The Mass: Rite of Communion, Sign of Peace


The Sign of Peace was reintroduced into the Mass when the Liturgy was reformed after Vatican II. For some people, it was a wonderful opportunity to express their love and sense of community. Other people were embarrassed and uncomfortable about the idea of moving around and shaking hands or sharing a kiss of peace with other people.

It may be that this single gesture summarises much of what Liturgical reform was about. At the beginning of this series of articles, we recalled that the Vatican Council was keen that people did not come to the Liturgy as outsiders and observers. The Sign of Peace makes this teaching real!

Although we are the ones making the Sign of Peace, it is, in fact Jesus who has taken the initiative. We have prayed the Lord’s Prayer together - declaring ourselves to be children of the one Father. Then we hear Jesus’ words “I leave you peace, My peace I give you” and a prayer that, because of the Faith of the Church, we may find the peace and unity of His Kingdom. And then, we are invited to make some of that peace and unity real - Let us offer each other a sign of (His) peace...

This is a telling moment! In a few moments, we will be sharing communion with those around us. We will come into communion  with - we will become the Body of Christ. This Rite - the Sign of Peace - forces us to realise what that means. Our Communion is not simply a private love-affair with our Beloved Lord. It demands that we recognise Him in those around us - those with whom we have shared communion - and those who are not able to share that communion.

In his book, “How to Understand the Liturgy”, Jean Lebon lays down a challenge: “It (the Sign of Peace) is a point where one sees whether the liturgy holds together. If the congregation has not really been welded together during the course of the Mass, then it is useless and inappropriate to perform this action.”

This seems very stern -but emphasises the importance of what we say we are doing. If we are who we say we are - the Body of Christ - a gathered community - an assembly of God - a congregation of worshippers - then this is the time to show that that means we see one another and can reach out in love and the peace of Christ to our neighbour.

Take Time Out

Think about what the Sign of  Peace means for you. Who do you share the Sign of Peace with? Think about the words of Jesus - it is His peace we are might that affect how you share peace next Sunday?

 © Wellspring 2005

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