Leonard Cohen’s Gestures Of Blessing & Sign Of The Cross In Performances Of Everybody Knows

And everybody knows that you’re in trouble
Everybody knows what you’ve been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it’s coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows

From Everybody Knows
By Leonard Cohen & Sharon Robinson

In performances of the “Sacred Heart” verse of Everybody Knows, Leonard Cohen executed certain hand gestures that echo specific Roman Catholic rituals.

Note: In some live performances, the original line, “Take one last look at this Sacred Heart,” was sung “Take one last look at this Mighty Heart.” And, at least once (Brussels: June 30, 2013), it was rendered “Take one last look at this Broken Heart.” [emphasis mine])

The Blessing

The photo atop this post and the above animation display the first of these gestures, one frequently found in Christian art such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi shown below, in which Christ is giving a benediction with the first two fingers and thumb of his right hand extended. The three raised digits represent the Trinity (The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit); the two closed digits represent the dual nature of Christ as both man and God.

The Sign Of The Cross

The sign of the cross is the most common Catholic gesture. Latin (Western) Catholics make the sign of the cross by touching their right hand to the forehead, then the middle of the breast, then the left shoulder, and finally the right shoulder. This gesture makes a cross — an intersection of a vertical line from forehead to breast and a horizontal line from left to right shoulder. Leonard’s gesture is an abbreviated version limited to the confines of his chest (and it appears he goes from right to left to form the horizontal line of the cross).

Ironically, the one reference I found to Leonard and the sign of the cross was in connection with Zen master Roshi:

For a time in the early seventies he became Roshi’s secretary and accompanied Roshi to various Trappist monasteries where Cohen would occasionally lead the sesshins for the monks. Roshi’s koan for the monks consisted of one question: “How do you realize Jesus Christ when you make the sign of the cross?”1

The video below automatically begins just before the blessing and sign of the cross gestures.

Credit Due Department: The photo atop this post (Las Vegas – December 11, 2010) and the source video for both animations are by Maarten Massa.

  1. Various Positions by Ira Nadel []