Encyclopedia Masonica

The act of paying divine worship. The Latin word adorare is derived from ad, to, and os, oris, the mouth, and we thus etymologically learn that the primitive and most general method of adoration was by the application of the fingers to the mouth.

Hence we read in Job (xxxi, 26). "If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand, this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judges; for I should have denied the God that is above." Here the mouth kissing the hand is equal in meaning and force to adoration, as if he had said, If I have adored the sun or the moon.
This mode of adoration is said to have originated among the Persians, who, as worshipers of the sun, always turned their faces to the east and kissed their hands to that luminary. The gesture was first used as a token of respect to their monarchs, and was easily transferred to objects of worship. Other additional forms of adoration were used in various countries, but in almost all of them this reference to kissing was in some degree preserved.

It is yet a practice of quite common usage for Orientals to kiss what they deem sacred or that which they wish to adore---as, for example, Wailing Place of the Jews at Jerusalem, the nearest wall to the Temple where they were permitted by the Mahommedans to approach and on which their tears and kisses were affectionately bestowed before the British General Allenby, took possession of the city in the World War and equalized the rights of the inhabitants.

The marble toes of the statue of Saint Peter in the Cathedral of Saint Peter's at Rome have been worn away by the kissings of Roman Catholics and have been replaced by bronze.

Among the ancient Romans the act of adoration was thus performed: The worshiper, having his head covered, applied his right hand to his lips, thumb erect, and the forefinger resting on it, and then, bowing his head, he turned round from right to left. Hence, Lucius Apuleius, a Roman author, born in the first century, in his Apologia sive oratio de magia, a defense against the charge of witchcraft, uses the expression to apply the hand to the lips, manum labris admovere, to express the act of adoration.

The Grecian mode of adoration differed from the Roman in having the head uncovered, which practice was adopted by the Christians. The Oriental nations cover the head, but uncover the feet. 
They also express the act of adoration by prostrating themselves on their faces and applying their foreheads to the ground.

The ancient Jews adored by kneeling, sometimes by prostration of the whole body, and by kissing the hand. This act, therefore, of kissing the hand was an early and a very general symbol of adoration.

But we must not be led into the error of supposing that a somewhat similar gesture used in some of the high degrees of Freemasonry has any allusion to an act of worship. It refers to that symbol of silence and secrecy which is figured in the statues of Harpocrates, the god of silence.

The Masonic idea of adoration has been well depicted by the medieval Christian painters, who represented the act by angels prostrated before a luminous triangle.

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