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Kissing a priest's hand for a blessing
06-02-2009, 11:46 AM,
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?

06-02-2009, 05:24 PM,
I read somewhere that the characteristic gesture of the Orthodox Church is the kiss, whereas in the Roman Church it is the genuflection. The former is an expression of love while the latter is an expression of obedience. This is no doubt simplistic but it seemed to me to have some truth to it. In Orthodoxy the kiss is also how the faithful receive a blessing, either from a priest, an icon or a relic. Unfortunately Anglo Saxons, especially men, have a problem with kissing generally, unlike Middle Eastern men or indeed those just across the Channel. We need to overcome this, and our clergy similarly must try to get round their feelings of unworthyness or embarrassment. I'm not suggesting that we in the BOC should adopt the custom of other Orthodox Churches where adult men greet each other with a kiss on the cheek - that would be a step too far for us inhibited northerners, but the liturgical kiss on the handcross, on the hand of the priest, the icon, the relic and so on, should be seen as not only normal but the source of great blessing and something to be encouraged.
In passing I should say that I too like Fr Simon have difficulty with this site, not only because I freqently forget my password but because I am often timed out as the thing seems to be so slow.
Subdeacon Michael.
07-03-2009, 10:07 AM,
kissing a priest's hand for a blessing
Just a note on this one. When I kiss or, rather, attempt to kiss, the hand of Bishop Athanasios Touma, he immediately whips the hand way before my lips touch. He does this with everyone, not just me(!) excepting children, when the quickly withdrawn hand sometimes jumps up again to tweak a young nose.
What I make of this is that we, the parishioners, show our respect to the Holy Office, given by God, and the recipient withdraws to avoid pride and show his mere humanity.

Kirk Yacoub
07-03-2009, 06:25 PM,
Dear Kirk,

Yes this response of your bishop is exactly the response I have seen from Coptic Orthodox bishops and priests too both in this country and many, many times in Egypt. I mean no criticism of any of them in any way whatsoever and I am sure that you have expounded the position accurately both for the laity who try to kiss and for the clergy who move the hand away. But for me, ever since that moment after I withdrew my hand from the nun there has only been one response: I have to leave my hand there to be kissed.

Pray for me,

16-03-2009, 09:19 AM,
kissing a priest's hand for a blessing
Stop Press!
At the end of the Liturgy yesterday I went to kiss Bishop Athanasios Touma's hand. To my surprise he didn't take the hand away! Having expected him to do so I was left with puckered lips hovering in the air!
Am I confused? Maybe.

Kirk Yacoub
01-04-2009, 05:47 PM,
Dear Fr. Simon,
First of all, it is a pleasure to be able to get in touch with my fathers, brothers, and sisters in the Faith through this forum. I am John Fam, and I am Coptic Orthodox. I'm Egyptian, from Alexandria, Egypt. I've been looking at this topic about kissing priests' hands, and I've been looking at the incident you were describing, Father, when you were greeting a Nun in an Egyptian Convent the way Coptic priests greet each other. The thing is, what you described is commonly a method of greeting between two priests or bishops, but commonly when a nun greets a priest, she would kiss his hand just like any common person would. She isn't usually greeted the way priests greet each other (by turning the hands sideways), because she does not have the rank of priesthood. Perhaps that's another reason why she was surprised, besides the fact that she didn't get the blessing of kissing a priest's hand.
I went to a private British school as a child, with British teachers and some British classmates, so I kind of have a general understanding of British culture, and of Egyptian culture of course. So I think the hand-kissing issue is , as well as being a difference between Coptic and British traditions, is also related to cultural differences. Anyway, they do not affect our Faith.

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