Dexiosis (Greek) and Dextrarum (Latin), meaning joining right hands. We know it as a handshake, a globally widespread, brief greeting or parting tradition in which two people grasp one of each other’s like hands, in most cases accompanied by a brief up-and-down movement of the grasped hands. Using the right hand is generally considered proper etiquette although in scouting the formal way of greeting other Scouts is to use the left hand.
Customs surrounding handshakes are specific to cultures. Different cultures may be more or less likely to shake hands, or there may be different customs about how or when to shake hands. Archaeological ruins and ancient texts show that handshaking was practiced in ancient Greece as far back as the 5th century BC.
Handshakes are known to spread a number of microbial pathogens and so in this era of Covid-19, shaking hands is no longer to be practiced. But it gets worse. There is a chemical in our bodies known as Oxytocin that scientists sometimes call the “cuddle hormone.” This is because its levels rise when we hug, touch, or sit close to someone else. Oxytocin is associated with happiness and less stress. Scientists have found that this hormone has a strong effect particularly in women. Oxytocin causes reduction in blood pressure and the stress hormone norepinephrine. Sadly, hugs too, are off limits these days.
I don’t know about you but touch is important to me. When I think about what Resurrection Lutheran looks like during the Exchange of Peace I find it heartbreaking to know that those days might be over for a very long time. Our scriptures in 1 Thessalonians 5:26, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, Romans 16:16 all include the phrase, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” — Until such a time as that is possible once again, know that you are wrapped in the arms of God’s love and mercy and that as far as I am able when my arms can’t reach you, I am embracing you with my prayers.
Blessings on your day,
The Rev. Ellen Meissgeier