Religious Hand Gestures

Religious Hand Gestures and Their Sacral Meaning

All those who study religious icons or pray with them know that every detail painted by the iconographer has a symbolic meaning. Hand gestures of the saints, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ are no exception. They conceal a secret, a sacred meaning that every icon lover should know. Read this blog post to learn about religious hand gestures existing in iconography and what they mean.

Religious hand gestures and their sacral meaning

1. The blessing hand

The gesture of blessing (pictured) can be seen in many icons of saints and Jesus Christ. In this gesture, the fingers of the right hand are folded like the Latin letters I and X or gathered in a triple finger. It is the way the iconographers depict the religious figures who blessed people and had a holy ministry during their lives. For example, these include St. John Chrysostom and Nicholas the Wonderworker, among others.

2. Open palm

Among other popular symbolic religious hand gestures is the open palm or the palm of the righteous. It is used to depict a saint whose thoughts are pure and whose soul is open to the world. The palm facing people is a sign that the person in the icon is the one of faith and truth. For example, Saints Boris and Gleb are often depicted in the Orthodox icons with open palms.

3. Two palms open on the chest

This hand position signifies an appeal to God and acceptance of His grace. This is how Saint Anne, the Martyr Anastasia, and many other saints are depicted in the icons.

4. Hand on the heart

Saints who have their hand near the heart are righteous; they spent much time in sincere prayer to God. For example, St. Seraphim of Sarov, one of the most famous and revered saints in the history of the Russian Church, is sometimes painted this way.

5. Crossed arms on the chest

This gesture is similar to the way believers fold their arms at Communion. In iconography, it symbolizes the saint’s belonging to Christ and a reference to His sacrifice on the cross. The Venerable Mary of Egypt is usually depicted with this gesture. Shortly before her death, she received the Sacrament of Christ to enter the Heavenly Kingdom in peace.

Religious hand gestures are secret symbols that bring out the essence of the Christian teaching even more broadly. Each element has its meaning and purpose. Hopefully, this blog post has been helpful to you. Stay tuned to Russian Icon Collection to be the first to learn interesting facts from the world of religious icons.