I’m Not Partaking in the Sign of Peace Anymore
It’s the part of the Novus Ordo Mass most people tend to dread; The Sign of Peace. Now, I don’t dread it nor do I get super excited with the warm and fuzzies about it either. But, after attending the Extraordinary Form (Traditional Latin Mass) more regularly recently, I’ve decided I will not be doing the Sign of Peace.
In all honesty, I just can’t bear to do it anymore. Logically, it makes no sense when you look at what the purpose of the Mass is and what we are doing. We are worshiping the One True God, physically present in the Eucharist, The Son of the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we administer a friendly handshake with our neighbor, in an effort to show a faux unity, we are no longer worshiping God, but ourselves. We are already united. We are baptized Catholics, hopefully in the state of grace, who are all gathered to worship Jesus Christ. That is true unity. If anything, the Sign of Peace serves more as a distraction from Jesus than anything else.
The timing of the Sign of Peace is very odd. The Sign of Peace takes place shortly after the Priest has finished consecrating the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. We have just spent the last 10 minutes kneeling (hopefully) in adoration, acknowledging that we are witnessing a miracle. The miracle that a humble servant of God has been used by The Almighty, to transform Bread into the Body of Christ and the Wine into the Blood of Christ. No mere man can do this, but only a man who has given up his life for Christ and His Church and consecrated by his Bishop.
After witnessing this miracle, we then get to shake hands with our neighbor. That includes the guy who hasn’t washed his hands since his last shower, the kids who have been picking their noses, and all the sweat and germs people have accumulated from all of the hymnals and pews. It really is disgusting when you think about it.
The Sign of Peace disrupts the order of the Mass. Mass is not a social gathering that we fulfill once a week in order to make our weekly obligation. The Mass is the time we come together as a community to individually worship Christ, truly present in the Eucharist. The second we forget this point, is the second we stop worshiping as Catholics.
The more and more I contemplate this, the more and more I contemplate that it is no longer necessary to even do the Sign of Peace. The Sign of Peace is optional, meaning we can each optionally choose whether we are going to do it or not. Likewise, Father can make the decision if the congregation will or will not do it as well. During flu season, the Sign of Peace is omitted. If it can be omitted during times of the year when germs and illness are a concern, then it can be omitted throughout the rest of the year for the same reasoning.
If you see me at Mass and I don’t acknowledge you during the Sign of Peace with a handshake or a wave or a nod, it isn’t because I do not like you or am trying to avoid you, but that I am keeping my focus on Christ, who is truly among us in this sacred place.
While I share your dislike for the sign of peace it is NOT optional per person, the priest and only the priest can choose to omit it. When it is called for, however bad the timing is, it is a matter of Holy Obedience to offer peace to your neighbor. If you are afraid of germs or whatever, there is no direction in the manner of offering peace. You can nod your head of whatever.
If we are attending the Novus Ordo Mass, we are to offer worship in the manner that the norms of the ordinary form dictate. Obedience is more pleasing to God than worship. Wile I am not a fan of the sign of peace, I will continue to do it lest I fall into transforming the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass into my own personal preference and not what Holy Mother Church, in Her wisdom, has given us.
God love you and thank you for this blog as I do enjoy it.
You keep using the word “obedience”. I do not think it means what you think it means…
As the Novus Ordo Mass is disobedience by it’s very existence, how can anything in it be required? It is born and bred from disobedience! Get to know Quo Primum, and pray for the soul of Pope Paul VI, who is enduring the wrath of Almighty God and the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul! Deo Vindice!
Not optional? That’s crazy talk. I think you’re taking the whole obedience thing several bridges too far.
I, too, find the timing to be extremely awkward. On the rare occasions that I had really entered spiritually into the Mass despite my 8 constantly-needing-shushing children, it was shattered by the sign of peace. What. Ever.
Being a bit of a germophobe myself, I agree with the nastiness of the whole thing, on a totally different level. 😉
But yeah, since I’ve not been to a NO in two years now, not a problem!
Hang in there! It won’t be as easy as you think; people will get in your face with their hands! I suggest kneeling, with bowed head.
I attend TLM and none of this nonsense. You focus on the Mass and the Eucharistic instead of having a hoedown with your neighbors at Mass.
The kiss of peace has been part of the liturgy for a long time, many even from the last supper.
This is very true, though it was a *kiss*. Should we return to kissing our neighbors? Or look at the context of the original sign of peace being between the priest, deacon and sub-deacon? The Sign of Peace is not even recognizable compared to what was originally intended.
The thing is, right now, this is how things are in place At this present hour even if it is not the best practice, it is best to do it. The reason: It will come across as rude to others. Jesus doesnt look out and judge us by how right we are dotting our I’s or crossing our T’s. He commands us to love him centrally and love our neighbor as our self. If you were to do this, you would effectively based on what is set as a present standard at this moment in history be spiritually slapping your neighbor in the face. Jesus healed on the Sabbath. I think it would be more offensive to God not to do it than to be exact in how it should be….
That being said….that brings me to my next point: The sign of the peace is distracting. It seems very disruptive of the mass and who is on the alter. I personally am not a fan of it and totally agree with the majority of what you said. The mass is first and formost about love on the alter. I hope and pray that a day will soon come when this is changed.
I think one needs to truly study the Vatican II documents. There are those who have studied them that have learned that the Church NEVER approved communion in the hand as well as the Priest facing the people. I am actually of American Indian heritage and many of our rites and ceremonies have been handed down from generations without change. Maybe this could be the same for our Mother Church, who knows?
This nonsense at Novus Ordo is too firmly entrenched to be changed. Liberals had a huge fit even when the Novus Ordo language was changed a few years ago to reflect the old Latin language of pre Vatican II. “Consubstantial” made them froth. There is a Catholic cuckoo bird church near me that has liturgical dance and other novelty acts.
I agree. It is also perfunctory and often forced. I mean, most people never even look me in the eye when they shake my hand. I have also not held hands with my neighbor during the Our Father. I feel very awkward holding a stranger’s hand — female or male — for what seems an eternity while we say the Our Father and I found myself thinking more about the warm or sweaty or cold or germy hand I am holding than on what I am saying.
Yes, I agree with this essay. I wish fewer Masses included these detours.
The sign of peace was silly from day 1. Only way I ever got around it was to sit up front so not to witness the three ring circus of hands in flying around etc. Then came SARS and flu and the hand sanitizer at end of pew. Was at the Basilica of the National Shrine in DC and at the sign of peace a elderly couple commenced heavy foreplay. They looked around and glared at me. I almost said “Get a room!’.
To stand there and NOT shake hands, wave or at least NOD to others during the Sign of Peace is drawing WAY more attention to yourself and away from the altar than to just participate. Also, being afraid of germs, sweat or dirt is ridiculous. Do you never touch anything during the rest of the week? To eliminate the Sign of Peace during cold and flu season is silly. People can have colds or the flu anytime and, unless I decide to live in a bubble, I will be exposed to germs. The Sign of Peace could be better placed in the Mass, but there’s nothing to be done about it, and I don’t think that Jesus is offended by me shaking hands with my neighbors and family for 30 seconds before receiving Him.