross with these medallions but you can wear them together. The Cross is irreplaceable, and the rest is just supplementary to it.
Many people treat crosses or medallions not as sacred objects but as fashion accessories, and choose them accordingly, in jewelry stores based on their own aesthetic preferences. They wear these items over their clothes for everyone to see. It is unacceptable, too. A cross is a very personal item. Everyone carries his or her own cross on his or her neck, and it’s the cross that the Lord gave us during our baptism. When people show it off so that it becomes a fashion statement, it’s a sin. You should wear your cross modestly, under your clothes, and not show it off. The same is true of medallions and ladankas, too.
There are fashionistas who wear earrings and other jewelry in the shape of crosses. I think it’s outrageous. We read in the Gospel that the Lord carried his cross to Golgotha to be crucified on it, and the cross absorbed God’s Blood. The images of the Cross are sacred for every Christian. When people wear them in their ears, noses, and so forth, it’s a sacrilege, which calls for immediate repentance. Let’s take a flag of a regiment that fought in the Great Patriotic War as an example. It is soaked in the blood of the soldiers who carried it with them during all battles and died under that flag. Will you use that flag as a carpet or a fashion item? Everyone knows that the flag is sacred for the soldiers who survived that war. Similarly, the cross is sacred for all Orthodox Christians. You mustn’t wear it in the way that it wasn’t meant to be worn.
You might ask: what about athletes who do contact sports? They take off their crosses during training sessions because the crosses can be damaged. My opinion is that it is allowed to take the cross off and to put it in your pocket. Sometimes doctors also ask their patients to take off their crosses before a surgery or certain medical examinations. I was in a situation like that not long ago. The doctors were Christians, so they simply suggested that I put my cross on my hand, and I complied. That’s an example of direct necessity, and there’s no getting around it.
Is it required that you wear a cross with the Crucifixion scene on it?
Of course, a cross should look like a cross: that is, the Crucifix of our Lord Jesus Christ. If there isn’t the Crucifixion scene on your cross (e.g. if it’s someone else’s gift or if you were baptized with that cross), I don’t think it really matters. What you should care about is treating it as a sacred object and being aware of what you wear on your neck.
A cross must be a cross, so that anyone who looks at it should be able to see that it’s a cross and not a pendant, not a toy, not a pin. The Lord warned, “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26). If you’re an Orthodox Christian and you go to church and take communion, how can you be ashamed of your cross? A Christian must be faithful to Christ and not cheat on him. You can hardly regard those who are attracted to many things at the same time and carried away by fashion trends as Christians. Those who want to wear pendants, should buy pendants and leave crosses to those who really care.
Women often wear bracelets composed of many small icons. Should we regard them as acceptable or not?
There are so many products in church stores nowadays. There are dozens of various ladankas, medallions, bracelets, bottles of oil consecrated no one knows where and no one knows by whom, etc. Frankly speaking, I’m skeptical about things like those. You can’t replace the cross with anything else. It’s our primary sacred object. When people wear a bracelet with images of twenty-five saints, what do they do it for? Can’t they pray to their favorite holy intercessors at home? If you regard that bracelet as a charm, are you really a Christian? It’s pure paganism.
Years ago, I used to see a whole iconostasis around some people’s necks: several crosses, medallions, and something else. Today, it’s not the case anymore. This is another case of Orthodoxy mutating into paganism. Pagans believe that the more gods you worship, the better covered you are. You simply need more gods and more rituals. The Orthodoxy is different. We have only one Savior, Jesus Christ, and only one Cross. You shouldn’t wear twenty icons and ladankas around your neck. You’ve got one Cross—a sacred object, which Jesus washed with his blood. What else do you need?
It is not the cross itself that protects us. It’s the Lord. It’s our faith. Jesus Christ says, “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 9:29). If one cross isn’t enough for you, then you have little faith. Even if someone tears a cross off your neck or if you lose it or break it, it doesn’t mean that you’re left without God’s protection.
The Cross is the symbol of our faith. You shouldn’t panic if you lose it. If something happens to your cross, go to a church store and buy a new one. A cross is not a charm or an amulet. Your new cross will be as powerful as the one you lost. Don’t be afraid! If you lose your cross, go and buy a new one, then have it consecrated and wear it. May the Lord save you!
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds