To kiss or not to kiss – a stole

Christian Century has an essay by Benjamin J. Dueholm: “Why I kiss my stole” on liturgical habits and why they linger:

I picked up the practice of kissing the stole from a pastor in Chicago. He had graciously accepted a last-minute plea to celebrate Holy Communion on Maundy Thursday after my internship supervisor wound up in the hospital. While we stood talking in the sacristy, he paused to make that silent movement. I was prepared to preach on short notice; generating words was never hard for me. stole.jpg

But in that moment I saw the significance of something very different: being formed, over time, in reverence for handling the holy things my tradition still closely associates with ordination.

The importance of habit for religion, morality, and social harmony is taken for granted in most of the ancient religious and philosophical thought I’ve encountered. Jesus complicated things. He carried on the prophetic tradition of criticizing received habit and ritual formalism, criticizing, for instance, the custom of washing hands and vessels before eating. Pure intentions and just relationships can be obscured by adherence to such customs. But the power of meaning embedded in endlessly, reliably repeated actions is stronger than any one critique.

I started kissing my stole when I was still awed to be wearing it and to be inhabiting the office it represents. I do it now as a sign of reverence for a task that must be faithfully and lovingly done whether or not I feel awed by it at a given moment.

Read the whole essay — are you a stole kisser? Is your priest?

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