All Commentaries on 2 Corinthians 13:12 Go To 2 Corinthians 13
Cornelius a Lapide
Greet one another with an holy kiss. What was this kiss? Xenophon (CyropÅ“dia, lib. i.) and Herodotus (Clio) testify that it was a heathen custom to salute one another with a kiss at meeting, in token of friendship. Suetonius says that Tiberius tried in vain to put an end to the practice. The Jews had the same custom. Cf. 2 Samuel 20:9. Judas, too, was but conforming to what was usual when he betrayed Christ with a kiss. It was a still more solemn and common custom with the early Christians, both on other occasions, and especially when they met for Holy Communion, to salute one another with a kiss, or other familiar salutation, saying, "Peace be with you." This was a symbol of goodwill towards those about to communicate, of the forgiveness of all injury, and of pure charity. Cf. Cyril (Cat. Myst5). Tertullian (de Orat.) calls this kiss "the symbol of prayer."
S. Chrysostom gives the mystical meaning to be, that through our mouth enters the body of Christ. We, therefore, kiss it, just as the early Christians, out of reverence for the sacred building, used to kiss the doors of the church. He gives directions how to guard this mouth against all that defiles, and to consecrate it to the praises of God. In some churches, even now, it is the custom for the canons to give this kiss before the Holy Communion. When some men, though the sexes sat apart, secretly crept in among the women and kissed them, the kissing the tablet of peace, as it is called, took the place of the kiss of peace.
A holy kiss, therefore, is not one that is heathen, carnal, fraudulent, but one that is devout, pure, and sincere, as a Christian"s should be (Chrysostom). Cf. S. Augustine (Serm83de Diversis) and Baronius (Annals, A.D45). The author of the work "on Friendship," included among the writings of S. Augustine, gives four reasons why this holy kiss is given: (1.) as a sign of reconciliation between those who have been enemies; (2.) in sign of peace, as in the sacrifice of the Mass; (3.) in sign of joy and of renewed love, as when a friend returns after a long absence; (4.) in sign of Catholic communion, as when a guest is welcomed with a kiss. But in all such matters the custom of the place is to be followed, and care must be taken that this kiss do not degenerate into a merely sensual delight.