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origin of kissing and hugging in vespers for Sunday of Forgiveness?


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#1 Geoffrey McKinney

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 05:02 PM

Page 183 of The Lenten Triodion translated by Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware gives a brief description of the ceremony of mutual forgiveness immediately following vespers of the Sunday of Forgiveness. Embracing is nowhere mentioned, and the only kissing mentioned is kissing the priest's hand.

 

In my parish yesterday, every single person kissed and hugged every other person. Where and when did this practice of kissing and hugging begin? I have a hard time imagining the Byzantines doing that with the approval of St. Mark Eugenikos of Ephesos (for example). Having everybody, for example, repeatedly kiss (thrice) and hug everybody else seems a temptation to carnality. We have a number of teenagers of both genders in our parish, for example. It seems an especially hard thing for teenage boys to kiss and embrace all the teenage girls without improper thoughts.


Edited by Geoffrey McKinney, 14 March 2016 - 05:04 PM.


#2 Lakis Papas

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 05:27 PM

We prepare for the Easter

 

Easter troparion:

 

Let us embrase each other joyously

O Pasca ransom from affliction

Let us embrase each other

Let us call "Brothers" even those that hate us,

and forgive all by the resurrection



#3 Peter Simko

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 06:01 PM

In my experience, we become images of the loving Father to one another, asking forgiveness as the Prodigal--the one who seemingly cannot be saved--and receiving that forgiveness whole-heartedly, falling upon the neck of the other.  It can be tempting for moments, I suppose, but perhaps those young adults will gain more from the experience in the good it does the soul than the fleeting instances of impure thoughts which, in the midst of a parish family, must by necessity be quickly swept away.  Also, kissing and embracing, though perhaps not seen as so normative of greetings in the United States, are not as foreign to the rest of the world, it would seem.



#4 Ben Johnson

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 07:43 PM

I do not know.  We have not done that either.



#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 08:13 PM

In our church the people formed a queue to kiss the priest's hand and exchange the asking of forgiveness; each person then joined a line so that each person coming from the priest could exchange forgiveness with everyone in turn. But we didn't generally embrace and kiss but crossed our hands on our heart and bowed to each other as we exchanged forgiveness.



#6 Olga

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 11:40 PM

Are not the people who make up a church congregation brothers and sisters in Christ? There are many scriptural and liturgical references to embraces and kisses between believers which are clearly not of a carnal nature.

 

It is sad that these ancient and honourable expressions of brotherly love are seen as prurient by some.



#7 Angie

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 01:00 AM

There is nothing wrong with asking ones forgiveness.  You don't have to hug and kiss.

 

My spiritual father has also warned me no hugging and kissing in church, it can be done outside the church.



#8 Geoffrey McKinney

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 04:15 AM

Are not the people who make up a church congregation brothers and sisters in Christ? There are many scriptural and liturgical references to embraces and kisses between believers which are clearly not of a carnal nature.

 

It is sad that these ancient and honourable expressions of brotherly love are seen as prurient by some.

 

If I am not mistaken, I believe it was in the time of St. John Chrysostom that during liturgical services men started standing on the right and women on the left, precisely so there would not be the temptation to stare at the young woman in front of you instead of contemplating the icons. Since the Church recognizes that placing young women in the direct line of sight of the men is not conducive to piety, how much more so having the men hug and repeatedly kiss every young woman in the church?

 

This hugging and kissing struck such an odd note that I am having a very hard time imagining St. Gregory Palamas encouraging his congregations in Thessaloniki to act thus, or St. Photios the Great approving of hugs and kisses amongst the faithful in Constantinople, etc. It seems to me more something out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It does not strike me as being apostolic, but rather modern and ethnic in origin.

 

Of course, I could be wrong. I would appreciate certain knowledge to replace my hunches. If anyone has any direct evidence that the priests and bishops of the Byzantine Empire encouraged this sort of kissing and hugging, please post it in this thread.  :)



#9 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 09:57 AM

Traditionally all would have given the kiss of peace each Liturgy, especially at Pascha where, as Lakis states, it is even exhorted to embrace one another in the text. It is customary in most cultures, outside the Anglo-sphere, to kiss friends upon meeting as we British might shake hands so kissing is not seen as such a big deal. In regards to the separation of men and woman this was the custom in the past , though was a lot easier in the basilicas than in modern cross-in-square churches; it was not however instituted at the time of St John to ensure contemplation of the icons as for one there where not that many icons in most churches at that time. 

 

 

As a point of interest originally due to concerns over the sensuality of the skin of the cheeks the kiss of peace was given on the lips.



#10 Loucas

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 01:19 PM

In my parish yesterday, every single person kissed and hugged every other person. Geoffrey, the same is done at my Church. I can't point to a specific time and event in the History and Tradition of the Church which defines this special display of love and joy. As far as I know, the embracing and "kiss of peace" come from the monastics who did so to each and everyone, not just Spiritual Fathers/Mothers, because they saw the image of God in all. And in this way it was the Image of God who was being honored as everyone had the potential of becoming pure of heart. Weather that is why we did what we did this past Sunday, I am not sure. However, as you must know, this is the most humbling and purifying experience one can have, and most surly sets us on the right path for our Lenten journey. It is correct as some have stated, this gesture could be dispensed with, however, The Church elders set things in motion for our benefit. And this simple thing, one should move beyond any discomfort or embarrassment and become humble in the end it is so very rewarding.



#11 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 01:40 PM

'Salute ye one another in a kiss of love; peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus! Amen.' - 1st Catholic Epistle of St Peter 

 

 

'The Churches of Asia salute you, Aquilas and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the Church in their house, all the brethren salute you; salute ye one another with a holy kiss." - 1st Epistle of St Paul unto the Corinthians

 

 

'Deacon: Let us salute one another with a holy kiss. Let us bow our heads unto the Lord.' - Liturgy of St James

 

 

'Deacon: Salute one another.

 

The Presbyter says the prayer of salutation:

O Sovereign and Almighty Lord, look down from heaven on Thy Church, on all Thy people, and on all Thy flock. Save us all, Thy unworthy servants, the sheep of Thy fold. Give us Thy peace, Thy help, and Thy love, and send to us the gift of Thy Holy Spirit, that with a pure heart and a good conscience we may salute one another with a holy kiss, without hypocrisy, and with no hostile purpose, but guileless and pure in one spirit, in the bond of peace and love, one body and one spirit, in one faith, even as we have been called in one hope of our calling, that we may all meet in the divine and boundless love, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom Thou art blessed.' - Liturgy of St Mark



#12 Olga

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 01:43 PM

In my parish yesterday, every single person kissed and hugged every other person. Geoffrey, the same is done at my Church. I can't point to a specific time and event in the History and Tradition of the Church which defines this special display of love and joy. As far as I know, the embracing and "kiss of peace" come from the monastics who did so to each and everyone, not just Spiritual  Fathers/Mothers, because they saw the image of God in all. And in this way it was the Image of God who was being honored as everyone had the potential of becoming pure of heart.


Weather that is why we did what we did this past Sunday, I am not sure. However, as you must know, this is the most humbling and purifying experience one can have, and most surly sets us on the right path for our Lenten journey. It is correct as some have stated, this gesture could be dispensed with, however, The Church elders set things in motion for our benefit. And this simple thing, one should move beyond any discomfort or embarrassment and become humble in the end it is so very rewarding.


Indeed, Loucas.
 
And so often, little children teach us a thing or two, their simplicity and innocence slicing through the layers of our own making which can darken our adult hearts and minds. A dear friend told me the other day:
 
Father B's 2 year old has the world figured out. She went around a second time saying 'forgive forgive'. Because this got her a second set of hugs.



#13 Father David Moser

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 02:36 PM

I don't know what people see in other parishes, however, in my parish, and in my wider experience among Russians, Greeks, Arabs etc, there is a common social greeting to kiss one another one the cheeks (3x alternating cheeks).  Thus, we forgive one another and greet one another and the greeting looks a lot like "kissing and hugging".  Americans, who aren't used to such a greeting might easily misconstrue the action as simply "kissing and hugging".

 

Similarly, the "normal" greetings between clergy, in my experience, is to grasp right hands, kiss each other's hand and then each cheek.  (Keep in mind that a great deal of my experience is within ROCOR.)

 

Fr David



#14 Panayotis

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 03:16 PM

I dunno, I can't say that I've ever felt sexually stirred while doing this nor do I recall hearing anybody else express their concerns about it. My thought is that this could be an issue in churches where people are not modestly dressed. There's also a cultural component at play. In cultures where kissing acquaintances of the opposite sex on the cheek is standard practice then it's less likely that this will incite lust. If it does, then they are justified in avoiding these situations so as to guard their soul.

#15 Geoffrey McKinney

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 04:10 PM

Virtually everyone in my OCA parish is an American convert (including the priest). We have perhaps 4 or 5 old Slavic widows who are cradle Orthodox, and that's about it. In other words, virtually none of us come from a cultural background in which this sort of hugging and kissing is the norm.

 

I am eager to shape myself so as to conform to the Church. I have no interest in adopting the ways of another ethnic culture. Most of what I experience in our liturgical services is clear, golden, and light. Every once in a while, however, I encounter something that seems to jar and even contradict (i. e., now that we are setting out on the asceticism of the Great Fast, let's begin by kissing and hugging pretty women). Thus my interest in whether this is something that was the norm amongst the Byzantines and their saint-clergymen from whom we have inherited the riches of the liturgy and all the Ecumenical Councils, OR whether the kissing and hugging in the vespers of the Sunday of Forgiveness originated sometime after the fall of Constantinople in A. D. 1453.

 

Surely if this was going on in the 1,100-year history of the Byzantine Empire, we would have at least one direct and approving reference to it. The liturgical book mentioned in my opening post makes no mention of the hugging and kissing, which strengthens my hunch that this is not part of holy Tradition, but is rather a modern innovation.

 

Speaking only for myself, if my researches do not uncover proof that this is part of the holy Tradition, then next year I will stand at the back of the church during the vespers of the Sunday of Forgiveness and quietly leave right before the hugging and kissing begins.


Edited by Geoffrey McKinney, 15 March 2016 - 04:12 PM.


#16 Loucas

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 05:21 PM

Listen brother, I have also done a great deal of searching, and all the above references to some of our Great Saints, well, I would not be surprised to find out each and every one of them celebrated the vesper as we do. This is not an innovation, it has always been celebrated and has sound scriptural basis. Don't allow yourself to miss this valuable practice our Church holds up for us to begin each Lent. It is not about eastern national culture and certainly not about sexuality. It is about what God himself said, if you can not forgive each other, than the Father will not forgive you, paraphrased. This event is only celebrated by Orthodox and is essential to start our journey through the Lenten season. Partake of it with humility and joy. Have a Blessed Lent. 



#17 Peter Simko

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 07:19 PM

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.  Plenty of innovations have occurred once or continually throughout the history of the Church, even in the Byzantine Empire.  Innovation is not in and of itself always detrimental when it comes to praxis.  Sure, it can be, but then again, it may not be.


Edited by Peter Simko, 15 March 2016 - 07:20 PM.


#18 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 08:41 PM

There would seem to be high authority for embracing and kissing: there are many references to this in both the OT and NT. St Paul three times exhorts Christians to greet each with a holy kiss.



#19 Olga

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 09:52 PM

Do you have daughters, sisters, or other female relatives, Geoffrey? Have you ever hugged or kissed them as an expression of your love for them?



#20 Geoffrey McKinney

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 09:59 PM

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.





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