I particularly like ‘Spock Papist’s comment:
I guess the idea is that you shake hands and show affection to your neighbour for 1 minute in the week. Then you can go back to being a right haddock for the rest of the week.
It would appear that some people, many perhaps, find it uncomfortable, tasteless, or simply abhorent. Thompson quotes a comment on one Father Zuhlsdorf’s blog:
I tolerate it, but dread it intensely. I never understood why the priest’s greeting (“Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum.”) and our response (“Et cum spiritu tuo.”) doesn’t seem to be enough for most parishes?
I think this sums things up rather perfectly. The writer would far rather hear in an archaic language that the peace of the Lord is always with him, and offer the same back to the priest, than actually show any sign of that with his (or her) neighbour.
This, I think, is what Thompson misses. The peace, in Anglican liturgy (and it is no surprise that this piece has popped up in the Torygraph, for the Anglican church is said to be ‘the Tory party at prayer), is often presented as ‘let us offer one another a sign of that peace.’ There is no mention of what that ‘sign’ should be. For many, shaking hands has traditionally been a sign of trust between two parties. For others, shaking hands would appear frosty and formal, and an embrace might be more appropriate. For others, a non-contact nod across the room might be all that is needed to communicate that there is peace between them, where there might have been anguish or dis-ease.
‘The Peace’ is thus a very simple sort of TAZ, a symbolic breaking out of peace in the midst of the rest of life, a time to open our hands, drop our guards as we approach a sacramental space.
What I find extraordinary is that many people find this so difficult. Gathering with other people is, for them, uncomfortable. They want to be able to practice some ritual of peace with God, without having to encounter any problem of expressing peace with their neighbours. And yet – as I’ve tried to explore in Other (now available in the US and Canada via Kindle – news on a US print edition hopefully in a couple of weeks) – Jesus was very clear that ‘peace’ was a three-dimensional space, encompassing axes of peace with God, peace within the Self, and peace with other people.
The haughty grouch who wants services in Latin and frankly can’t seem to stand having to make contact with other people would appear in need of a break-through on at least two of these. But the prize for antipathy has to go to Benedict Carter and his comment:
There is a better way to avoid not only the Sign of Peace, but ALL the lements (sic) that make up this sacramentally-valid but nevertheless protestant meal service: do not attend any New Mass at all. If you want to safeguard your Catholic Faith, you should be assisting at the Old Mass ONLY.
In this exclusive, bounded world, there can be no peace. Which is why I urge you, regardless of your faith – or lack of it – to go to the highest Catholic church you can, and bring signs of peace. Go on, open a box of Krispy Kremes right in the middle.
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