A Word of Praise
Most of us have a heavy burden of emotional junk accumulated from early childhood. The body serves as the storehouse for this undigested emotional material. The Spirit initiates the process of healing by evacuating the junk. This takes place as a result of the deep rest of mind and body in contemplative prayer.
Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love, p. 110
This section of Romans contains more personal greetings than the rest of Paul’s letters put together. A few things to notice – –
1. Phoebe is identified as “a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae.” It is unusual to find a reference to a church official this early in Paul’s correspondence. In fact, there are no other allusions to a deaconess in the New Testament. In Philippians 1, Paul speaks of “bishops and deacons,” and one may conclude that, where there are deacons, the possibility of deaconesses cannot be ruled out.
2. Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila were among Paul’s closest friends. In I Corinthians 16:19 the couple seems to be located in Ephesus. In Acts:18, Paul finds them in Corinth and stays with them there. Now they are reported in Rome.
3. Nothing whatever is known from any other source about the other twenty individuals and two families mentioned in these verses. Only one of the names is mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. Rufus is found in Mark 15:21 where Simon of Cyrene is named as the father of Alexander and Rufus.
4. Three other of Paul’s letters mention the “holy kiss” of verse 16. (! Thessalonians 5:26, 1 Corinthians 16:20, and 2 Corinthians 13:12.) It is also found in 1 Peter 5:14. We know from other sources that the holy kiss was a regular part of the Roman liturgy around AD 150. This gesture of reconciliation is preserved today in the Passing of the Peace.