“Will not give thee a kiss as did Judas…” You hear it every week, and it’s one of the most-often asked, “why do we say that?!” questions that priest’s receive, so what’s up with it, and just what does it mean? So officially the whole bit that we recite together before partaking in Holy Communion is called the Prayer of St. John Chrysostom, and as you might expect if you’re a little bit familiar with St. John’s writings, there’s a whole heckuva lot of theology crammed into that paragraph, and some revealing aspects about the life of the Church in centuries past. The preceding bit is pretty straightforward about “not speaking of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies,” as in the past the Mysteries of the Church were for baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christians only (catechumens had already been told to depart at this point in the Divine Liturgy and were once literally made to do so). That which was reserved for those who had served their catechumenate well and become members of the Body of Christ were admitted to the Holy Mysteries to include Holy Communion, and were not meant to communicate any of what occurred therein to those outside the Church. Okay, but what about the kissing bit? (did anyone else just think of the Princess Bride?) There’s a lot of kissing in Orthodoxy - the priest kisses the corner (called the “horn”) of the Holy Table when he first enters the Altar, at the exchange of the kiss of peace when there are more than one clergyman concelebrating, and of course we all kiss the icons as part of our veneration. Why are we kissing this stuff in the first place? Because we honor (venerate) them as symbols of Christ - the Holy Table especially because we are assured of the assistance of those saints whose relics are present in the antimens (and often in the Holy Table itself). Similarly, when we share chaste kisses and embraces between one another we’re acknowledging the other as an icon of Christ, and as another member of the Body of Christ with whom we share the Mystery of Baptism. This is what makes Judas’ betrayal through a kiss such a horrific act of perfidious treachery, and one that like Pilate, echoes down through the ages to us by name as something we want to assiduously avoid! In a practical sense, by speaking this line we are being called (hopefully) into an introspective state in which we examine our conscience for any unrepented-for sins as we dare to approach the Chalice - not something we should ever do lightly or without sincere prayer! Basically, we want our participation in the Holy Mysteries of the Church to be true and without any intention other than to fulfill that which Christ gives to us - His own immaculate Body, and His own most precious Blood.
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