A Meaningful Peace, An Honest Struggle

One of those post-conciliar flashpoints, the Rite of Peace, is discussed at length at PrayTell this week. My favorite comment comes from commenter Jonathan Day:

On the peace: it is hard for me to see why anyone would object to it.

Imagine: you have come to your Lord and Master’s house, where he has promised to make you one of his disciples. Other would-be disciples are there with you; you have not met them before, but you are all there because he has called you to follow him. He asks you to greet one another with a sign of peace. How could you not do so?

Or: after wandering in the world you have come home to your Mother, who has prepared a banquet the like of which you have never seen before. “This is your long-distant cousin X” she says enthusiastically; “I know you have not met before, but I love you both.”  Before you all gather at the table that Mother Church has laid, would you not greet X? Your other cousin, Paul of Tarsus, certainly recommended that (1 Thessalonians 5.26).

Nobody should be forced to hug or shake hands. But I struggle to see any theological objection, whether or not from a “traditionalist” perspective.

I think the resistance to the exchange of peace points to something much deeper in the Church than a concern about germs or introversion. It goes beyond accusing people of being hypochondriacs or misanthropes. Many of us have profound reservations about this sign. That suggests something very important.

The sign is meaningful. Admit it. Even those of us who dislike or detest it know it has significance. We are in the Lord’s presence. We know he has commanded us to love others as we love him and as we love ourselves. We know it. But we just don’t want to do it. So let’s admit the sign has both liturgical and spiritual ramifications, that we resist it at times, and we move forward from there.

I don’t think it will be enough to segregate people who don’t want contact, or to implement bowing instead of glad-handing, or to move it away from being so close to the Lord’s Prayer and the Communion Procession.

I think that because we struggle with it so, that it is well-placed where it is. Liturgically, I think a better place might be before or during the preparation rites. Or at the beginning of Mass. But then it will not confront us. It will be safer. We can more easily take a bathroom break, or a mental pause.

After the Eucharistic Prayer, and after the Lord’s Prayer, it is much more difficult to check out. These texts and rituals have prepared us to receive the Lord. But before we do that, he beckons us to embrace our long-lost cousins and others who, like us, fancy themselves as disciples and followers.

Spiritually, I’ve come full circle. I think it’s a good thing that Peace is placed where it is. Maybe the only better place would be during the reception of Communion itself.

I also think it’s a good sign we struggle with it. If it weren’t so controversial, it would really be more for mere show. And then I would be worried.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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