|Saint Augustine of Hippo (Public Domain)|
When Jesus walked this earth, it was already the custom within Judea and the western Mediterranean for men to greet one another with a kiss on the cheek. This custom was both intensified and imbued with a special spiritual significance by the early Christians (who greeted one another mouth-to-mouth according to primary sources, allegedly because Jesus and his
disciples did the same). The New Testament therefore advises faithful followers to greet one another "with a holy kiss (Romans 16:16, I Corinthians 16:20, II Corinthians 13:12, I Thessalonians 5:26) or "with a kiss of love" (I Peter 5:14).
A few centuries later, Saint Augustine of Hippo described how the Kiss of Peace had then become part of the Eucharistic liturgy. During an Easter sermon, Augustine states: …after the consecration of the Holy Sacrifice of God… we say the Lord's Prayer… After this, the 'Peace be with you' is said, and the Christians embrace one another with the holy kiss. This is a sign of peace; as the lips indicate, let peace be made in your conscience, that is, when your lips draw near to those of your brother, do not let your heart withdraw from his. Hence, these are great and
powerful sacraments. (Note: This Kiss of Peace was only exchanged man-to-man or woman-to-woman.
Wikipedia reports that "men and women were required to sit separately" in order to "guard against any abuse
of this form of salutation.")
These days, many Christian worshippers prefer to extend a hearty Galatians 2:9 "right hand of fellowship" (either via handshakes or hugs) to their neighbors in the pews.
Copyright February 14, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke All Rights Reserved