Kissing a priest's hand for a blessing
Despite my technological difficulties here, I will attempt one more posting today. I know there are those who can have difficulties about kissing a priest's hand (or even a bishop's hand for that matter), difficulties sometimes increased depending on their current or previous Christian tradition. Well, so can some of us priests have difficulties with this. I was reminded of all this recently in an email exchange and thought I would share in here my experience. This is not a theologically argued piece nor perhaps for anyone else a deep and profound spiritual insight (those it is that for me) but something from my own memories and experiences...
I was in Egypt in 2004 and we visited a convent and the abbess, a devout and deeply spiritual person if ever I met one in all my life, went to kiss the back of my hand and I managed to do what I had seen Coptic priests and bishops do, and turn my hand so we touched hands as equals? and she looked at me. I couldn?t read that look. It wasn?t one of reproach, of that I am sure ? I cannot imagine her reproaching a priest even with her eyes? Perhaps it was nothing other than surprise, though I think I saw something else in her deep eyes. I really don?t know. But this I do know. That moment has haunted me, at any rate stayed with me. What did I do that day? I will tell you what I did. I deprived her of a blessing. From the beginning of being a priest I wasn?t comfortable about having my hand kissed (you know the sort of thing ? feelings of unworthiness, an awareness, however feeble, of my own sinfulness) and so I tried to work through different approaches and came to the position that when I was vested for the Liturgy I would allow my hands to be kissed for they were not there for my benefit but for everyone else?s but that when just dressed in my black robe (other than in Morning & Evening Incense when the people kiss the priest's hand) I would turn the hand as I had seen some Coptic clergy do. That moment with the abbess cured me of all that. If someone wants to kiss my hand who am I to deprive them?