Thank you all for your replies, and may everyone be blessed during the Great Fast.
To address some points made by various people:
1. "This is not an innovation, it has always been celebrated..."
That is what I question. I desire a specific, Byzantine text referring specifically to hugging and kissing in the vespers of the Sunday of Forgiveness (as opposed to general statements about kissing).
2. "I think it would be wise to remember that something having been written or done in the midst of the Byzantine Empire does not necessarily seal it within or remove it entirely from the Tradition of the Church."
I kind of take the Byzantines as a standard. They bequeathed to us virtually the entirety of the liturgy and every single one of the Ecumenical Councils. Plus the Empire existed for over 1,100 years. If something was absent from the Church throughout the Empire for the entirety of the latter's existence that stretched longer than a millennium, then I think it safe to say that that something is not a part of holy Tradition. Anything that would leave every Byzantine saint from St. Constantine to St. Mark Eugenikos of Ephesos scratching his head is clearly a mere provincialism
3. Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware's Lenten Triodion is copyright 1977. The text on page 183 goes into some detail as to the proper way for the priest and the parishioners to prostrate themselves before each other, culminating in kissing the priest's hand (which, by the way, is what I recognize as a holy kiss). After this detailed note, Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware tersely write, "After receiving the priest's blessing, the faithful may also ask forgiveness of one another." That's it. And notice the use of the word "may". Judging solely from this text, it seems that neither Mother Mary nor Archimandrite Kallistos Ware were aware of all the parishioners hugging and kissing each other as normative. This makes me wonder if this "ancient" tradition is even as old as I am.
My bottom line: I am thoroughly prepared to accept this as part of holy Tradition if I ever come across proof of any Byzantine saints knowing of and approving of parishioners hugging and kissing during the vespers of the Sunday of Forgiveness. Otherwise, I will regard it as a recent, ethnic, and cultural-specific thing with as much roots in the Orthodox Church as pews and organs.
Forgive me if any of my phraseology causes offense. Any such is unintentional.
Edited by Geoffrey McKinney, 15 March 2016 - 10:00 PM.