Friday, April 18, 2014

kissing in Church

Good Friday of the Lord's Passion
Christ the King Catholic Church Topeka
18 April 2014
Daily Readings

Who knows the rules for kissing in Church?  Really, what are they?  I usually tell couples that I marry that they can't kiss without permission, and then if I let them kiss in the Church, they can kiss only one time!  No do-overs.  No second chances.  No matter how bad that first kiss in Church is, they only get one.  Admittedly, I can get kind of bossy when it comes to what happens in Church . . I can be a control freak.  The Church lets me be.  Sorry.

Maybe a lot of you kiss in Church.  People don't necessarily know the rules. We have the kiss of peace, or the exchange of peace, which can range from spouses and families kissing each other on the lips to a handshake to a grunt and a tiny wave, and everything in between.  Are you allowed to kiss in Church? Well usually we are to focus intensely on the love of God revealed in Jesus and give our attention and affection to God alone, and to each other only secondarily.  So there's no easy answer to this question. Some say you shouldn't kiss in Church - that's its a show of romantic love when we should focus on something deeper. Some people say priests, who would be expected to be the worst of kissers because of their lack of practice, should be the only ones allowed to kiss in Church.  The priest's kissing of the book of the Gospels and the altar are signs of where the devotion of all of the people should be - on word and sacrament.  Others aren't so careful or inhibited - some of you are not embarrassed to share the love of God right during the liturgy by kissing those they love.  It's ok either way.

Tonight however we come to deliver the most dramatic and unique kiss of the year.  Tonight we all kiss in Church, or all are invited to anyhow.  I think it's an amazing custom here in the United States, that the vast majority of you have come to kiss the cross directly with your lips.  Of course you are permitted to venerate the cross from your seat, or genuflect instead, or kiss your fingers and touch them to the cross - all of these are equally good and right forms of veneration of the cross.  But 99% of you will probably smack your lips right down on the most brutal instrument of torture ever invented - the crucifix.  We reserve our deepest sign of affection that we ever show in Church - a kiss - for the holy cross. We do not kiss any other religious object of devotion at any other time throughout the year.  Only once a year.  Only now.  Only the wood of the cross.

We do this for two reasons at least. First of all, the cross shows us that God himself knows the worst of the human experience, and has taken it to himself most perfectly on the cross.  God has joined himself to the most isolating of human experiences - suffering and death - and has filled it with his presence.  Suffering and death do not separate us from God or one another then - the emptiness of suffering and death have been filled by Love itself.  The cross tells us the one thing that we most all need to know and to hear and feel to have faith in God - that no matter what, no matter how bad it gets - we are not alone.  God is with us.  He will never abandon us.  The cross delivers this truth better than anything we can imagine.  For this reason we kiss the cross.

The second reason is a deeper, more theological reason.  It is precisely from the cross that God has decided to recreate the world. The cross which at first look appears as the victory of hatred and sin and death,  when transformed by love itself becomes the tree of eternal life.  Paradoxically, it is on the cross that Jesus hands over his original power to create everything out of nothing, to create life out of dust, a power that was his at the dawn of creation, so that he can once again create everything out of nothing, out of the nothingness of the cross.  Jesus trades his original right to create everything out of nothing by sharing a piece of himself, to assume the position of the cross, where he begins to create everything out of nothing by sharing all of himself.  The cross is our great object of devotion because it is there, and precisely there, and only there, that God completely empties himself, and thus it is precisely from the cross that the new creation, and the creation of a new kind of life, are born.

The second creation, begun from the tree of life that is the holy cross, is unfathomably greater than the first creation.  In the first creation of everything from nothing, a light was shared that could be touched by darkness.  A goodness was shared that could be touched by evil.  Happiness was shared that could be touched by sorrow and pain.  The breath of life was shared that could one day be conquered by death.

But beginning at the cross, darkness and evil and pain and death are conquered overwhelmingly by the love of Christ.  Using his power to lay down his life and take it up again - at the cross, Jesus again creates everything out of nothing.  But it's a different nothing.  Out of the nothing that is evil he creates everlasting goodness.  From the nothing of darkness he creates unquenchable light.  From the nothing of pain he creates irreducible joy.  From the nothing of death, he creates eternal life.

It is precisely at the cross, and nowhere else, that the only victory that matters - the only victory that never fades - is won.  That is why it is right for us to kiss the nothingness of the cross with the most passionate kiss of our entire year, of our entire lives.  For

the place our lips hit that is the location of the creation of everything that lasts forever.  The cross is not where life ends.  It is where life truly begins.

1 comment:

Carey Mooradian said...

Great points. I loved this post!