The liturgical winds of change keep blowing: Fresh off his restoration of the Latin Mass, Pope Benedict XVI is polling the world’s bishops about moving the sign of peace to the time of the preparation of the gifts from its current position just before Communion. The purpose of the change, according to Cardinal Francis Arinze of the Congregation for Divne Worship, “to create a more meditative climate” at Mass.
What’s funny about the proposal is that the U.S. bishops have been asking for years to have the option of moving the sign of peace to more adequately reflect the gospel injunction to reconcile before bringing your gifts to the altar. But the concern of the Vatican seems to be that the sign of peace has become too rambunctious!
I love the sign of peace because it reminds us that the Eucharist is not just an encounter between Christ and individuals, but between Christ and the Church. The Eucharist is inherently communal, and the sign of peace reminds us of that. As such, I like its current placement in the liturgy, just before Communion. I’m no theologian, so feel free to correct me here, but it seems to me that the purpose of the sign of peace is not to reconcile but to underline the communal nature of the Eucharistic encounter.
Also: if the Vatican is worried that the sign of peace is “too rambunctious,” let’s hope they never come to a Mass in an ND dorm chapel- the sign of peace tends to take several minutes, and hugs are greatly encouraged!