Antique icons Christ Enthroned

“IC XC” Hand Gesture: Origins and Symbolic Meaning

It is well known that religious icons are abundant in a variety of symbols. Colors, postures, vestments, attributes of saints, and other icon elements have their meaning and iconographic canons. In this blog post, we will discuss icon gestures, namely the “IC XC” hand gesture. It is a popular symbol that can be found in many Orthodox icons of Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, and saints. What is its origin? What does it mean to Orthodox believers?

The “IC XC” hand gesture – the initials of Jesus Christ

The gesture of blessing is often seen in Orthodox iconography. It is a special finger fold used by the priests during the liturgy. The “IC ХC” hand gesture has its name for a reason – each finger is associated with a Greek alphabet letter. The index finger is the letter I, the middle finger makes up the letter C, the ring finger and the thumb fold into the letter X, and the pinky finger is the letter C. Thus, this gesture represents the initials of Jesus Christ.

Blessing gesture symbolism

Besides forming the initials of Jesus Christ, the gesture of blessing conveys Christian doctrines. The three fingers symbolize the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The thumb and ring finger convey the dual nature of Jesus Christ – the union of the earthly and heavenly worlds. With this gesture, the Savior blesses everyone who asks for salvation, healing, and recovery from ailments.

Blessing gesture origin

It is believed that the tradition of depicting hand gestures in Orthodox icons originated in Rome and Ancient Greece. Oratory with the use of various hand gestures was highly developed in those countries. Some critics state that Orthodox iconographers adopted this tradition and turned it into iconographic symbols. In addition to the gesture of blessing, there are other hand gestures, such as the raised hand (also an important gesture in rhetoric) and the hand near the heart, which is often depicted in the Seraphim of Sarov icons.

The “IC XC” hand gesture plays a central role in the icon symbolism. It is often attributed to Jesus Christ who wants to render the truth to all people. Over the years, the gesture has also entered the liturgy. All priests and clergy now raise their hands to bless the believers in the temple and to draw attention to the important thing, just like Roman orators used to do.