Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sign of Peace

I like my mom's priest.  Why?  Because he just skips right over the part of mass where we offer the "sign of peace."  Heck, the first few times I didn't even notice it.  Finally, I leaned over to my wife and pointed out that we didn't do it.  My mom later pointed out that he never does it.  Hmmmmm, so much for my police observation skills.

I like not doing it.   I didn't use to have a problem with it but now I do.   Evidently, I take after my Uncle Dave, who, back in the early days after Vatican II would fold his arms up as opposed to go shaking hands.

Now before you go off shaking your head and starting to wonder about me just hear me out.  I have two reasons I don't like it.   The first is, and I'll  be the first to point out that I'm not a theologian by any means, but I think it's in the wrong part of the mass.  Think about it, we are at the end of the consecration.  We are about to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.  All of our attention is supposed to be on Him.  Suddenly, Father calls a time out and we have to start shaking hands with our neighbor--put on a little phony smile and say a dozen times, "Peace be with you."  Now your hands are all sticky because the kid behind you was eating Raisenettes and I'm pretty sure I'm pretty sure I guy in front of me has the plague the way he has been coughing and hacking into the very hand I just shook.  He just couldn't settle for a wave or a fist bump could he?   Now, my attention is on anything but Jesus.  Although, I'm probably going to meet Jesus soon because of the aforementioned plague that I now have festering on my hand.

The second reason I don't like is because everyone seems to think it's social hour.   People can't just be happy shaking the hands of those around them.  No.  They have to go all the way to the other side of the church to shake hands of friends and family members.  Seriously?  Mass will be over in about ten minutes.  Can' you wait a minute?  Heck, it hasn't been an hour since you talked last.  I know, because I heard you laughing all the way over here while I was trying to pray before mass!  It takes away some of the reverence at mass--something that I complained about here.

I think it would be more appropriate to have the sign of peace, if you are going to do them at all, in the opening rites.  Smack dab right there at the beginning.   It's like you are greeting those around you.   I don't think people will feel they need to say hi to their friend who they just left a moment ago.  And most importantly---you can keep your eyes on Jesus.

Do you know of theological reasons for having the sign of peace where it is?  What do you think about it?


  1. I don't mind skipping it, and I'm with you on the people that have the plague and shake hands anyway! What is with that? If I'm coughing, I keep my hands to myself during the sign of peace. No need to spread germs! On the other hand, I like the way that it recalls Matthew 5:23-24 about making peace with your neighbor before approaching the altar.

  2. At first I didn't like it because it was new. I didn't grow up with it. I didn't want to get sick from somebody's germs. Now I love it because I get to smile at my fellow worshippers and wish them well, which I otherwise would not do. I notice their faces and whether they like it too. I love the young children who just want to touch everyone and smile at them. The Body of Christ has two meanings. I wouldn't care if it was put somewhere else in the Mass but I would certainly miss it if it went away.

  3. Yes, yes, yes! Thank you for articulating my thoughts about the placement of the sign of peace. Wouldn't it make so much more sense at the beginning of Mass? It totally sticks out like a sore thumb where it is fact, why do we even have it? Hmmmm.
    Also, what do you think about holding hands in the Our Father? Again, to me it seems like we are jumping the gun on communion. That's where we are all 'as one', and if you are going to receive the Lord in your hand (not for me, thank you), it is no longer clean.

  4. I totally agree with your sentiments here and I grew up with it ;)

    But to answer your question as to why the sign of peace is where it is in the Mass we must look back to tradition.

    My Missal has this to say about the "Kiss of Peace"

    "The interior peace of knowing ourselves reconciled to God by the remission of sin and united to Him in mystical friendship, as well as the exterior peace of concord and union with our neighbor, Christ acquired by his death and bequeathed to us as a precious heritage. The Church appeals to the promise and legacy of the Savior as she prays for peace, confident of being heard.

    The kiss of peace prepares us for the actual or at least spiritual reception of the Sacrament of charity and concord. It "reconciles and unites souls to one another, procuring an entire oblivion of all offenses. It is a sign that minds are again reconciled with one another, and that all remembrance of injustice suffered in the past is banished from the heart" (St. Cyril of Jerusalem )

    The Priest first kisses the altar, symbol of Christ Himself, and the peace received from Christ is then passed to the ministers."

    During a Solemn High Mass with Deacon and Subdeacon the "Kiss of Peace" is more of a gesture only done by the ministers. Once the priest has passed it on to the Deacon he continues with the Mass while the others continue to pass it on.

    I do not think it was ever meant as a greeting to ones neighbor but rather an interior calling to strive to show to everyone the peace of Christ we should have as Christians.

  5. Funny you should mention the part about holding hands, lisa. That was my next blog. :-)

  6. Feeling rotten having been given sign of peace/disease by very snotty woman at Christmas service. Unable to help with asthmatic grandchild, unable to help DIL undergoing chemo and unable to make usual platelet donation. All because of one woman's selfish indulgence.

  7. I always bring hand sanitizer with me, but I agree that skipping the peace is better. It's very distracting and it's annoying to feel like you have to shake hands with people who have really juicy coughs and who always seem to feel like it's their mission in life to infect the entire congregation. (They seem to based on their behavior, I mean) Worse still, our priest shakes hands with the entire first row, so even if my hands are clean, I know his aren't. :(