Sunday, May 10, 2009

Holy Kiss

We read in the King James New Testament five times the exhortation to “Greet one another with a holy kiss..” (Ref.) In the Joseph Smith translation the prophet changed “kiss” to “salutation.” I don’t know if that means there was not a kiss involved, and the translation is a transliteration (actual word meanings), or a true translation where the intent of the text is presented. I suspect the latter. Ancient Mediterraneans commonly greeted each other with a kiss. Still today, many people great each other with a kiss to the check. (Ref.)

We know that many of our social gestures have their genesis from a temple setting.

“One could even say that the handshake greeting is also of biblical origin: it is mentioned in Galatians 2.9d: ‘They gave me and Barnabas their right hands of fellowship.’" (Ref.)

A ritual embrace in the Catholic “Tridentine Mass” likely has its roots in the temple, where the embraced is told “Peace be unto you.” Which in theological terms could mean “be reconciled.”

In Todd M. Compton’s paper “The Handclasp and Embrace as Tokens of Recognition,” he associated the kiss with the embrace.

“The kiss of peace of the New Testament apparently always included the embrace. Sometimes the kiss and the embrace were both specified: Cyprian writes, "Holding to this faith, and meditating thereon day and night, let us too aspire to God with all our heart, disdaining the present and thinking only on the things that are to be, the fruition of the eternal kingdom, the embrace and the kiss of the Lord [complexum et osculum Domini], the vision of God." A specific example appears in Luke 15:20: "And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." Sometimes the kiss disappeared, leaving only the embrace: "The kiss or pax was eventually reduced to a mild embrace occasionally accompanied by a touching of the cheeks." 95 John Chrysostom writes of the holy kiss (1 Corinthians 16:20) exchanged by Christians that it "unites and makes one body." He tells us that when we exchange the kiss as a symbol of love with our neighbors the Lord wants our souls to kiss and our hearts to embrace. The kiss was used in baptismal initiation and in the mass (cf. fig. 5).” (GospelLink, pg 24, The Symbolon: Unity, Separation, Unity)

What I am suggesting is that handshaking, embracing, and kissing in certain social situations, while the meaning is largely lost to us today, come from antiquity, where they represented at-one-ment, pointing to temple activities. An outside symbol of that which happens inside.

Hugh Nibley has many references to the “Ritual Embraces” among several ancient civilizations.

Quoting Mayassis about the Egyptian initiation rites, Nibley said:

“The ritual embrace is ‘the culminating rite of the initiation.’" (Hugh Nibley, Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, Part VII)

Nibley goes on to explain; “But by far the most significant embrace is that of the Father as he appears under various names already in the Pyramid Texts. The rites of Unas reach their culmination when at the center-niche of the Serdab on the far side of the "celestial room" "the Creator Himself" embraces the candidate to represent "the fusion of the heaven-bound deceased with the Sungod Re."

The embrace is the act of at-one-ing fallen man with the Gods. It is becoming one with God, the act of true consecration.

In Bishop Cyril’s “Lecture on the Mysteries” he gives a very insightful, mid initiation, teaching about higher ordinances.

Starting with “On The Mysteries,” lecture 5 a call is made to “Receive ye one another; and let us kiss one another.” Which I take as a cryptic reference to the ritual embrace. Delineating this “kiss,” salutation, or embrace from a common meeting the text continues:

“Think not that this kiss is of the same character with those given in public by common friends. It is not such: but this kiss blends souls one with another, and courts entire forgiveness for them. The kiss therefore is the sign that our souls are mingled together, and banish all remembrance of wrongs” (Ref.)

Meaning an act of forgiveness, and unification.

Cyril then draws upon a New Testament temple text to explain what this kiss does:

“For this cause Christ said, If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there rememberest that your brother has anything against thee, leave there your gift upon the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift . The kiss therefore is reconciliation, and for this reason holy: as the blessed Paul somewhere cried, saying, Greet ye one another with a holy kiss…”

I speculate that Cyril’s sometimes vivid, and sometimes cryptic description of an initiate’s trip to the Holy of Holies that describes the “holy kiss” is a reference to the sacred embrace. That the holy kiss of New Testament times is an allusion to a final act of reconciliation of the temple.

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