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The Sign of Peace During Mass

by Elena Fernández Andrés

On June eight two thousand fourteen, during the solemnity of Pentecost, a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, regarding the Sign of Peace was published on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI (later approved and confirmed by Pope Francis), thus recovering the sobriety and brevity the rite of peace has always embodied.

Even after many years, we can still observe that in many eucharistic celebrations, these guidelines are not fulfilled, we can see that some of the misuses it intended to correct still happen. Therefore, we will review these guidelines so that we may fully and plentifully live this beautiful gesture as our Mother Church asks of us

The letter begins like this:

“Peace I leave you; my peace I give you».1 As they gathered in the cenacle, these are the words with which Jesus promises the gift of peace to his disciples before going to face his passion, in order to implant in them the joyful certainty of his steadfast presence. After his resurrection, the Lord fulfills his promise by appearing among them in the place where they had gathered for fear of the Jews saying, «Peace be with you! ». Christ’s peace is the fruit of the redemption that he brought into the world by his death and resurrection – the gift that the Risen Lord continues to give even today to his Church as she gathers for the celebration of the Eucharist in order to bear witness to this in everyday life.” With this gesture that means pace, communion and charity, the Church “implores peace and unity for herself and for the whole human family, and the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament”. That is before we approach to receive the Lord’s body in the Holy Sacrament.

Since in some celebrations we have seen an exaggeration in this rite, the Bishop’s Synod saw fit to moderate this gesture that may provoke certain confusion among the assembly before the Communion, a time where we should have the greatest respect. The Synod has said that the high value of the sign of peace is not shortened by the needed sobriety in order to hold the adequate atmosphere the celebration requires

Pero, dado que está alcanzando, en algunas celebraciones, una exageración desmesurada, el Sínodo de los Obispos vio la conveniencia de moderar este gesto, que puede provocar cierta confusión en la asamblea precisamente antes de la Comunión, momento en que el recogimiento debe ser máximo, y recordando que su alto valor no queda mermado por la sobriedad necesaria para mantener un clima adecuado a la celebración.

Briefly, this letter reminds us that: The rite must be performed with a religious sense and sobriety It is not necessary for the priest that is celebrating to invite the assembly to give the sign of peace. He can make this invitation according to the circumstances; but if he perceives that this exchange will not be made adequately due to concrete circumstances, or if he thinks that from a pedagogic perspective is not convenient, the sign of peace can not only be omitted but in some occasions it must be omitted.

The following abuses must be avoided:

-The introduction of a “peace song”, it is nonexistent in the Roman Rite, therefore it must not be singed. In its stead the Angus Dei may be recited or singed (maintaining the fidelity of the lyrics in this later case).

– The faithful must not move to exchange the sign of peace, this practice generate disorder. The sign must be given to those closest to us, avoiding any transit. The rite must be stopped as soon as the Angus Dei begins, as all our attention must be centered in the hands of the priest as he breaks the Host.

-The priest must not leave the altar to give the sign of peace to other faithful: he may give the sign of peace to the ministers that are with him, but he must remain within the presbyterium.

-During some celebrations such as Easter, Christmas or during some rituals such as Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, or Funerals; it must be avoided that the sign of peace be substituted by congratulations or condolences among the attendants. The proper moment for these is outside the celebration, especially after it has ended.

It is important to know and live these guidelines, the sign of peace fulfills its meaning with prayer and in the context of the Eucharist, therefore it should be given correctly among the participants of the Holy Mass elevating its significance. We must remember that this rite is one among many during the celebration and the most important thing is happening IN THE ALTAR. Therefore, everything that will lead to our distraction must be avoided, always procuring an environment of prayer and recollection.

Source: Nómadas del Espíritu  (Spanish version)

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