April 20, 2008
Kissing out of honor, respect, and even forgiveness is a tradition that is incorporated into many Christian denominations. The kissing of icons, painted images of Jesus and the Saints, is the primary form of veneration in Orthodox Christianity. Veneration of the holy images is an ancient custom dating back to the fifth and sixth centuries, and is still practiced today in Orthodox Christian worship. Through veneration, Orthodox Christians show reverence for the people and the events depicted in the icon. Another kissing tradition in Christianity is known as the “kiss of peace.” The root of this tradition comes from Apostle Paul’s instruction for Christ’s followers to “greet each other with a holy kiss” however today during the “kiss of peace” members of a church will exchange a handshake, hug, or kiss on the cheek as a sign of mutual forgiveness. The most relevant topic regarding religious kisses is the kissing of feet. Feet washing, which precedes the kissing, is a sign of humbleness and is looked upon as an “act of lowly service, of loving service, and of self-giving service.” This caring act “reflects the grace of God’s never-ending, unconditional love and, as such, its observance is surely a means of grace with exceedingly strong sacramental characteristics.” Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and then commanded them to “wash one another’s feet” with love and humbleness as a service through which one can express “the love of God and the saving, cleansing grace of our savior Jesus Christ to each other.” After cleansing, a kiss would be bestowed on the feet as an act of servitude. By simulating the actions of a servant, Jesus portrayed that all men are equal.
Kissing the Ring of the Fisherman, or the Pescatorio in Italian, is a Roman Catholic tradition that has been passed down for centuries. Each newly ordained Pope is given a gold ring with his name in raised lettering and the image of St. Peter in a fishing boat. The Pope is believed to be the descendant the disciple Peter who was known as one of the “fishers of men” . Originally the ring was used to seal documents, historically called papal briefs. However, this custom ended in 1842 when the wax seal was replaced by a stamp. Today, followers of the Catholic faith pay respect to the reining Pope by kneeling before him and kissing his ring. — Wikipedia
PERSONAL NOTE: Every Sunday I have about a dozen people kiss the garnet ring on my right hand or bow and take my hand to their forehead. This remains a custom from many different countries of the world. We must remember that a priest’s hands are consecrated with Chrism at his ordination; he was the one alone to handle the Sacred Species. Unfortunately, this aspect of the sanctity of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ has been lost where the modernist practice of Communion in the hand has been introduced.