BLESSING CROSS – (or Hand Cross) Used in the Orthodox Church by a priest or bishop to give a blessing or benediction. The hand cross is kept on the Holy Table in the Altar and used at certain moments during the liturgy, most noticeably when he holds it in his right hand as he gives the final blessing at the dismissal of the Divine Liturgy. In many traditions, usually Slavic, after the dismissal of the Divine Liturgy all of the faithful come forward to kiss the cross.
The hand cross is usually made of precious metal and may be adorned with enamel and precious or semi-precious gemstones. It may also have enamel or embossed icons on it, such as the Theotokos, John the Forerunner, the Four Evangelists or Prophets. The blessing cross often has an icon of the Crucifixion of Jesus on it, together with the letters IC XC NIKA (meaning, “Jesus Christ Conquers“). Blessing crosses may also be two-sided, having an icon of the Crucifixion on one side and an icon of the Resurrection on the other. The side with the Resurrection would be held out towards the people on Sundays and throughout the afterfeast of Pascha.
The blessing cross is also used in the blessing of holy water, when the priest dips the cross in the water, making the sign of the cross with it three times. At Pascha, the blessing cross may be connected to the Paschal troitsa carried by the priest at the services during Bright Week.