Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Sign of Peace: Exercising the options

In an interview with L'Osservatore Romano last Saturday, Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, noted some liturgical changes under consideration, including the transferring of the congregation's exchange of peace from its current place just prior to the Agnes Dei to the Offertory.

As the Cardinal rightfully, in my opinion, observes:

"Often, the significance of this gesture is not fully understood. It is thought that it is an occasion to give a high-five to friends. Rather, it is a way of saying to the person beside you that the peace of Christ, really present on the altar, is also with all men."

I've no doubt that you, as I, have observed some pretty bizarre manifestations of this practice, and certainly the Cardinal's concern is justified. But, while I'm no liturgist, it seems to me that there are options to transferring the ritual.

Option #1: Omit the practice altogether.

The exchange of Christ's peace between the celebrant and the congregation isn't optional. However, the exchange among congregants certainly isn't. I know of a number of priests who skip it entirely.

Option #2: Catechize!

Teach people what the ritual really means! And demonstrate a more proper, more reverent, and less "let's party" method of exchange.

Option #3: Combine Options 1 and 2.

Drop the congregational exchange for a period of time and explain why: plainly! In the meantime, through bulletin items, perhaps, or in the announcements before the final blessing, explain what the ritual means and spell out how it should be practiced. When folks get it, bring it back.

Just some thoughts. May the peace of Christ be with you.