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Experiencing the Mass: Rite of Communion - The Sign of Peace

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

by Fr. David M. Knight

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Dear Readers: Since the Church is presently engaged in a Eucharistic Revival, we thought it would be helpful to post excerpts from his booklet called Experiencing the Mass, for the next few weeks. (This is not a sales pitch. However, the booklet is available for order on this website for $5 per copy if you would like have a copy.)

The Rite of Peace follows, by which the Church asks for 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.

“Peace” is the word most frequently used (seven times) in the Rite of Communion. It was the greeting, gift and promise the victorious Jesus bestowed on those to whom he appeared after his resurrection. Through Jesus “God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”

“Peace” was the greeting Jesus instructed his disciples to give when they announced the Good News, and it appears in the salutation of every letter Paul wrote. Paul named it as a “fruit of the Spirit.” It was Jesus’ parting promise to his apostles at the Last Supper. “Peace and joy” are characteristic of the Kingdom of God, and the “peace and unity” of his Kingdom will prevail in the “end time” at the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” [1]

The ”Sign of peace” is not a simple declaration of fellowship or of mutual forgiveness. It is an eschatological gesture. It is less an expression of what we are doing right now than an expression of what we believe Jesus us doing right now and will bring to perfection when he “comes again.” It is a gesture of faith and hope that focuses us on the “end time.”

We are not really saying to the persons to whom we give the sign of peace, “All is well between us.” In some cases that would be hypocrisy. Rather, we are professing our faith that one day all will be well between us. We may not be ready for complete reconciliation now; but we are saying we believe Christ can and will bring it about; that we desire it, are open to it, and know that we won’t have a place in the “wedding banquet of the Lamb” until we are forgiving each other as perfectly as God forgives us. The “Sign of Peace” is a sign of faith that Jesus who said, “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you,” will in fact, “ look not on our sins, but on the faith of the Church,” and “graciously grant” to her and to the whole human race, by the overwhelming power of his victory over sin, death and division, that “peace and unity” that are in accordance with his will.

[1]Luke 24:36; John 20:19, 21, 26. Matthew 10:13; Luke 10:5; John 14:27; 16:33; Colossians 1:20; Galatians 5:22; Romans 14:17.

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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