Fr. J.J. and Fr. Patrick both invite us to read and absorb the following information about The Sign of Peace:
The sign of peace is a liturgical action that is a spontaneous greeting as a reciprocal token of neighborly love. Following the Lord’s Prayer at Mass, the priest extends a greeting of peace to the congregation adding that all should offer each other such a sign to show that they are at peace. As a symbol of union and love, they exchange a sign according to local custom. Not only does the sign of peace have a relationship to the Lord’s Prayer, particularly the final petition of forgiveness, but it establishes an intimate link with the Communion that follows.
All should consider this action a prayer, a sincere pledge of reconciliation and peace on a personal level because of the Communion that follows and the forgiveness that took place. Thus it becomes a seal and pledge of the fellowship and unity of the Spirit, found in the bond of peace. Each culture should seek the most meaningful expression of reconciliation and peace, and several methods might be used depending on the circumstances: the kiss, an embrace, bowing, a handshake. The handclasp is the most usual in the United States. With the gesture some greeting is usually formulated: “Peace be with you.”
The invitation given during the Sign of Peace call us for an exchange with others nearby — a genuine, reverent form of worship and prayer, a true pledge and sign of reconciliation, peace, and unity. Neither people nor ministers are intended to greet personally each one in the congregation, but only those nearby. Since the celebrant has addressed the community with the all-inclusive greeting, “The peace of the Lord be with you always,” he need not offer the sign to the assembly other than those near the altar.
The amount of time spent in the exchange of the sign should be in proportion to the overall ritual flow and rhythm of the Mass. The celebrant should be wary of an imbalance caused by its length, musical accompaniment, a certain style, or any other elements that might exaggerate its importance.
From Dictionary of the Liturgy by Rev. Jovian P. Lang, OFM
In summary, please note that the Sign of Peace is:
- Brief, and certainly ending before the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei) prayer.
- Contained to local persons (without traveling around the church).
- A prayerful act – not a time to converse, make plans, or exchange information.
- Symbolically all-inclusive (and therefore easily brief and local).