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


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#21 Geoffrey McKinney

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 10:08 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?

 

Yes to both questions.

 

I think that is irrelevant to this topic. After all, there can be no question of ever marrying one's female relative. That is not the case for fellow parishioners. It is in fact to be hoped that the teenage boys and young men of the parish will eventually marry the teenage girls and young women of the parish (as opposed to entering into mixed marriages with those holding to various heresies). It is therefore to be expected that the yearnings that impel one towards the mystery of matrimony would be present inside these unmarried young people. And it is clearly a good idea to channel those yearnings in a pious and Orthodox direction, and to be careful to not let those yearnings express themselves outside of their proper context.



#22 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 10:22 PM

Geoffrey, may I ask to which jurisdiction you belong?



#23 Olga

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 10:23 PM

On the contrary, Geoffrey, my question goers to the very heart of the topic.

 

Just as you have no qualms about embracing and kissing your female relatives, so should it be when embracing and kissing your sisters in Christ among your congregation.



#24 Olga

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 10:42 PM

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).

 

Orthodoxy is based on tradition, the handing down of teachings and practices. Not every jot and tittle is written down, yet there is ample written evidence for Christian embracing and kissing from scripture and liturgical sources, which several people have already pointed out, and to which you have not responded.

 

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

 

This is full of assumptions and ifs. It also speaks of Orthodox = Greek, an inaccurate and even dangerous notion.

 

And how do you know that so many saints would be scratching their heads over this? A rather long bow to draw, I think.

 

This makes me wonder if this "ancient" tradition is even as old as I am.

 

There are many on this forum who are more than twice as old as you, who have lived Orthodoxy all of their lives, and who can attest that the embrace and kiss of Forgiveness Sunday is not a "recent innovation", but part of their lives and those of their forebears.



#25 Geoffrey McKinney

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 11:14 PM

Geoffrey, may I ask to which jurisdiction you belong?

 

Certainly. I belong to the Orthodox Church in America.



#26 Lakis Papas

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 11:21 PM

I think, there is a huge confusion here. Kissing is bad? Kissing is dangerous? Kissing is not proper thing to do?

Do you realize my friends that we kiss Christ? That we kiss the Virgin? That we kiss all saints? (I mean we kiss their images, just like we kiss the photo of a loved one).

If a person is feeling uncomfortable then he is not obliged to kiss someone else.

We are brothers and sisters! Nobody can question kisses among brothers and sisters!

Only God knows what is inside our hearts. Puritan methods are not Orthodox. Sexuality does not have exclusivity on human contacts.

Have you read Solomon's Song of Songs? Intimacy is the goal of Church, both with God and among Church members.

#27 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 11:31 PM

Thank you. OCA has a page on its website explaining the differences between Holy Tradition and traditions or customs. All jurisdictions and many local Churches have differences in customs and these are part of the way life in that Church is lived. Thus, people in some places do embrace and kiss at Forgiveness Vespers and in others they do not. Within Holy Tradition, in different Churches, details of services differ as do rubrics. So, it is not the right approach to fix on one custom which you question and reject it because it is not to be found in Holy Tradition, nor, more generally, do I think one can separate Holy Tradition as followed in a local Church from the customs found in that Church for the reason mentioned in the second sentence.



#28 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 02:39 PM

Dear Geoffrey,

 

There seems to me to be three issues here:

 

Firstly, the kiss of peace in the Church in general: if, when, and how it took place.

 

Secondly, whether indeed it is to take place at the service of forgiveness and what evidence there is for this.

 

Thirdly, the issue of sexual arousal for members of the opposite sex kissing, especially the youth; this can be broadened to look at the issue of relating to members of the opposite sex as sisters or brothers whilst undertaking the natural search for a wife or husband. 

 

In regard to the first, we have the testimony of the Apostles, the Fathers and the Liturgical texts of the Church, as well as scholarly research, that this originally happened and that it was at least at each Liturgy. We also know it was not the kissing of each other's hands, this would be quite odd way to exchange a kiss of peace especially for Christians in the Roman 'Byzantine' Empire, you only need look at icons of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul to see it was mostly kissing of the cheeks. 

 

In regard to the second, I do not have direct evidence that this has always taken place at this service, indeed the service in it's current form has not always taken place, it may well be out there I have neither the time nor inclination to search for it. However, that the kiss of peace took place in the Liturgy and where it took place in the Liturgy suggests that one of the reasons for the kiss of peace was mutual forgiveness. Likewise kissing on forgiveness Sunday is traditionally done in most parishes, certainly all I have ever attended, and seems to be well testified to by most Orthodox Christians. This is not I am aware the kind of evidence you wish for but it is suggestive that the practices well established, and certainly is not in contradiction to the Faith. 

 

The third point is more complex and perhaps to a degree personal. On the one hand we have to see each other as members of the Church as brothers and sisters, for we have one Father God and one Mother the Church. On the other hand it is natural, especially for the youth, to seek a member of the opposite sex as a wife or husband, which is going to include sexual attraction; though this is perhaps over-emphasized in our modern sexualized 'culture'. I think, personally, that there are three points to bare in mind: This is in a sense more of a paradox then a contradiction as even when married our wife is our sister in Christ. Imagery, such as seeing each other as brethren, is important and conveys a fundamental truth but should not be taken to extremes. There are times and places for things, considering a woman in terms of romance (I do not mean lusting after her) might be appropriate at a parish feast it is not appropriate in the liturgy; likewise kissing a lady's hand or cheek whom you are courting on a 'date' might be appropriate and is a form of romance, exchanging the kiss of peace is not a time for romantic notions but filial purity.  Now there is of course going to be temptations for people this is a personal issue, if someone feels that taking part in the forgiveness Sunday service in such a manner serves as a temptation it is up to them to do something different, such as, if possible, shake hand instead or go home at the end of the Liturgy, there is certainly a great deal of wisdom in avoiding temptations. The reason for each person not exchanging the kiss of peace or not attending the service is theirs to know and the decisions we each make are ours to make and should be in regard to our salvation. Having the forgiveness service is not a reason to compel people to attend or to take part in a certain way, likewise fear of temptation for some is not a reason to forbid a practice whose roots at least are in established Orthodox practices.

 

In Christ.

Daniel,



#29 Geoffrey McKinney

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 04:34 PM

Dear Daniel,

 

Thank you very much for your considered and enlightening response.

 

A follow-up question to this part of your post, if I may:

 

"[W]e have the testimony of the Apostles, the Fathers and the Liturgical texts of the Church, as well as scholarly research, that this originally happened and that it was at least at each Liturgy. We also know it was not the kissing of each other's hands, this would be quite odd way to exchange a kiss of peace especially for Christians in the Roman 'Byzantine' Empire, you only need look at icons of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul to see it was mostly kissing of the cheeks."

 

Do we know for certain if this kiss of peace was indiscriminate? In other words, was every single parishioner encouraged to embrace and kiss every other parishioner? The only icon I can think of showing an affectionate embrace between a man and a woman is of the married Joachim and Anna. Further, the traditional practice of during the liturgy separating the men (on the right) from the women (on the left) makes me wonder if the kiss of peace was (generally speaking) only to be between men and men or between women and women. Forgive me for reiterating my bafflement in trying to make sure that the men in the parish do not so much as gaze upon women during the liturgy, but then enjoining the men to embrace and repeatedly kiss these very women whom they are not to even gaze upon.

 

That is the crux of the issue for me: Do we know for a fact that the saint-clergy of the Byzantine Empire enjoined the men to kiss women during liturgical services? Or did they enjoin only men to kiss men, and only women to kiss women?

 

Once again, I sincerely thank you for your kind and considered response. I hope my own poor follow-up question to you has at least some of the grace of your post.  :)



#30 Loucas

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 06:20 PM

I must agree with reader Andreas. Go to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America site goarch.org and you will find a paper on Holy Tradition. Searching for written evidence of when the first Forgiveness Sunday vesper took place and where, may not be possible. We as faithful, Orthodox Christians, have much that has been passed down to us by word of mouth and/or by action/practice. Apostle Paul told us to hold fast to the Traditions of the Church, not to scrutinize them and have their validity proven to us. Many things we believe are beyond our comprehension. This act of hugging and kissing a fellow Orthodox Christian in offering and receiving forgiveness is more than a traditional ritual. One comes away humble and in awe of God's forgiving us and our capacity to do so to each other. The fact that the Church has and continues to practice this is the statement( sorry I know you disagree)we need that it is from and of God and for our Salvation. By the way, if I have a problem doing this without feeling sexual attraction to my Christian Sister, must be time for CONFESSION.

We kiss Icons and Relics, we cross our bodies and fall to the floor face down. Some touch and kiss the vestments and Chalice, some can be found in the decrees of the ecumenical counsels, but some are simply tradition, the Fathers and Mothers have given to us and were God inspired. Not taught in a theological school or law school, God Inspired. Forgive my simple minded bluntness..I do not question what the Holy Ancestors of Our Church have given us so I explain it in this simpleton manner.  



#31 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 08:05 PM

Re post #29 and icons of kissing: icons are part of Holy Tradition and express the Orthodox faith as a complement to the Divine Services (if they are canonical icons). Icons are not supposed to illustrate customs, however venerable and common.



#32 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 17 March 2016 - 10:30 PM

Dear Daniel,

 

Thank you very much for your considered and enlightening response.

 

A follow-up question to this part of your post, if I may:

 

"[W]e have the testimony of the Apostles, the Fathers and the Liturgical texts of the Church, as well as scholarly research, that this originally happened and that it was at least at each Liturgy. We also know it was not the kissing of each other's hands, this would be quite odd way to exchange a kiss of peace especially for Christians in the Roman 'Byzantine' Empire, you only need look at icons of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul to see it was mostly kissing of the cheeks."

 

Do we know for certain if this kiss of peace was indiscriminate? In other words, was every single parishioner encouraged to embrace and kiss every other parishioner? The only icon I can think of showing an affectionate embrace between a man and a woman is of the married Joachim and Anna. Further, the traditional practice of during the liturgy separating the men (on the right) from the women (on the left) makes me wonder if the kiss of peace was (generally speaking) only to be between men and men or between women and women. Forgive me for reiterating my bafflement in trying to make sure that the men in the parish do not so much as gaze upon women during the liturgy, but then enjoining the men to embrace and repeatedly kiss these very women whom they are not to even gaze upon.

 

That is the crux of the issue for me: Do we know for a fact that the saint-clergy of the Byzantine Empire enjoined the men to kiss women during liturgical services? Or did they enjoin only men to kiss men, and only women to kiss women?

 

Once again, I sincerely thank you for your kind and considered response. I hope my own poor follow-up question to you has at least some of the grace of your post.  :)

From my understanding the sexes were separated for a time. Going from architectural history perspective the sexes would not have been separated in the early church - there simply was not the room, and the liturgy did not function so as to need the layout we now use. As Christianity spread and became the dominate religion the sexes began to be separated in the basilicas. As the usually smaller monastic based cross-in-square churches began to dominate in the late Roman 'Byzantine' Empire this separation became harder to maintain as they are not as well suited to doing so, certainly now days the practice is rare, ironically happening largely in monastic churches open to visitors. Whether this meant that the kiss of peace during the liturgy was exchanged only by people of the same sex I don't know it may well have then again it may not.

 

Too be honest I do understand your point (though I have some concerns which I express below), but I think as I said before this is a case of appropriateness, kissing to ask for forgiveness is not the same as gazing (perhaps lustfully) during a service. There are two things to bear in mind: firstly men are simulated a great deal visually when it comes to sex which is why even innocent gazing can lead to sexual arousal and lustful gazing. Secondly gazing at someone and taking in their beauty can lead quite easily to fantasy in a way that kissing does not for the reason that kissing is real subjective interaction (that is it takes place between two people) whereas gazing is objective (that is it objectifies the person being stared at) which opens up the door to fantastical interaction.  But overall the point is that gazing is done for the reason of considering beauty ect... the kissing of forgiveness Sunday is done sacramentally to ask forgiveness. Now as I have said I can understand your concern that kissing might be a temptation but I have my own concerns with this concern. If we really say that there always has to be a temptation and this is overwhelming one, which I think this suggests, then we make sin and temptation greater than both us and the sacraments of the Church. We also open the door to other considerations what about, for example, people who are tempted by their own sex, should these go and kiss the opposite sex in place of their own? The concern effectively accepts a sexualization of all our experiences and all physical contact. 

 

In Christ.

Daniel,



#33 Olga

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Posted 17 March 2016 - 10:57 PM

 The concern effectively accepts a sexualization of all our experiences and all physical contact. 

 

This is indeed the heart of the problem, unfortunately.



#34 Angie

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 02:01 AM

I would think forgive me can be said without kissing in church, yes?



#35 Geoffrey McKinney

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 04:48 AM

From my understanding the sexes were separated for a time. Going from architectural history perspective the sexes would not have been separated in the early church - there simply was not the room, and the liturgy did not function so as to need the layout we now use. As Christianity spread and became the dominate religion the sexes began to be separated in the basilicas. As the usually smaller monastic based cross-in-square churches began to dominate in the late Roman 'Byzantine' Empire this separation became harder to maintain as they are not as well suited to doing so, certainly now days the practice is rare, ironically happening largely in monastic churches open to visitors. Whether this meant that the kiss of peace during the liturgy was exchanged only by people of the same sex I don't know it may well have then again it may not.

 

Thank you once again, Daniel, for your considered reply. It inspired me to do some research. Thus far I have not been able to find any references to the kiss of peace being exchanged between men and women. Instead, I found the following:

 

"It was the widespread custom in the ancient western Mediterranean for men to greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. That was also the custom in ancient Judea and practiced also by Christians."

https://en.wikipedia...i/Kiss_of_peace )

 

"From an early date, to guard against any abuse of this form of salutation, women and men were required to sit separately, and the kiss of peace was given only by women to women and by men to men."

https://en.wikipedia...i/Kiss_of_peace )

 

"From a very early date, also, the abuses to which this form of salutation might lead were very carefully guarded against. Both in the East and the West women and men were separated in the assemblies of the faithful, and the kiss of peace was given only by women to women and by men to men."

http://www.newadvent...then/08663a.htm )

 

"As to the Deacons, after the prayer is over, let some of them attend upon the oblation of the Eucharist, ministering to the Lord's body. Let others of them watch the multitude, and keep them silent. But let that Deacon who is at the High Priest's hand, say to the people, Let no one have any quarrel against another. Let no one come in hypocrisy. Then let the men give the men, and the women give the women, the Lord's kiss. But let no one do it with deceit, as Judas betrayed the Lord with a kiss."

https://ldsfocuschri...iam-whiston.pdf )

 

"After this, let the Deacon say, Let us attend. And let the Bishop salute the church and say, The peace of God be with you all. And let the people answer, And with thy spirit. And let the Deacon say to all, Salute ye one another with a holy kiss. And let the clergy salute the Bishop; the men of the laity, the men; the women, the women."

https://ldsfocuschri...iam-whiston.pdf )

 

While more sources are of course desirable, I think it safe to say that men and women kissing each other during a liturgical service is a later development. (I would of course be interested in sources that show that men and women were enjoined to kiss each other in a liturgical context, though the existence of such sources would surprise me.) The question then becomes: Exactly when and where did this innovation begin? My gut instinct (which is no more than that at this point) would be sometime in the 20th century, when egalitarianism and a general disregard for holy Tradition became all too common. I would further suspect that it was only in the 20th century that some Orthodox congregations abandoned the ancient practice of all the men standing on the right and all the women standing on the left. Nor would it surprise me if the two innovations were linked: Once a congregation became mixed in its standing (i. e., men and women co-mingling throughout liturgies), the kiss of peace would similarly became mixed. Once this particular fidelity to holy Tradition was lost, the thought that men kissing women in church was improper was probably considered old-fashioned and silly. And once that gender mixing had gone on for perhaps three generations, it would mistakenly become considered as traditional: "After all, my Orthodox grandmother did it, so it must be the tradition of the Orthodox Church."


Edited by Geoffrey McKinney, 18 March 2016 - 04:49 AM.


#36 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 09:51 AM

I challenge the notion that men kissing only men and women kissing only women is part of Holy Tradition, and therefore that 'mixed kissing' is a breach of Holy Tradition. Both are customs (as Geoffrey's first source says).



#37 Loucas

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 01:58 PM

Andreas...I do also..and find it dangerous and out of context to quote none Orthodox Tradition to gleen some insite into Orthodox tradition. Like coupling a Holy Orthodox feast with a pagan feast. Look, this is a long and accepted part of the Holy Orthodox Church, having stated many, many times already..the gesture is done with humility and reverence and seeking and giving forgiveness. The result if done with an open and God directed heart, is humility and a feeling of hope that we are forgiven for our sins and have forgiven others. Please have a long and fruitful discussion with your priest, Blessed Lent.



#38 Geoffrey McKinney

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 02:25 PM

 Look, this is a long and accepted part of the Holy Orthodox Church...

 

That is precisely what I doubt. More than simple assertion is needed to establish this. I would be very interested in any source written before the year A. D. 1900 that shows that men were enjoined to kiss women in an Orthodox liturgical context. If that ever happened in the first 1,870 years of the Church's history, surely there must be a record of it. In the absence of such a record, then it is safe to recognize it as a 20th-century innovation.


Edited by Geoffrey McKinney, 18 March 2016 - 02:26 PM.


#39 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 04:30 PM

And if it is of recent origin, and has widespread acceptance, what of it? Are you saying that the Church cannot accommodate new customs?



#40 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 05:38 PM

Dear Geoffrey,

 

Thank you for your research into the matter, I would like to point out however that the first and second sources are in fact reliant on the third and that the third provides no evidence for its claims.

 

This leaves us with the Apostolic Constitutions. Now as to the Apostolic Constitutions themselves it must first be noted that they not regarded as being of the Apostles with the exception of the Apostolic cannons; this means that instructions for men and women to give the kiss separately are not authoritative, they are, however, a source of evidence which tells us that at least in some places the practice was to restrict kiss of peace to ones own sex. However this does not mean the practice was universal, more evidence would be needed in this regard in order to establish ancient custom, likewise even if it were the case then we do not know whether the kiss given on Forgiveness Sunday obeyed such restrictions, it already differs in being a once yearly event, having a sole reason and in been given to everyone, whereas the kiss of peace was given each Liturgy, for multiple reasons and likely each person kissed only his neighbour. As to giving the kiss of peace indiscriminately being a recent innovation: 

 

'Here the woman [St Mary] asked him [St Zosimas]  to say the Creed and our Father. He began, she finished the prayer and according to the custom of that time gave him the kiss of peace on the lips. Having partaken of the Holy Mysteries, she raised her hands to heaven and sighed with tears in her eyes, exclaiming: "Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, O Lord, according to Thy word; for my eyes have seen Thy salvation.' - Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem: The Life of St Mary of Egypt.

 

In Christ.

Daniel,






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