V. Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian
While the choir sings “Krisdos ee mech,” the celebrant takes the blessing from the Holy Gifts and Holy Table and passes it to the faithful by announcing: “Christ is revealed among us.”
After the gifts of the Holy Communion come to rest on the Holy Altar table, the faithful await the “Kiss of Peace.”
The deacon declares from the Holy Altar: “Greet one another with a holy kiss. And you, who are not able to partake of this divine mystery and have gone outside the doors, pray.” The choir sings “Christ, in our midst…” while a priest or deacon stands at the center of the opening of the nave (Adean). The censing deacon censes the Holy Gifts and kisses the Holy Altar table and the hands of the celebrant. He descends from the Holy Altar and offers incense to the priest. The celebrant on the Holy Altar prays silently, takes the blessings from the Gifts and gives peace to the presiding priest by making the sign of the Holy Cross. The presiding priest or bishop, receives the blessing and turns to people and gives his right hand, so some faithful come and receive the “Kiss of Peace” and greet each other by saying: “Krisdos ee mech mer haydnetsav” (Christ is revealed among us) and the receiver responds: “Orhnyal e haydnutyunn Krisdosi” (Blessed is the revelation of Christ).
If you ever had the chance to look at this part of the Liturgy, you may have noticed that the whole church is in a movement. It is very significant, because Liturgy starts moving/shaking us, after shaking our minds and hearts. Let us go deeper and find out, what is the meaning behind the “Kiss of Peace.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ came to earth to bring peace amongst people. Interestingly, He said to His apostles: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matt 10:34) Although, Jesus meant with these words about coming persecutions against the Apostles and the Christians, because of His name, but let us understand what kind of peace did Jesus bring to the world.
In Semitic language, Shalom (שָׁלוֹם) or Salam (سَلاَم), along with the word peace, means reconciliation, harmony, wholeness and completeness. In the Christian and Biblical context, peace is understood within three aspects. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, with His mission and ministry established peace on three levels: 1) Peace with God, 2) Peace with others, 3) Peace within ourselves.
1) Our Lord Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself on the Holy Cross, because He wanted to wash the sins away and bring back humanity to its true home, God’s Kingdom, which could have been done by reconciliation with God. We cannot stand before God if we have a sinful nature. Does this mean we are completely freed from sin now? No, but we are saved by Christ’s blood, which means Christ is covering us with His arms, so our sins are not noticeable. By passing on the “Kiss of Peace”, we express our joy that we are going to be back home and we are saved from death. We recall that truth that no more curtain or wall is separating us from God. Moreover, God is seating and living in our midst. That’s the real peace that we need as humanity and we must feel it in our hearts, while we greet each other with the “Kiss of Peace.”
2) Our Lord Jesus Christ did not come to bring salvation for only certain people, but for the whole creation. He brought unity under His holy name; that is why we are called Christians. Christ is for all, even those who reject Him or do not believe in Him. Jesus Christ came to earth to make us one and connected together. As it is mentioned above, the true meaning of peace in Semitic language is harmony, wholeness and completeness. How can we feel we are part of God’s Kingdom by rejecting some people. God did not reject us for any sin that we committed or we still commit. God will not accept those who reject others, because He does not reject anyone for their sins. Jesus in His Sermon of Mount said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt 5:9). This means, if we try to keep the harmony and the completeness that our Lord established between God and people, and people with each other. I am sure, we might remember that we might had relationship difficulties with certain people, which might have become a reason not to talk with them. This does not help one to feel complete and whole, which damages the third point that I will mention. I will recall Jesus’ words that beautifully relate to this issue: “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matt 5:23-24)
3) During the Armenian Divine Liturgy, we hear and see several times that the celebrant takes the blessing from the Gospel, the Holy Altar or from the Gifts and, passes on the peace sign, making the sign of the Holy Cross. Sometimes, we take for granted the presence of peace within us. It is impossible to have a just life. God created the universe perfect, but we made it imperfect, the consequences of which will naturally take the peace within us away. The only way to face the world’s injustices on a personal level or collective level, is to have Christ’s peace. How is that possible? In the Sermon of Mount Jesus said: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5) Meek person is the one who can face everything with a lion heart. No matter how hurtful things happen in his/her life, he/she accepts them, because he/she knows that it is God’s will to go through tests for one’s faith. Once you gain the virtue of meekness, then you will have the grace of peace in your heart. God’s blessings through the Holy Cross helps us to walk up on the stairs that He drew with the Beatitudes.
Christ is the fulfillment of our lives. He gave His life, so He may fill all the gaps that were/are open because of our own sins. He became all in all, and we do not need anything or anyone other than Christ in our lives to reach the true meanings of our lives. At this part of the Liturgy, we witness Christ is seating in our midst, so we feel complete with Him and through Him. He completes us with His peace-giving presence, but in order to fulfill it from our side, we need to be the “peacemaker” that He mentioned in His Beatitudes.
It might be a self-observation moment for us, to look back and see, if we have any obstacles in our lives to feel complete, but in the meantime, it is a moment of joy and feeling of safety, because our Lord is “physically” with us through the Gifts. Even if we still have a hard time to solve the broken relationships in our lives, we shall remember how Jesus received the “betrayal kiss” from his own disciple, Judas, and was condemned to death, although He was completely pure and innocent. He did it for us. He knew it even before the event that Judas was coming to betray his Master with a kiss, but moreover, He washed his feet as a servant, and shared the Passover meal, and gave His body and blood to him. He did it to prove you that you can do it as well. Now it is your turn to show love, forgive and reconcile with others for the love of God and His sacrifice. That is when we will truly be called God’s children and will justify our presence in God’s home.
Loving Christ and living His peace is not theoretical, but truly life. We shall experience His love by living His words. By experiencing love, we can feel His peaceful presence within ourselves. The world can look like a chaotic place to live, especially when we sink ourselves in TV or social media news. In the middle of chaos, our Lord Jesus Christ comes through the closed doors to say: “Peace be with you.” (Jn 20:19)