There is no strict prescription in the church rules or canons stating that participation in church sacraments becomes impossible for those Orthodox Christians who don’t wear a cross. But it is more appropriate to ask another question: can an Orthodox Christian himself, being a believer, approach the Sacraments without a cross? The cross is an expression of our personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, crucified for our salvation. Strictly speaking, due to this the practice of constantly wearing a cross took root in our national tradition. And therefore, it is no coincidence that St. John Chrysostom writes: “The cross is a symbol of our salvation, universal freedom, and the mercy of the Lord.”
In antiquity, for example, the cross could be tattooed or painted on the body as a symbol of the Christian faith. We can still find a similar practice among Coptic Christians who tattoo the cross on their right hand. Why did they do it in antiquity? Only because during the period of persecution of Christians any material evidence of Christian faith could have been destroyed: they could tear a cross off or to slay it, but it was impossible to destroy a tattoo.
And if today a believer who has been baptized and who, due to certain circumstances, does not have a cross (for example, lost it or forgot to take it after going to the bath), comes to the temple, then I think a sensible priest will let him partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. But if a person does not wear a cross on his chest consciously, the question arises: why does he take this position? Maybe he has some problems with Orthodoxy.
Thus, the cross is a sign of our self-identification as Orthodox Christians, and not some kind of “ticket” to the Church.
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds
When I first converter to Orthodoxy, I started wearing a cross, but then a priest (OCA) told me to take it off as only clergy wear priestess crosses in church. But then he also didn’t want me to wear a head covering. “This is America.”
Wow. Sounds odd re: the cross. I’m OCA and have never heard of that. As for the head covering, it does seem like it’s half and half in OCA, some women wear them, others don’t.
There is some misunderstanding about wearing a cross. A small neck Cross is normal to wear and is given to wear at one’s baptism into the church. It is a large pectoral cross that only a priest would wear outside his cassock or vestments and anyone else.