Pax, n. [Lat.] Peace. This word is occasionally used to refer to
specific cases of peace, such as the Pax Romana and the Pax Americana.
It also has meaning within a religious context, in reference to the
kiss of peace.
The language used in the New Testament in reference to the believers
is not one of separated people who happen to share beliefs,
maintaining a curtain of isolation and afraid to come near each other;
it is instead a family. The picture painted is one of an intimate
community; language that referred to the believers as brothers and
sisters was used in Scripture, and repeated in the words and
lifestyles of the Early Christians.
In this sense, it is not at all surprising that the Apostles wrote
their letters to the churches, and, along the practical instructions
usually included towards the end, included personal greetings, by
name, and commanded a warm embrace. "Greet one another with a holy
kiss." "Greet one another with a holy kiss." "Greet one another with a
holy kiss." "Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus." "Greet all the
brothers and sisters with a holy kiss." "Greet those who love us in
the faith." "Greet all your leaders and all God's people." "Greet one
another with a kiss of love." "Greet the friends by name."
The kiss of peace began to be formalized as a part of the liturgy. The
Scriptures certainly do not forbid a greeting within such a context,
but the kiss of peace is never mentioned in connection with any
ceremony. As centuries passed, it somehow seemed not to occur too much
outside of the ceremony. After a few centuries, in order to avoid
impropriety, the practice was modified so that only men were permitted
to greet men, an only women were permitted to greet women. But that
still involved touching, and so there appeared a most interesting
invention: an object called the Pax.
The Pax was a small pendant or amulet, worn for the sake of services.
It was held out to be kissed.
And so, the troublesome command to "Greet one another with a holy
kiss." was thus dealt with, in an ingenious manner which obviated any
occasion for people to touch each other.
It is fortunate that this manner of dealing with the wisdom laid out
in Scripture has not occured anywhere else.
- -- Hayward's Unabridged Dictionary