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.
The Sign of Peace- Tell me this doesn’t look like worship of self.
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.