Kissing the Hand

Kissing the hand of the priest is not about the man

The kissing of the hand of the priest is not about the man, but rather about Christ. It is much like the kissing of an icon, which is not about the veneration of paint and wood, but about the archetype represented in the icon. When we kiss the hand of the bishop or priest, we are not showing respect to the person of the priest but to his sacred office.

The priest as priest represents Christ, and is therefore a living icon of Christ. Though he be a sinner, and unworthy in and of himself of such respect, that he touches the Most Holy Things – the Precious Body and Blood of the Lord, the kiss is in actuality, extended to Christ. Through ordination he has received the Grace of God to impart spiritual gifts and blessings, so we should not deprive ourselves of blessings by refusing the priest’s blessing.

There is the true story of a priest pulling away his hand in order to prevent Czar Nicholas II from kissing his hand. The Emperor ordered him to extend it, saying “I am not kissing your hand, but the hand of Christ”. In refusing to allow anyone to kiss his hand, any priest, who out of false humility would deprive a pious Christian the opportunity to kiss his hand, deprives the person of Christ’s blessing.

We should show this respect and receive this blessing whenever we greet and bid farewell to our spiritual authorities. Also, we should kiss their right hands when we receive the antidoron (the blessed bread at the end of Liturgy) from them or receive the prayer of absolution at confession or other prayers. We do not, however, kiss the priest’s hand when receiving Holy Communion, lest we risk an accident with the Holy Chalice.

The proper way to greet a priest or bishop is to ask his blessing and kiss his right hand, placing your right hand over your left hand and say “Father” or “Master” in the case of the bishop, bless.” He will make the sign of the cross, and place his right hand over yours.

When you kiss their hands, you show respect for their office — they are the ones who “bless and sanctify” you and who offer the holy gifts on your behalf. So next time you greet your priest or bishop, don’t shake his hand, ask for his blessing.

Also, it has been ‎the custom in Orthodox countries (and still certainly in Lebanon) that the right hand of parents, grandparents, and respected elders be kissed. In those cases it doesn’t necessarily involve asking for a blessing, but it is a sign of respect, and perhaps also of love. We westerners are deprived of many good customs which help to form the person properly.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Thursday June 14, 2018 / June 1, 2018
3rd Week after Pentecost. Tone one.
Apostles’ (Peter & Paul) Fast. Food with Oil

Martyr Justin the Philosopher, and those with him at Rome: Martyrs Justin, Chariton and his wife Charita, Euelpistus, Hierax, Peon, Valerian and Justus (166).
Venerable Dionysius, abbot of Glushitsa (Vologda) (1437).
New Hieromartyr Basil priest, Virgin-martyr Vera (1940).
Glorification (1990) of Righteous John of Kronstadt (1908).
Venerable Justin (Popovich) of Chelije in Serbia (1979) (Serbia).
Venerable Agapitus, unmercenary physician of the Kiev Caves (1095).
St. Mertius the Farmer of Myra in Lycia (912).
Martyr Neon (Greek).
Hieromartyr Pyrrhus the Virgin (Greek).
Martyr Firmus of Magus (3rd c.) (Greek).
Martyr Thespesius of Cappadocia (230) (Greek).
Holy Martyrs Shio the New, David, Gabriel and Paul of Gareji (1696) (Georgia).

The Scripture Readings

Romans 8:22-27

22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Matthew 10:23-31

23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israelbefore the Son of Man comes.

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!26 Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.

Jesus Teaches the Fear of God

27 “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not twosparrows sold for a [c]copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. The Monastery is under the omophore of The Most Rev. Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.

3 comments:

  1. Fr. Abbot,

    You wrote: “We do not, however, kiss the priest’s hand when receiving Holy Communion, lest we risk an accident with the Holy Chalice.” I see this frequently at my parish and wherever I go throughout the US. I know it is wrong, just as it is wrong to venerate an icon after receiving the Eucharist lest some of the Holy Eucharist fall on the icon and not be consumed. I have NEVER told anyone this and they wouldn’t listen to me anyway. Nonetheless, my priest, who often gives admonitions for receiving the Eucharist (i.e. reminding parishioners that only people who have prayed, fasted, and recently confessed should come forth) has never nixed this. Perhaps it’s because of people’s old habits which are impossible to break, but converts, too, are learning these bad habits. If the priest won’t stop this, then who is it left to? Do we bring the bishop in? What?

  2. Thank you Fr. Abbot. I am a convert to Orthodoxy and had issue with kissing the priest’s hand at first. I didn’t understand what to do or why. Thankfully, my priest is very wise, kind, patient and gentle. One day when I went to kiss the cross, he extended his hand in such a way that I kissed it, kind of by accident and I just went with it. I never really thought about why; I just did it in obedience to the Church.

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