From a reader:
I recently read an opinion that giving the sign of peace at mass is irreverent.
To quote her, ” Hand-holding is not only not in the rubrics of the Mass, it is a horrifically distracting, undignified and self-serving sacrilege that is actually PROHIBITED.”
I do remember a time at mass when we did not offer the sign of peace and more recently holding hands during Our Father.
Could you please clear this up for me?
I note that “hand holding” is mentioned, above, rather than “hand shaking”. Hand holding is typically done where it is done at the time of the Our Father. But the question is about the “sign of peace”, the pax. Shaking hands in a brief and sober fashion is not hand holding.
In Redemptionis Sacramentum we read:
[72.] It is appropriate “that each one give the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner”. “The Priest may give the sign of peace to the ministers but always remains within the sanctuary, so as not to disturb the celebration. He does likewise if for a just reason he wishes to extend the sign of peace to some few of the faithful”. “As regards the sign to be exchanged, the manner is to be established by the Conference of Bishops in accordance with the dispositions and customs of the people”, and their acts are subject to the recognitio of the Apostolic See.
Thus, I suppose it depends on what people do during the sign of peace, or more technically, the “pax… peace”. When I was in Hong Kong years ago I saw people bow to each other. In the USA and Italy have have seen all dignity and reverence thrown to the winds.
Since in the Ordinary Form the congregational sign of peace is an option left entirely to the discretion of the priest celebrant, until we accomplish a restoration of liturgical decorum my preference would be to opt out of the congregational sign of peace.
That said, the congregational sign of peace is permitted. As a matter of fact, it is an ancient Christian gesture, rooted in Scripture and the earliest liturgical practice. It is well attested and its meaning is explained by Fathers of the Church such as St. Augustine.
The manner of giving the sign of peace is usually culturally conditioned. However, there is a traditional sign of peace, or kiss of peace, the pax, in the Roman Church. It would be nice for Catholics to use it, instead of the foolishness that is often exemplified.
But to claim that a simple hand-shake “is a horrifically distracting, undignified and self-serving sacrilege that is actually prohibited” may be an over-statement.
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